FOLLOWUP: First look at design concepts for two-building project envisioned as ‘new heart of the West Seattle Triangle’

(Renderings from Ankrom Moisan)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

As we first reported 2 weeks ago, two 7-story mixed-use buildings proposed for the Sweeney family’s property in the West Seattle Triangle are going before the Southwest Design Review Board next month. Though these will be reviewed as two projects – 4406 36th SW (277 apartments) and 4440 Fauntleroy Way SW (209 apartments) – the all-West Seattle team behind them says it’s one vision, and met with us this week for a design preview, 5 months after we covered their “early community outreach” session.

First, remember that the reviews on August 6 and 20 are in the Early Design Guidance stage of Design Review, which means the focus will be on the proposed size, shape, and location of the buildings. In this case, as explained by developer Ed Hewson and architect Jenny Chapman in our conversation, there’s a vision for the street between them – 36th SW south of Fauntleroy – too:

The street factors heavily into the plan – explained as a “reinvention.” Over the years, 36th has seemed more like a default loading zone for the Sweeneys’ legacy business, Alki Lumber; this development will change that in a big way, transforming this gateway to West Seattle (with a potential light-rail station nearby in 2030, as well as the eventual restoration of bridge traffic before then). The project is envisioned with “boardwalks” between the building and sidewalk – here’s a cross-section:

The project team is working with SDOT on the plan, which proposes that about 6′ of the boardwalk would come from city right-of-way (they note that the street is 80′ wide) and 4′ from their property. That would all be in addition to a standard sidewalk. So what might it look like? Here’s a street-level concept drawing:

Because the “boardwalk” would lead to an extra setback at street level, they are proposing a zoning exception – “departure,” which the Design Review Board will be asked to consider – that would skip the upper-story setbacks instead.

Lynn Sweeney explained that the ground-level retail vision includes part of the family business – a “heritage hardware store” – as well as café-type space, and other retail potential, with a “market feel” – in an “unexpected” area that they hope will synergize with other businesses new and old, including the family’s Grove/West Seattle Inn lodging as well as the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor). Another envisioned synergy – the midblock connection heading eastward toward 35th SW just south of Avalon, with RapidRide stops and West Seattle Stadium access:

The connection would be to the hillclimb stairway at Aura on 35th.

The project is going into review a year and a half after the Sweeney family first announced it was studying “alternatives” for some of their property. So what happens next? Both Design Review meetings are scheduled online for 6:30 pm – these city-website links will show how to watch/participate/comment:

4406 36th SW (August 6) – includes meeting link & design packet
4440 fauntleroy Way SW (August 20) – meeting info not linked yet

49 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: First look at design concepts for two-building project envisioned as 'new heart of the West Seattle Triangle'"

  • HS July 24, 2020 (1:00 pm)

    The “boardwalk” concept is fantastic. There is a similar one in Portland’s Pearl District and it’s a wonderful retail, pedestrian corridor that made the area so much more enjoyable to explore. 

    • Meyer July 25, 2020 (2:48 pm)

      Agreed. This proposal and design looks amazing. Great mix of housing and retail plus they are going the extra mile to make the ground level visually appealing. 

  • pilsner July 24, 2020 (1:12 pm)

    I suggest adding a helipad.

  • Glenda July 24, 2020 (1:35 pm)

    Over the years, we have seen our fair share of developments without a lot of consideration about the neighborhood or areas being changed. Thankfully, this proposal is the opposite of that.  Not only is it all local owners and designers (thankfully) but it also takes a large block that right now isn’t doing much at all for the neighborhood and turns it into a new place to be, with shops and other retail, so I think it actually anchors this odd stretch of land in a much better way. From what we can see of the design so far, it also looks like it is thoughtfully considered and has a lot of appropriate nods to the past lumberyard space.  This building will be highly visible once Fauntleroy is reopened to the bridge, so I’m glad they are really thinking it through.   

  • JW July 24, 2020 (2:01 pm)

    Isn’t that section of 36th on the main bike path in and out of WS? I’m really surprised to see nothing in these drawings or plans that depict how that path runs, and really surprised that we’d not be planning how to extend the dedicated path that we’ve spent so very much time, energy and dollars getting to reality.

    • Also John July 24, 2020 (6:57 pm)

      You’re correct.  That’s my path everyday and the path highlighted by the City.

