Graphic courtesy Security Properties: The West Community Design Review Board approved the proposed Magnolia Safeway project advance to the next phase of the review process, the design recommendation, last week. The design includes a public plaza, seen here.
Graphic courtesy Security Properties: The West Community Design Review Board approved the proposed Magnolia Safeway project advance to the next phase of the review process, the design recommendation, last week. The design includes a public plaza, seen here.

In a three-hour virtual meeting, the West Community Design Review Board approved the proposed Magnolia Safeway project advance to the next phase of the review process, the design recommendation, last week.

The project, headed by developer Security Properties, will replace the 18,000-square-foot Magnolia Village Albertsons, built in 1955, with a Safeway grocery store and housing that is intended to meet the city’s Living Building Pilot.

Mark Simpson, principal at Bumgarten Architects, said a lot of work has transpired since January, when the Community Design Review Board last met and sent the plan for the project to second Early Design Guidance. The design was then sent into a third EDG after Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections planners wanted further changes reflected in the design.

If successful, the Magnolia development will be the first mixed-use project with a grocery store to qualify for the City of Seattle’s Living Building Challenge pilot program. To meet the Living Building Challenge, the new construction must meet strict criteria and create more energy than it uses.

Simpson said, in response to community input, the third design plan incorporated three elements identified as most important to residents.

First, rather than creating parking access from the back alley behind the building, residential and retail parking access will now come from 32nd Avenue West. In addition, deliveries and trash pickup will be set as a 90-degree design element from the alley. The last element included a public plaza design that will serve as a gathering place.

Generally, community members who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the latest design.

Magnolia resident Scott Surdyke said, once complete, the building will look different from others in Seattle.

“We don’t want this to look like everything else,” he said, adding he thinks the design put forward is “uniquely responsive to this site and to this community.”

Magnolia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Thibeaux commended the collaborative effort between developer Security Properties and different stakeholders in the community to address residents’ concerns and come up with a design that would benefit the neighborhood.

“We need an infusion in patrons right near our business core,” he said.

In a submitted letter, the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce voiced support for the project stating,  the site, which is across from the Magnolia park, the community pool and Catharine Blaine K-8, is “the perfect location to model world class design and deep green construction practices.”

“As the Magnolia Chamber, we envision a development that supports many of Seattle’s climate and green initiative and brings much needed housing to the Village,” according to the letter.

The chamber also stated that, recent studies by the City of Seattle and University of Washington, showed that 89 percent of people shopping in the village live or work within Magnolia.

“Certainly, more residential density in the village will help to sustain our business districts,” the letter stated.

Some residents were still concerned with the height of the building, which would be 67 and a half feet at its tallest point. By meeting the Living Building Challenge, the development qualifies for an extra 12 and a half feet. Residents living in houses nearby have expressed concern with the shade such a large building would create.

Resident Matthew Sumari said he would prefer if the building were 55 feet, the height allowed by the city without the extra footage permitted in the Living Building Challenge.

“I think it’s a fallacy to say that we can have a good-looking building at 67 and a half feet or a bad-looking building at 55 feet,” Sumari said.

Following public comment, the Community Design Review Board offered detailed instructions as to what the next plan architects present should include. Overall, board members agreed the plan should be refined or polished and the relationship between the three separate elements of the structure should be clearer.

Board member and local architect Patreese Martin, who is a local architect, said in an email, the board felt the architects satisfactorily addressed and sufficiently documented concerns about the proposed building’s massing.

“For the Design Recommendation, the project team will present to the Board much more detail and fine-grained development of the project, including samples of materials,” Martin said in the email.

To see the latest design for the building and past documents and comments, go to https://tinyurl.com/MagnoliaSafewayDesign.