By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the second time this month, the Southwest Design Review Board met to consider a South Delridge mixed-use project.
This time, though, they told the project team to go back and try again.
The project is a 5-story building proposed for 9218 18th SW (map), with ~59 apartments, some retail, and ~25 offstreet-parking spaces. The online meeting Thursday night was for Early Design Guidance, the first phase of the city’s Design Review process,
The meeting was chaired by Matt Hutchins; ongoing chair Crystal Loya and the three other members, John Cheng, Alan Grainger, and Scott Rosenstock, were all there too. The meeting proceeded in the usual four-part format:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Here’s the design packet by Caron Architecture. I 5-story, 1 floor of parking below grade, accessed from the alley, 59 units and 21 parking spots. Many site constraints have to be dealt with, including a close-by power line, and a property line set back 26′ from Delridge Way. Here are the “massing” (size/shape) concepts they offered:
The architects said they’re “doing a lot to respond to” the surrounding area, with apartments fronting on 18th and Delridge, and commercial space fronting on Delridge. The project team’s preferred option, #3, was dubbed “Shifting Frames”:
There are setbacks both on the ground floor and on the 5th floor. The Delridge view shows what would be the retail frontage:
Fronting on both 18th and Delridge will result in an “urban vibrancy feel,” the architects contended. One more note – they are not requesting any zoning “departures’ (exceptions to the rules).
BOARD QUESTIONS: Cheng wondered about material differentiation. The top floor and second level will display that, the architects replied. Grainger asked about the side facing the neighboring townhouses, displaying a “blank wall.” It won’t be entirely blank – it’ll have windows, clarified the architects, noting that they’re actually providing more “relief” than they are required to. Loya asked about the balconies’ locations. Hutchins asked about the “street improvement” plan that’s part of the project; the architects said they are working with SDOT and Seattle City Light.
PUBLIC COMMENTS: City staff said they’d received comments before the meeting with concerns that the building was too big for its site, as well as concerns about parking and traffic. One comment was submitted during the meeting, for city staff to read aloud. That person said options 1 and 2 allowed natural light for neighbors but also a potential blind corner that could lead to safety concerns.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: A majority of board members identified the “blank walls” as concerns. There was also some concern about whether the massing options were “different enough.” Loya also raised the issue of whether the project was supposed to be more important to 18th, to Delridge, or to both. Rosenstock suggested that “the whole corner is (relevant to both)” but the upper-level setbacks are the distinguishing factors. Grainger appreciated the “solar exposure” of the commercial spaces in Option 1.
That was Hutchins’ favorite option, too. He said it’s more important for the upper-level massing to relate to Delridge. The architects said in their view, Options 1 and 3 weren’t much different in that regard. Loya said Option 3 “feels a little fussy” but also sees room for improvement in Option 1. Hutchins said he felt “the goal of relating to the townhouses is an empty gesture” and the project should relate to Delridge instead. Rosenstock suggested that might mean they need to develop more massing options.” Cheng saw merits in both Options 1 and 3; for the latter, he suggested a setback on the top level to give the neighbors more light. Loya also singled out Option 4 for a variety of features that she felt could be “simplified.” Hutchins agreed, ‘All these different elements are creating a busy-ness that seems overkill, even for a building of this size.” Loya wanted to see window studies at the next meeting, and also wondered about subdividing the proposed commercial space and how that might affect the facade. Cheng suggested combining the street-level landscaped areas.
Ultimately, all but Cheng voted to send the project back for a second try at Early Design Guidance.
WHAT’S NEXT: The date for that next meeting is TBA. In the meantime, project comments can be sent to email@example.com – he’s the city planner assigned to the project.