      • bill July 24, 2020 (11:41 pm)

        Maybe the 100% designed and funded Fauntleroy gateway project could be shifted out of neutral and built, bicycle facilities and all. With the bridge closed there will be zero impact on traffic (one of the Great Fears cited to ax the project). As I pointed out when the project was halted, the small-time businesses that derailed the project will be vaporized anyway when the decrepit buildings they inhabit are demolished when the owners decide to realize the properties’ value.

  • Ilasdad July 24, 2020 (2:10 pm)

    It will probably be finished before the bridge is.

  • just wondering July 24, 2020 (2:33 pm)

    “heritage hardware store” but no lumber yard?

    • WSB July 24, 2020 (3:43 pm)

      They have been looking for a new location. Construction is still quite a ways off (this part of the review process usually takes at least a year) so they have time.

  • LauraJane July 24, 2020 (2:38 pm)

    I am not a fan of all development in West Seattle, but to this proposal for the West Seattle Triangle I say Bravo!   When we first looked to buy a house here in the 1980s, I remember thinking that the main entrance to the community had the feel of parts of Highway 99 north of the city, random disconnected businesses, with confusing access.  It remains the least inviting part of West Seattle, and over the years I have rarely spent time there.   Even after joining the YMCA, I found it easier to go to the Fauntleroy branch farther from my house.   In addition to being a more attractive gateway to our community, the proposed development of the central tree lined street with its boardwalks looks like a pleasant place to live as well as one to visit.  I would love to see this plan become a reality.

  • WS July 24, 2020 (2:45 pm)

    This looks interesting. Any thinking on how bike traffic down 36th (currently the preferred connection from Alaska to Avalon) will be impacted?

  • Joe Z July 24, 2020 (3:04 pm)

    My only critique would be to ditch the back-in angle parking and use the space to make the sidewalks 4 ft wider. This will be a busy area after the light rail station opens and 10’ would be better, especially since there is space available to do so. 

    • Chemist July 24, 2020 (4:19 pm)

      I have to agree that back-in angle parking coming off fauntleroy is not my preferred choice.  My first thought was to make it front-in from Oregon, but now I think they’d be better off just closing the north end of 36th to vehicles, placing a turn-around bulb up there, and making exit and entrance traffic use Oregon.  This segment of 36th was identified for a neighborhood greenway in the 2014 BMP.The Fauntleroy Blvd removal of the slip lane is going to make that north entrance area too congested to be desireable and the light is going to be too inviting to folks waiting to turn left/south onto 36th.

      • Ice July 25, 2020 (1:45 am)

        Yes, that would make it quite a bit nicer to walk around too.

  • David July 24, 2020 (3:46 pm)

    Who is going to rent these 485 apartments? Without the bridge people would be crazy to want to live in West Seattle unless they work here or are retired.

    • WSB July 24, 2020 (4:23 pm)

      With at least one year of review and two of construction, this is a long way from opening. If the bridge is repaired, it will reopen long before then. If it’s replaced, that should be well under way.

    • V July 25, 2020 (9:48 am)

      There is a COVID virus 🦠 in Seattle lots of people won’t have jobs to live and move to West Seattle and plus are they going to swim 🏊‍♀️ to downtown Seattle if that were they end up. Working.  Maybe people will work from home on the computer. Don’t see how anyone can afford rent in West Seattle unless they are on section 8 and it’s the tax payers who are in reality helping pay for their rent. 

  • Ellen July 24, 2020 (5:17 pm)

    I love the boardwalk idea, definitely reminds me of the Pearl District area in Portland where it brings slower foot traffic or outdoor dining opportunities up to the retail level. Also, wish there was a dedicated bike path along this corridor, it’s heavily used to access Avalon/Alaska so ditch the angled parking, add a dedicated bike lane! I like that they’re adding wood accent to the building, nice to see someone take on materials other than cement board or metal. Can’t wait to see this approved and built!

    • Joe Z July 24, 2020 (9:24 pm)

      Hopefully Fauntleroy will have bike lanes in the near future so we won’t have to take the unnecessary detour up 36th to bike to the Junction. 

    • Kathy July 24, 2020 (11:16 pm)

      Well, it looks like we are never going to get the bike lanes promised in the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project, 25 years in planning, fully designed and funded until the City decided to put it on hold and now they’ve  declared the money (remember “Move Seattle”?) is gone.  We never even got the temporary safety improvements for bicycles and pedestrians that were promised instead along this stretch of Fauntleroy Way. So 36th Ave SW will have to serve as the main bicycle route to and from downtown. Maybe if they removed some of that car parking in the drawing we could actually have that.  This is a major connection point for people biking in and out of West Seattle

  • Andy July 24, 2020 (5:47 pm)

    This looks amazing!  

