A large mixed-use project in the works for 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. in West Seattle did not pass it's design review on March 28, further delaying the process. The drawing represents an unfinished look at what the corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska might look like. Below, a ground level schematic showing a Whole Foods grocery store in the larger north building (along with a few smaller shops) and a drug store in the south building. A mid-block connection will separate the two.
Big project at Fauntleroy and Alaska not quite there
The gargantuan mixed-use project slated for a 2015 completion at 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. may have trouble reaching that goal if the design review process continues at this rate. On March 28, the six-story building, including 370 apartments, 570 stalls of underground parking and a Whole Foods grocery store, was sent back for more work as the Southwest Design Review Board decided not to move the project along.
This means at least one more design review meeting, a fourth, will be scheduled.
183 days have elapsed since the SW Board declined to move the project beyond an early design review on Sept. 27, 2012. They finally passed the early review in November, allowing developers to apply for a Master Use Permit and start preparing for this week’s design review.
The board’s decision on March 28 was two-fold
First, the board has lingering concerns that the building, which will take up three-quarters of the southwest block at Fauntleroy and Alaska, needs “a little more refinement” at several areas, including the “iconic” corner welcoming visitors traveling into West Seattle along Fauntleroy , the mid-block connection, a drive-thru design for a yet unnamed drug store, corner plazas and the overall look.
Secondly, it’s possible the mid-block connection design presented by Fuller-Sears Architects could be drastically altered. Since the project will remove a City of Seattle alleyway, an alley vacation process involving a Department of Transportation committee is required to ensure the benefits of the project outweigh the loss of an alley. That process is still in full effect, and the board felt they should wait to see what SDOT comes back with before giving their OK. At this time, developers for 4755 have replaced the alley with a mid-block connection used by both pedestrians and vehicles.
Presenting how the project has evolved since the early design reviews, architects presented a more fully developed vision with a slew of muted colors constructing the external façade. The project is split into two buildings, one housing Whole Foods and fronting Alaska St., and the other facing Fauntleroy with a drug store. Apartments are above the retail offerings.
Developers also said they are “strongly considering” a West Seattle artist (who was not named) to build sculptures for five corners of the project that will also include plazas they envision the general public will be able to use along with tenants. A possible theme for the sculptures is a look back at the property's past, from undeveloped natural history to homesteads and streetcars. They also plan to digitally recreate and incorporate a mural into their project that is now found on the side of an old Huling car dealership building which will be demolished.
The midblock connection (which SDOT is evaluating for the alley vacation) that separates the buildings has evolved as well, now made up of a street for cars and delivery trucks and a separated, raised sidewalk for pedestrians.
Community reactions vary
Of those citizens who attended the design review and gave testimony, the majority said they were pleased with the project, while others echoed concerns of the Design Board going back to the first meeting that there will simply be too much traffic coming in and out of the midblock connection (where shoppers will drive to enter the underground parking garage, pharmacist customers will pick up medications and delivery trucks will arrive to drop off their shipments all while pedestrians are present).
Fuller Sears Architects said they held 31 community outreach meetings to design the project with the public’s vision in mind. Some said that number was an exaggeration. Deb Barker, a retired land use planner and West Seattle resident, had a long list of concerns including her perception that while developers reached out for feedback, they didn’t truly listen to what was said.
Discussions arose yet again on whether West Seattle needs another grocery store. Members of the grocers union UFCW21 said they opposed the project based on over-saturation, while Whole Foods employees in the crowd spoke up with early marketing pitches about how the natural food store will be a good neighbor.
One West Seattle resident said he welcomes Whole Foods and believes it “caters to a different market” than nearby grocers (including Trader Joe’s, QFC, Safeway and the independent West Seattle Produce all nearby).
“Ya, the rich,” another wryly replied.
The latest design review packet for the project at 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. is available for viewing here.