Miller Hull Partnership LLP

1307 Harbor Ave. S.W. early design guidance draws praise

Brian Court from The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP came before the Southwest Design Review Board on April 3 to present some options for a project proposed for 1307 Harbor Ave. S.W.

This location, former site of the Alki Tavern and for those with longer memories, of the Embers nightclub, sits between two existing condominiums (Seabird and Harbor Landing) but would likely stand much taller, depending on the final design.

Four "massing alternative" options were presented at the meeting with Option D being both the preferred option and the one that drew the most praise from both the review board and in public comments. It combines a 32 foot wide staircase breezeway through the structure that narrows and is coupled to a hill climb up to Calfornia Ave. S.W., a three story cafe, likely the best parking alternative, most residential (three floors) and even a "light industrial" section of the building that he said would most likely mean rapid prototyping of parts, not a manufacturing business.

You can download or view the full early design review packet here.

Court said, "Everybody knows that the big opportunity on the site is the view of the downtown skyline but we felt the hillside view was equally as important."

He said that they looked at all public views that overlook the site to avoid impacting them.

The zoning on the site is mixed with three of the lots being multi-family and single family "as you move up the hillside" and the other two neighborhood commercial.

Court noted that it is an "extraordinarily complex site. One just for the base zoning but there's also a shoreline overlay. The new state Shoreline Master Plan addresses all properties within 200 feet of the water's edge. Two of the lots in the plan fall under that plan. "That brings with it a load of issues. You can't build above 30 feet high in that shoreline zone and there are some additional restrictions placed on the entire site if you trigger Shoreline Overlay."

The building zoning allowed is 65 feet but this is on a slope but from the sidewalk you can add 3.5 feet making the total height of the building 68.5 feet.
This is in an ECA regarding the steep slope at the rear or west side of site. Court said they plan on applying for a ECA variance to allow them to build a "reasonable building footprint." They also plan to pursue a Shoreline Review.

He noted that even though it's complicated, it's possible to build something on site very quickly, but that the preferred option (D) would require more variance from code and would result in a better building overall. The other options would present such a small space that it would result in having to utilize a vehicular elevator to get cars to the second floor where they might only have six parking spaces.

Public and board member comments were almost entirely positive noting how "refreshing" it was to see creativity brought to the building design and how jobs were considered as part of the building's purpose.

Quoting from the Miller Hull Partnership LLP proposal:

Option A
PROS
• Building footprint is within ECA line of previous development. No ECA variance required.
• Complies with land use code, no departures required.
• Development is outside of shoreline District and requires no shoreline view
corridor

CONS
• Skin to volume ratio is very high
• Odd building shape required to maximize development
• Actual FAR is far below the allowable FAR
• Providing adequate parking on narrow site requires car elevator
• Blank facades from two levels of parking above grade on the north end of the
site.

Option B

PROS
• Complies with land use code, no departures required.

CONS
• Code compliant view corridor exposes more low roof to view from above.
NOTES
NC2-65 ZONE
FAR Allowed = 4.75 Option A FAR = 2.8
MR ZONE
FAR Allowed = 3.2 Option A FAR = 2.5
Parking Required = 18 Parking Provided = 20
NC2-65 ZONE
FAR Allowed = 4.75 Option B FAR = 3.4
MR ZONE
FAR Allowed = 3.2 Option B FAR = 2.9
Parking Required = 51 Parking Provided = 51
• Requires ECA Variance – 30% steep slope encroachment

Option C

PROS
• Complies with land use code, no departures required
• Courtyard space at pedestrian level in MR zone
• Improved facade modulation over Option B.
• Division of offices and residential are clearly defined along zoning lines
• Enhanced sense of entry

CONS
• Courtyard impacts MR zone FAR
• Six story high courtyard is not pedestrian scale.
• Code compliant view corridor exposes more low roof to view from above
• Thirty-two foot wide garage entrance that incorporates the required site triangle
is less pedestrian friendly
• Less parking provided than required.
NOTES
• Requires ECA Variance – 30% steep slope encroachment

Option D

PROS
• Lower FAR and less perceived mass due to more articulation of facade
• Pedestrian-scaled commercial uses at ground level.
• Publicly accessible breezeway through building provides connection between
Harbor Avenue SW & California Way SW and sequential views to the water and
city beyond
• Monumental public stair and water feature create a series of outdoor spaces
which invite pedestrians to pass thru and activate the area and to visit second
floor commercial uses.
• Parking garage vehicular ramp is screened with a wall and densely landscaped
roof that blocks headlight glare and view of expansive paving.
• Residential and commercial uses are interlaced across the zoning boundary
adding visual interest to the facade.

CONS
• Requires a number of departures: Front and Side Yard Setbacks
NC2-65 ZONE
FAR Allowed = 4.75 Option C FAR = 3.5
MR ZONE
FAR Allowed = 3.2 Option C FAR = 2.9
Parking Required = 44 Parking Provided = 39
MASSING ALTERNATIVES 6.0 FAR Allowed = 4.75
Option D FAR = 3.3
MR ZONE
FAR Allowed = 3.2 Option D FAR = 2.8
Parking Required = 40 Parking Provided = 41
Sight Triangle
Vehicle Backing Distance
NOTES
• Requires ECA Variance – 30% steep slope encroachment
• Potentially requires Director’s Waiver for breezeway to meet portion of view
corridor requirement.
• Requires SDOT approval for stair in ROW

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