  • Also John July 24, 2020 (7:04 pm)

    The YMCA parking is already bad as it is.  These apartments will worsen it.  You know the apartment dwellers and store front visitors will park in the Y’s lots.  You’d be wrong to say they’re not going to use it.   This will be a Y parking nightmare!

  • Andrea July 24, 2020 (8:23 pm)

    How come these developments never take Into consideration the types of businesses that currently are there that the local people use . Is there going to be a dry cleaners, a hotel/motel, auto repair shop, lumber yard etc in the this new development? Or is it just going to be more of the same high end, boutique foo-foo stuff that most practical people don’t want or use? No wonder protestors are smashing glass and taking things out of stores and burning it in the street on Cap Hill. Apparently” developers ” haven’t gotten the message yet.

    • WSB July 24, 2020 (8:35 pm)

      This is not displacing the existing cleaners, hotel/motel (owned by the same family), auto-repair shops in the area, so far, although at least one nearby repair shop did have some concerns at the February meeting. As for the lumberyard, its owners are the ones who decided to develop the property. So far, no high-end boutique foo-foo in nearby developments … Aura to the east has a salon and fitness place … Link a bit to the west has child care. yoga, and a restaurant … Where in West Seattle do we have high-end
      boutiques, foo-foo or not? I’m not a boutique type of person but Carmilia’s, Lika Love, Coastal don’t seem too over the top …

    • bill July 24, 2020 (11:34 pm)

      I don’t know @Andrea, maybe the types of businesses are not considered because people are free to try their hand at running whatever sort of business they like? The builder/landlord provides the space, and the small entrepreneur makes a gamble that the area can support a laundromat with attached foo-foo boutique. Why don’t you give it a try?

  • Alf July 24, 2020 (10:03 pm)

    My only concern continues to be infrastructure electrical grids, sewerswear and tear on roads, increase volume of students, traffic Etchow are these evaluated in relation to the ongoing relentless development of west Seattle or are they?seems like during the permit process it should be evaluated 

    • j July 25, 2020 (9:55 am)

      Electrical, water and sewer infrastructure concerns are ‘red herrings.’  Developments are already required to make infrastructure and utility improvements, but those are not the issue. Traffic volumes are, and will, be beyond road capacity regardless.  Over the course of the next decade, West Seattle will see a dramatic shift in vehicle ownership and use.

      • WS20 July 26, 2020 (12:35 am)

        July 25, 2020“Electrical, water and sewer infrastructure concerns are ‘red herrings.’  Developments are already required to make infrastructure and utility improvements, but those are not the issue.”They are the issue, they require that developers open up our streets to install the infrastructure in that area and once done, their half-assed patches of asphalt quickly result in potholes, in which we have too many all over WS. Cars aren’t going away anytime soon, an actual and real transit system that moves people efficiently would be required for that to happen but sadly developers and corporations are more concerned about their profits/shareholders than for the greater good. 

  • Cid July 24, 2020 (11:02 pm)

    This is an improvement over the Alki lumberyard, but good to know the owners are involved. I like the overall look and really like the boardwalk. The use of interesting materials beyond drab poured concrete plus the set backs and green areas add to the esthetics.  

  • Kam July 25, 2020 (1:38 am)

    I just wanted to know if they will have underground parking built for all the apartment tennants and shoppers that will be in the area? More people drive than bike or use mass transit in west Seattle. Despite what the car haters dream that fact is not going to change anytime soon. We have already seen too many condo and apartments built without parking and it always overflows into the surrounding single family neighborhoods. 

  • Busrider July 25, 2020 (7:15 am)

    Graphic showing person in wheelchair next to boardwalk doesn’t make it feel inviting. Boardwalk excludes people from accessing retail.please consider accessibility.

    Also the trees will be surrounded by a lot of pavement. Will they be using structural soil cells to allow the trees to thrive? Consider using tree species that connect to past history of site (ie evergreens )can the road design be narrowed to improve safety?

    Add space for treating stormwater runoff from all the hardscape?

    • Ice July 25, 2020 (2:29 pm)

      I noticed that too. Since these are just preliminary designs that are made to look nice on paper, I am sure that they are not what the final thing will actually be like. I am sure they will make it conform to ADA code once they start building it.

