Fuller Sears Architects
A nighttime view of a mixed use project planned for 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. The project passed its design review on July 11.

UPDATE: Whole Foods project in West Seattle passes design review

Original post on July 11 (updated report found below)
A mixed use project (including a Whole Foods grocery store and apartments) proposed to take over nearly two blocks at the corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska passed a design review on July 11.

The Southwest Design Review Board gave the project a split blessing of 3-1, with local residential representative T. Frick McNamara disagreeing with the minority. This was the fourth design review meeting, with the first early design meeting occurring in September of 2012.

Several conditions from the board accompanied the decision (more on that in an updated report tomorrow), which city planners will work with developers to satisfy.

The board’s recommendation moves the project closer to a master use permit from the city to start building the six-story building with 370 apartments, 570 stalls of underground parking, a Whole Foods and several retail storefronts along Fauntleroy.

After an earlier design including a drug store drive-through in the mid-block connection was scrapped based on SDOT and design board recommendations, Fuller Sears Architects, who are designing the project, said a national pharmacy chain that was supposed to move in will likely back out.

Developers hope to have the project completed in 2015. For more background, please click here.

Updated report for July 12
A massive project including a Whole Foods grocery store proposed for 4755 Fauntleroy Way S.W. (at the corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska) finally passed its design review process on July 11 after nearly a year of being sent back to the drawing board.

With Elvis impersonator Brett Wiggins crooning “Don’t be Cruel” to an early West Seattle Summerfest crowd just outside, a smaller contingency of developers, citizens and the design review board members crowded the Senior Center to hear a fourth design review for the six-story project with a Whole Foods grocery store that will welcome visitors to West Seattle traveling in along Fauntleroy.

In addition to the grocer, developers Lennar Multifamily Investors plan for 370 apartments, 570 stalls of underground parking, a landscaped mid-block connection and several retail storefronts yet to be claimed. When all said and done, it will take up nearly two city blocks, the only exception being the Alki Masonic Lodge which will remain standing (they are getting a newly graded parking lot paid for by the developers in exchange for changes to the alleyway).

After two hours of design board discussion and public comment complete with moments of tension between architects weary of the process and a design review board who committed early on to “getting this one right” due to its size, the board finally passed the project with a vote of 3-1, but not without a list of conditions developers will need to work out with city planners. Once satisfied, the Department of Planning and Development will likely issue a Master Use Permit to actually start building.

New review board member T. Frick McNamara (landscape architect and owner of the Bin 41 wine shop in the Junction) did not vote for the project’s approval.

The board named five conditions before passing the project along, including transparent “glazing” into Whole Foods along Alaska and 40th, changing white vinyl window borders to a medium or dark tone, giving “the main entrance on Alaska more visual prominence,” visually connecting the ground level plane with that Alaska corner’s artistic elements, and a recommendation to avoid “gaudy, giant-sized” backlit neon signs as retailers move in to avoid, as one board member put it, a “United States of Generica” look.

Over the course of an abnormally long design review process and a separate Seattle Department of Transportation review for changes to an existing alleyway, the project has morphed significantly to appease requests for the largest single development in West Seattle history, many of them to provide public benefit.

Emerging from those requests, SDOT nixed developer’s plans to include a drive-through for a national chain pharmacy in a mid block connection that will serve pedestrians, vehicles accessing underground parking, and big rigs making deliveries to retailers. As a result of losing the drive-through feature, Fuller Sears architects said the pharmacy would likely pull out of the project, leaving additional space for other eventual retailers.

They also presented a much simplified exterior color scheme from earlier iterations and landscaping that includes corner plazas to encourage the general pedestrian public to stop and relax while incorporating artistic and sculpture elements that echo “the edges of West Seattle,” with waterfront elements like piers, green walls and wooden benches. At the welcome-mat corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska, developers have teamed up with a local sculptor in an attempt to create a visually striking entrance with artistic elements (designed to look like “eroding bulkheads”) and water features in homage to “West Seattle … a community surrounded by and connected to water.”

During public comment, most who stood up gushed praise upon the project as a positive addition to the West Seattle Triangle. Deb Barker, president of the Morgan Community Association and a past design review board member, was a near lone dissenter. She said the board should not pass the project before the city council OK’s developer’s changes to the alley, the use of the midblock connection for retail deliveries would pose a public safety hazard to pedestrians (Nancy Woodland with Westside Baby countered by saying her children, for example, live in a city and learned at an early age how to watch for traffic) and that there should be retail frontage on 40thAve. S.W., not just along Fauntleroy.

Members of the local food workers union UFCW 21 continued their opposition to the project because Whole Foods is non-union. To counteract, several Whole Foods employees stood to praise the project and assure the public the natural foods grocer will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Earlier that same evening, a 150-unit mixed use project planned for 4745 40th Ave. S.W. (just west of the Alki Masonic Lodge) passed its early design review. It was a night that signified major changes to come for the Fauntleroy Triangle.

With Seattle Parks and Recreation planning to build a park next door to the above mentioned project on 40th and a revitalized plan to build a seven-story building with an L.A. Fitness Center and 184 residential units just across Alaska in the long-dormant “Hole,” the expansion of West Seattle’s population and rise of its skyline is well under way.

To see more of the project, the developer's design packet is linked to at the top of the story (it may take a while to load).

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