By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Southwest Design Review Board‘s first look at 4401 42nd SW ended with approval to move to the second phase of the process, with advice including, heed the project’s surroundings – especially Holy Rosary Catholic Church, whose dramatic entrance and bell tower will be right across Genesee.
The meeting was the second half of a doubleheader (here’s how the night began) at the Senior Center/Sisson Building, and was an Early Design Guidance meeting, meaning the focus was on size/shape/placement on the site – the finer points of design are the subject of the next round of the process. The project is proposed for (under the team’s “preferred” massing) 72 Small Efficiency Dwelling Units (microapartments), 6 live-work units (all “paired and recessed”), and 36 offstreet parking spaces. The design packet by Cone Architecture is here (PDF) and below:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: This will be a 5-story building – zoning allows up to 55′ – at the SW corner of 42nd/Genesee, replacing what was the Ginomai art-studio building. They mentioned that their community-outreach meeting this summer drew one attendee.
The street trees will remain. High-voltage lines on 42nd are 14 feet from the property and won’t affect the project, but lines on the alley will require a setback. The entrance will be along 42nd, with a secondary entry off the alley. Two zoning departures (exceptions) are being requested – an “increase in the drive-aisle slope” to 20 percent to improve where the turning radius would be as well as improving pedestrian pathways; and allowing “residential functions” on 42nd for the live-work units. The project would have a roof deck.
BOARD QUESTIONS: All five board members were present – chair Crystal Loya, members Scott Rosenstock, Alan Grainger, John Cheng, and Matt Hutchins. Hutchins wondered about the project’s relationship to the historic brick buildings just west. The architects said the materials in their project would address that, rather than the massing. Cheng asked about how the project would relate to Holy Rosary across Genesee; that might be done via windows, not so much by massing, replied the architects. Grainger noted that while the church’s entrance is “very clear,” the plan for this building’s entrance doesn’t seem clear at all. Riffing off that, Rosenstock wondered why the team felt so strongly about the residential entrance being on 42nd instead of Genesee. The architects said 42nd “feels more residential.” Rosenstock also wondered about the team’s ideas for activating the project’s street level; the team replied that it’s early but they’re exploring the ideas for the next phase.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Pastor Gil Gilbert of The Junction Church, across California, was the only one of the 10 or so attendees to speak. He wondered about flooding that hits his basement every year; he also suggested there’s not enough room for parking access in the alley (though he seemed to be referring to a different alley, on his side of California, which is not contiguous to this project site). He asked about construction length; 12-14 months, he was told, and no crane.
Also, planner Carly Guillory read a written comment from SDOT noting that stretch of 42nd might be a future greenway.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: In the first go-round of concerns, Grainger said he was a bit concerned about the potential “homogenous” street level. Cheng said the “three options” presented (as required for Early Design Guidance) didn’t seem to be truly different options; Loya concurred. In later discussion, planner Guillory said the three would qualify for showing “evolution” – they don’t have to be dramatically different. Hutchins reiterated concerns about possible missed opportunities for this building to “address sense of place” given its site – he also noted that the building it’s replacing had a definite presence. The idea of responding to the church entrance’s dominance on 42nd generated additional discussion, including the importance of the building’s corners.
They weren’t fans of “preferred option” 3 exactly as proposed. Some aspects of 2 were supported for potential incorporation into 3, particularly its “lower-level plan.” It was summarized as “expressing a more grand sense of entry on Genesee (and) similar articulation on the NW and NE corners” of the building. After further discussion, Grainger suggested there should be a 2A and 3A – “either one could be refined to see something we would find more acceptable.” Rosenstock warned that if they advanced the project with this kind of guidance, it might still wind up with an extra meeting, just in the second phase. Loya said she felt OK with letting the project advance to phase 2 because the interior concepts are strong enough.
(It also came up in deliberations that the site to the south, now holding a single-family house, is being redeveloped into eight live-work and townhouse units.)
The vote to advance the project to the second phase was 4-1 (Cheng was the “no” vote). They’re in favor of the two zoning departures (exceptions) that are likely to be requested.
As they went through the checklist of other factors to address, Hutchins noted “evolving neighborhoods” as applying given the transformation that side of 42nd SW continues to go through – “the experience of 42nd is changing.” The SDOT mention of potential greenway status was mentioned again, and how that puts up a different prism through which to view the project.
WHAT’S NEXT: The project will have at least one more board review; the date will be set when both the project team and city are ready. In the meantime, you can send comments – about design and other aspects – to planner Guillory, firstname.lastname@example.org.