Courtesy of architects from Fuller Sears and Weber Thompson
Two significant developments in West Seattle recently passed design review stages towards getting the green light from the city to start construction: a seven-story building at 4724 California Ave S.W. (bottom) and a six-story complex at 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. (top).

Big West Seattle projects jumping hurdles en route to reality

**Please note the design packet links at right will take a little while to load**

Two big projects in the works for West Seattle passed milestones earlier this month toward receiving master use permits from the city to start breaking ground.

Back-to-back design review meetings were held at the West Seattle Senior Center on Nov. 8, where five all-volunteer board members (representing the professions associated with development and design) work with architects, developers, and the community to guide projects.

4724 California Ave S.W.
The first was a final review for the seven-story project slated for the old Petco building at 4724 California Ave S.W. Developers Wolff Company and Urban Evolution and architects from West Seattle-base Weber Thompson presented the further evolution of their building that will be seven stories tall with 75 residential units, 13 live-work units on the second floor, retail space on the ground floor and underground parking for 74 vehicles. The design also creates a mid-block walking connection from California to 42nd Ave S.W.

The design team and developers had an easy road, passing both the early design and final design reviews with minimal pushback from the review board or community members. Much of that ease can be attributed to the developers community involvement approach, meeting early and often with members of Junction business and neighborhood groups, the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and door-to-door outreach to businesses and neighbors over the course of eight months. By reaching out extensively before the first early design review meeting, they came prepared with a vetted concept.

It is a harsh reality for those who fear for the canyonization (imagine towering buildings on both sides of the street, blocking out the sun) of West Seattle’s retail core, but the fact is building codes along California Ave S.W. allow for projects up to 85 feet tall (this one is closer to 75) and there are likely many more to come in the following decades.

“We are aware that the building is very large in relationship to the existing buildings (in the Junction), but the reality is in ten years probably most of those buildings will be gone,” Southwest Design Review Board member Robin Murphy said during the early design review.

Ground breaking (AKA demolition of the Petco building) could begin as early as April, 2013.

The most recent iteration for the project at 4724 California shows a outer shell consisting of different textures (from striations to brick to “weathered steel”) in a variety of earth tones in brown and red described by architect Jeff Bates as a “warm palette.” The retail level will be recessed away from the road to create ample sidewalk space and the potential for outside seating. A new feature, designed to lessen the impact of traffic in the eastside alley behind the project, is a move-in/move-out staging area where residents can pull U-Haul sized rigs in without blocking the alleyway. The mid-block connection with have overhead rain protection and lighting.

The design review board agreed Weber Thompson presented a “strong design,” although it had “lost a little bit of flash” from prior looks.

David Montoure, Junction business owner and Chamber of Commerce chairman, thanked the project team for reaching out to the community early for design feedback and said the retail level “grabbed me.”

Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association commended the mid-block connection, the quality materials selected and summarized it as “a really great building.”

For anyone wishing to comment on the project, contact Shelley Bolser with the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development at 206-733-9067 or Shelley.Bolser@seattle.gov.

4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W.
“It will be the biggest building in West Seattle,” design review board member Robin Murphy said of the six-story structure planned for the corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska during the second early design review meeting on Nov. 8 (the project failed it’s first early review on Sept. 27).

This time around, the project passed its early design and developers Weingarten Realty and architects Fuller Sears will be putting together an application for a master use permit. If the final design review passes, they will be on track for a 2015 completion date.

The massive project proposes 370 apartments, 570 stalls of underground parking, and 66,000 square feet of retail including a Whole Foods Market and yet unnamed drug store chain. It will take up three-quarters of a city block on Huling family land.

While the project was given the green light to move forward, lingering concerns were brought up by community members and the review board that are expected to be addressed in the next meeting.

Those concerns included a clearer direction of what they plan to do with the prominent corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska, at the center of the Triangle and, in a way, the welcome mat coming into West Seattle. Developers have said they want the corner to celebrate West Seattle in some way, be it with murals, sculpture or a combination of elements, but at the meeting it was still a blank slate. Some residents put out the idea of commissioning local artists to do the work.

The project would also remove an alleyway from the block, and developers are planning an east to west mid-block pedestrian walkway as a public benefit in lieu of the alley. While the basic design was encouraged, board members asked for more details on features and landscaping of the mid-block connection.

There are lingering concerns about the flow of traffic into and out of the complex – both big rigs bringing in retail goods and the private vehicles of tenants and retail shoppers.

The design review board also asked the developers to minimize the prominence of retail signage to avoid a strip mall look and consider adding more vertical variety to the building. In its current (early) form, much of the rooftop is a flat line which the review board said makes it look more massive.

Details on the next design review meeting for this project should be released in the coming weeks, and anyone with comments can contact Bruce Rips with the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development at 206-615-1392 or Bruce.Rips@seattle.gov.

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