Update: An Early Design Guidance meeting for 2550 32nd Ave. E. has been set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8. The West Design Review Board will assess the project from Room 1 of the Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 First Ave. W.

Security Properties believes redevelopment of the Magnolia Albertsons site will be the first mixed-use project with a grocery store to attempt to qualify for the City of Seattle’s Living Building Challenge pilot program.

“We know that the hurdles are high to qualify,” said chief development officer John Marasco.

After courting community stakeholders over the spring and summer, Security Properties is ready to check its work with the West Design Review Board, submitting its Early Design Guidance packet to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections on Tuesday.

The developer is working with Albertsons Companies to replace the 18,000-square-foot grocery store, which has been there since 1955, with a 25,000-square-foot urban concept Safeway. Security Properties plans to build six residential floors on top of the store.

“We’re planning it as condominiums,” Marasco said. “Right now, it’s 138 units. It’s probably going to end up being a unit or two less once we get all the amenities programmed.”

The decision to go with condos over apartments was based on feedback from the community about a lack of options for homeowners looking to downsize, he said.

Under the Living Building pilot, which was created to incentivize producing buildings with lower greenhouse gas emissions, a developer can earn a 25 percent higher floor-area ratio (FAR) and increase the building height by 12.5 feet for residential construction.

When assessing the feasibility of the project, Security Properties looked at the water table — the upper surface of the zone of saturation — and found it to be fairly high.

“When we did the testing, the light went on,” Marasco said.

The thought had been to divert the groundwater off the property, but now the developer is proposing to use it for toilets, irrigation, the building's heating and cooling system, the store’s chiller and any other non-potable water needs. This is one requirement to meet the Living Building Challenge.

“The program really is reusing gray water, and the gray water reuse really is quite costly,” Marasco said. “In our case, the groundwater really is quite clean.”

Water is planned to be pumped to the rooftop for storage and then reused by way of a gravity feed.

The Living Building Challenge also has a goal of generating projects that create more energy than they use, which will be no easy feat for a grocery store. Marasco said he’s certain there will be a rooftop solar farm included in the Magnolia Safeway redevelopment to meet energy consumption requirements.

A biophilic design will stress the connectivity of the building to nature, taking cues from an urban tree canopy on the east side of the property, which faces a number of single-family residences.

More than 100 people responded positively to siting access to two levels of below-grade parking on 32nd Avenue West through an online survey Security Properties posted on the project page. SDOT pushed the developer to use the alley, which would be code-compliant, but deferred to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections for a final determination, Marasco said.

Security Properties contends that a number of amenities in its preferred design will have to be scrapped if access is required from the alley, because of the additional space necessary to construct a circular ramp; that includes a proposed 19 short-term and ADA surface parking spaces and a community plaza next to the new Safeway store. The grade change across the existing Albertsons site is 15 feet.

“So, the plaza becomes the ramp,” Marasco said. “I think no one’s going to like to drive on it, and it’s visible, which makes it ugly.”

The Early Design Guidance packet includes five options, but Marasco said three will likely be vetted during the EDG meeting with the West Design Review Board; SDCI has not yet set a date for the meeting.

A truck bay would be located on the alley side of the site, and is proposed to be tucked under a second-floor roof with sawtooth terraces — a nod to the skylights at the nearby Magnolia Community Center — and more biophilic design to meet adjacent residential views. Part of Security Properties' ongoing due diligence is seeking access to adjacent properties to perform view studies.

If all goes well, Marasco said, the project could break ground in early 2021. It should take about 26 months to construct, but plans are to open the new Safeway store ahead of the residences.

Security Properties has developed a number of mixed-use housing projects above groceries, including above PCC Markets in Fremont and Columbia City, and On the Park apartment project on top of the Ballard QFC.

Magnolia Safeway EDG Packet by branax2000 on Scribd