By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
First, the former auto-shop site at 9201 Delridge Way SW was proposed for redevelopment as a self-storage facility.
Then – a zoning change turned it into a mixed-use plan. But it didn’t last long; the site was sold to a new owner/developer, who changed the architect and came up with a different mixed-use plan.
That third plan went before the Southwest Design Review Board online on Thursday, and got unanimous approval to move to the second stage of Design Review, with a few concerns along the way.
Here’s how the review went:
Board chair Crystal Loya led the meeting and was joined by the board’s other four members, John Cheng, Matt Hutchins, Scott Rosenstock, and (joining a half-hour in) Alan Grainger. Representing the Department of Construction and Inspections were the project’s assigned planner Tami Garrett and Design Review program manager Lisa Rutzick.
The online meetings have followed the same format as pre-pandemic in-person meetings:
ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION. Here’s the design packet – the project is proposed with five stories, 71 units, ground-floor retail, no off-street vehicle parking. Michelle Linden, co-founder of Atelier Drome Architecture, led the presentation. She noted that the developer, Craig Haveson of STS Construction Services (WSB sponsor), has his business based nearby. Linden noted the RapidRide H Line is on the way to the area, and also pointed out the possible triangle park across Delridge. (Though she spoke of it as if it were a done deal, there’s no funding or concrete plan for it so far, just a community vision.) The project is meant to provide housing to people “who otherwise might be priced out of this neighborhood,” she said.
She described the site as “complex” due to various factors including the adjacent cell tower adjacent. As is customary for the Early Design Guidance phase of Design Review, three massing (size/shape) options are proposed, and #3 is the project team’s preference:
#3 is dubbed “The Anchor” because the building would be anchoring “two separate corners.” The ground floor would be set back to provide “a landscaped open space” on the north side that Linden said would have to be managed well, but ‘we’re also excited at how well this connects to the pocket park across the street.” She called the open space “a playful plaza.” Here’s the landscaping plan for it:
A water feature might be included. Meantime, the main commercial space – which it’s hoped would include something like a coffee shop – would front on the open space. The residential lobby would be on the west side, kitty corner from the entrance to BlueStone Apartments (also an STS project). The basement would be mechanical, storage, and bike parking. The building would have a roof deck, but its size has been minimized because of the open space at ground level. Materials don’t usually come in until the second Design Review phase, but they’re anticipating a “playful use of color.”
BOARD QUESTIONS: Grainger wondered about the plaza impeding pickup/dropoffs for commercial customers, without connections to the curb. Linden acknowledged they were working through some challenges regarding street and sidewalks but welcomed the suggestion. Cheng wondered about vehicle parking, aware that none is required at that side, but “how do you address the needs of the commercial (tenants/customers) and residents?” Linden said “the idea of this project is workforce housing … I’m sure there’s going to be some cars parked in the neighborhood but” they anticipate more bus use and walking; including parking would have added too much to the project cost. Hutchins asked about green building standards; Linden said, “We’re going to do Built Green.” Rosenstock asked about staging for waste containers; that will remain inside, where the pickup crews will go in, get the containers, and return them. He also asked about the timing of the possible park across the street; “2021 or later … they’re working on the funding right now,” Linden replied. In response to a question from Loya, she said they’re working on “minimiz(ing windows) looking down on the neighbors.” Then the roof concept came up:
Linden replied that as shown, they’re working on something “resembling a commercial cornice.”
PUBLIC COMMENT: No one signed up to speak. As for anything submitted in writing – planner Garrett said SDCI has not received any design-related comments but has received comments voicing “a desire for some parking at the site.”
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: This usually starts with the chair asking other members to identify their “hot-button issues” – Cheng listed the roof ‘gasket,’ the Delridge corner, three residential units on the south side, and parking. Grainger mentioned the NE corner and having a “single use” there, with the possibility of more landscaping “at that prominent corner.” Hutchins also was concerned about the Delridge/Barton corner and the open space along Barton. Rosenstock also had concerns about the corner and the commercial and residential entries as well as the massing in general; “the roof section seems to just be added on. … I’m just struggling with it being emphatic enough.” Hutchins echoed him in noting the “boxiness” of the preferred option but he thinks it will fit in with Delridge’s evolving scale. He too supports #3 but with a few more distinctive touches added. Loya said #3 was the best of the three and just needs some “strengthen(ing).” As for the corner, Cheng suggested a canopy or awning might break it up a bit. Hutchins thought it would be important not to create too much “covered space.” Rosenstock thought that bridging the alley – visually – somehow would help. He also said he’s “nervous about the residential entry being on the southwest corner” – that might be better placed elsewhere on the site. Some discussion of details on that corner ensued; all agreed they’ll be looking to see what details are offered at the second-phase meeting.
Regarding the commercial entry and plaza space, Loya thought the “slot” might be a better entry place, to echo the language of the side with the residential entry. They acknowledged the space might wind up serving multiple tenants.
That brought them back to the roof, which Loya thought didn’t entirely work with the “bars” of the massing, though she said materials could be used to “further distance them from each other … so it’s not reading as one facade.”
Regarding the three ground-floor residential units, Cheng wanted to see more studies on “what they’re looking into.” He also reiterated that the project and neighborhood will “suffer” without included parking, though Rutzick noted that the board has no official role in stipulating or evaluating that aspect of a project. Hutchins countered that he’s “glad there’s no parking.” The walkways need a little more unification of purpose, board members then said. They’re recommending moving the transformer to the SW corner if possible.
In addition to the design guidelines the project team suggested they would address, Hutchins wanted to add energy, given the building’s siting and likelihood of significant natural light.
They all voted to advance the project to the next phase.
WHAT’S NEXT: At least one more SWDRB meeting will be scheduled. In the meantime, if you have comments on the project – design or anything else – you can send them to planner Garrett, email@example.com.