By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The newest mixed-use proposal for The Junction will have to try again for Early Design Guidance approval.
That’s what the Southwest Design Review Board ordered tonight after its first look at the 96-apartment mixed-use plan for 4448 California SW.
SWDRB chair Scott Rosenstock and members John Cheng, Patrick Cobb, and Alan Grainger were in attendance for the online meeting, along with the project’s assigned city planner Greg Johnson. This phase of Design Review focuses on the building’s size. shape, and placement on the site, and board members generally favored the exterior of the development team’s preferred option, but took issue with mostly interior details.
Here’s how the meeting unfolded:
ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: Michelle Linden of Atelier Drome led the presentation. She said that “two local residents” have joined with Housing Diversity to develop this project. (The developer listed in online files is Craig Haveson of STS Construction [WSB sponsor].) She noted that this site is just north of the busy heart of The Junction and within walking distance of many amenities. The site is zoned for 75-foot development, which means a transition to 95-foot zoning to the south, 55-foot zoning to the east, but remains smaller in scale than some new projects elsewhere in The Junction. They took design cues from recently approved projects (including the not-yet-built one a few doors south at 4508 California SW). They’re also taking into account the site being one door up from a “gateway corner” that is not set for redevelopment any time soon.
As is mandated for the Early Design Guidance phase, Linden showed three “massing” (size/shape) options:
They were dubbed, left to right above, Shifting Stacks, Erosion, and Pinwheel. Option #2 would compensate for “blank walls” (someday to be hidden by neighboring redevelopment) with murals. The first and third would include a throughway from California SW to the alley on the east side. The third is the development team’s preferred option, with Linden describing it as “playful” – with a concept that might look something like this:
The proposed one-and-a-half-story base (rather than the 20′ in Junction design guidelines) would better honor the area’s scale, Linden said. Breaking the mass into multiple sections would offer “visual interest,” she added. Three commercial spaces would provide a “market hall” experience along the throughway.
Two outdoor amenity spaces – 2nd floor and top floor – are proposed. The complexity of the design would call for a simplified material palette. See the full design packet here or below:
BOARD QUESTIONS: Cheng asked about the transition west-to-east because of the lower height to the east. “For our preferred scheme, we have angled the building away from the alley,” Linden replied. Cheng also asked about how the retail massing would relate to the property (including Shadowland restaurant/bar) next door. Linden mentioned an angled, recessed entry that’s a “nod” to the neighbors. Cobb wondered if the throughway could be a little more pedestrian-friendly if the retail spaces were rearranged; “that’s great feedback,” said Linden. Grainger said that with the throughway, “the residential lobby gets lost in all this.” He also wondered about placement of residential units; the current scheme was aimed at “maximiz(ing) the rentable area,” Linden explained, while again welcoming the feedback. How wide would the commercial passageway be? asked Rosenstock. Answer: 10 feet.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Comments that came in via email were summarized by planner Johnson as concern about height and desire for a green roof, plus SDOT comments that the existing curb cut on California has to be removed and an additional street tree is needed, as well as SPU noting that solid-waste collection will have to be on the alley and encouraging on-floor access for all three street treets. There were comments on parking (the project doesn’t include any and isn’t required to), the planner said, but Design Review has no say in that. No one signed up to provide comments during the meeting.
BOARD DELIBERATION: First they listed “hot-button issues”:
Cheng – retail facade/entry, transitioning on east side, blank facade – especially on the south
Cobb – pedestrian passthrough, further development of residential access, unit layout
Grainger – respect for adjacent sites, zone transition, internal passageway being diluted by being almost like street connection
Rosenstock – height of ground floor
Then the detailed discussion: Cheng agreed with the development team that the pinwheel massing is “most intriguing.” Cobb liked that massing architecturally but thought scheme 2’s unit layout seemed “more successful.” Grainger supported scheme 3 but also agreed with Cobb’s observations about “how the building worked inside,” suggesting that some of those features of scheme 2 could be melded with scheme 3’s massing. Rosenstock agreed. Regarding the zone transition from 7 stories on the site to 5 stories across the alley to the east, board members wanted to see more acknowledgment, since the building is proposed “so close to the alley,” in Grainger’s words. Linden said they’re open to stepping the building back and/or down on the alley side. Regarding the facade, Cobb warned about expecting the building to do too much – busy form plus some other sort of decoration could get “messy.” Regarding the massing of the retail level, they discussed nuances of the entry. Grainger reiterated concern that the building seems devoid of a residential entry. Rosenstock agreed that there needs to be more definition of where pedestrians/shoppers/visitors/residents would be going. It’s a safety/security issue, too, he added. As for the height of the ground floor, the issue is whether to design for relating to what’s there, or what will be there in the future. There was no conclusion/concurrence to that dilemma.
All four wanted the project to return for a second try at Early Design Guidance – in short, they liked the exterior looks of massing option #3, but preferred an interior layout closer to option #2. Cobb said it’s a “really prominent location in West Seattle” so deserved close scrutiny.
WHAT’S NEXT: At least two more meetings, dates TBA. Planner Johnson will in the meantime write a report on this one, and that will be posted online along with a recording of the meeting. If you have comments about any aspect of the project, firstname.lastname@example.org is how to send them to him.