  • Eric Salyers July 25, 2020 (8:11 am)

    My best guess is the final design will see the retail parking eliminated or greatly reduced,  a bike path added,  and the site will have to include a large garage underneath. (May already be there, just didn’t see mention of it)

    • WSB July 25, 2020 (10:37 am)

      As mentioned in previous coverage as well as the city links at story’s end, both buildings include off-street parking.

  • j July 25, 2020 (10:46 am)

    Interesting the lack of “dark canyon” & “sun blocking” concerns so prevalent in development strings of WSB.  This is especially notable with this proposal to exchange a dark overhung ‘boardwalk’ for the zero setback for the rest of the seven story height.  This scheme will be even more canyon-like than the Husky Delicatessen project, that has set-backs, with its tunnel like ‘boardwalk.’ To fully appreciate the streetscape that so wows us, the upper massing needs to be set-back to allow more sun,  light and air.  For this reason, I oppose the zoning exception that they are seeking.  The project will undoubtedly be better without the exemption while still keeping the ‘boardwalk’ concept.  It would mean less square footage of development and less developer profit, but would be a wonderful gift to the community.

  • Fred July 25, 2020 (11:14 am)

    There needs to be designated loading areas for people moving in, business shipments and Uber pickups so that those activities don’t negatively impact flow of traffic.

    • Chemist July 26, 2020 (11:12 am)

      I was looking at the floorplans for the building on the West and they do designate spots for a 15′ and 24′ “move in” truck.  The bike parking room is apparently also accessed via the western alley, next to the garbage staging area.

  • Conrad July 25, 2020 (12:26 pm)

    Okay, so the actual lumber yard disappears and we get the usual 7 stories with street level retail?  How is that different from any of the other redevelopment? I  think the smarter move would be to keep the lumber yard and maybe put a moratorium on development until the bridges and transit are sorted out.

  • Kathy July 25, 2020 (12:27 pm)

    SDOT should not be giving up street right of way to private owners when there apparently isn’t even enough room on the street for bike lanes both directions on 36th Ave SW.

  • WGA July 25, 2020 (12:50 pm)

    Two thoughts come to mind.

    First, as others have noted, 36th is the default major bike route that connects central West Seattle with Avalon and downtown. Cars backing out into bike traffic does not sound safe. That will be a problem until Fauntleroy is rebuilt which has been postponed (last I heard, WSB?) until after Sound Transit is done.

    Second, that north facing triangle corner has the potential to be a real feature element for traffic coming off the bridge. It would be the first impression entering West Seattle. I recall the discussions about The Whitaker and the need for a feature element at Fauntleroy and Alaska. The final design glass tower element there is now a giant for lease sign. Hopefully the designers here can come up with something unique at this corner. At least to be discussed at the design review meetings.

    • Gondola July 26, 2020 (8:44 pm)

      How is 36th the default? It goes 4 blocks. Perhaps we should revisit this, or maybe there can be a bike registration system and we can build glorious bridges, the best, perfect bridges for the 1% of folks who commute by bike.

  • 22blades July 26, 2020 (5:44 am)

    I guess I’m not seeing “it” but the architecture looks looks like the same old unimaginative glass, hardiboard & aluminum. I guess having a connection to a neighborhood’s heritage doesn’t mean much. They used to call these strip malls. They just added a story or two.

    • Jo July 26, 2020 (9:07 pm)

      Great to hear your input! Maybe you should design it! :)

  • j July 26, 2020 (12:14 pm)

    Strip mall indeed, without the strip malls most prominent feature, the large parking lot in front.  If we want to disparage with ‘strip mall,’ the Junction is more accurately a strip mall with its surround of parking lots.

  • WS Resident July 26, 2020 (2:20 pm)

    Trees and park space are not sufficient in the area to support continuous unlimited high-rise buildings.  Many residents of West Seattle have nowhere within walking distance of their homes except for alley ways in which to walk their dogs.

    • WSB July 26, 2020 (3:52 pm)

      More parks are great. This site is walking distance from West Seattle Stadium and Camp Long – that’s why they’re tying into the midblock crossing.

  • WSPK July 27, 2020 (3:11 pm)

    Am I really the only one who will miss having Alki Lumber in WS? It’s a great resource for *Quality* building materials and expertise. I’ll do almost anything to avoid Homer’s place and their crappy lumber selection.

  • WS for life July 30, 2020 (11:25 am)

    Considering a lot of developers don’t do the right thing. It’s really nice to see they are taking steps to make this apartment a nice one. Bravo 

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