Courtesy barrientosRyan: This is a view of the new Safeway building and housing development looking northwest at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Crockett Street. The corner includes a voluntary set-back of 8 feet, creating a pedestrian-focused community plaza.
Courtesy barrientosRyan: This is a view of the new Safeway building and housing development looking northwest at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Crockett Street. The corner includes a voluntary set-back of 8 feet, creating a pedestrian-focused community plaza.

The Queen Anne Safeway/21Boston housing development project is back on track after Design Review Board West members signed off on the project at a meeting Feb. 3.

The project, 2100 Queen Anne Avenue North, is for a mixed-use commercial and residential complex with a seven stories and 324 apartment units, including 65 affordable units, parking for 344 vehicles and a new 50,000-square-foot Safeway. The current 30,000-square-foot Safeway will be demolished.

The housing is actually broken into three separate buildings, on Boston and First Avenue, Crockett and First Avenue North and on Queen Anne Avenue, which is also where the Safeway storefront will be.

Developer Maria Barrientos, barrientosRyan LLC, said she wasn’t sure what to expect before last week’s meeting.

“I was really nervous,” she said.

Last week’s session was the second recommendation meeting for the project after the DRB members rejected signing off on plans submitted in December despite receiving largely positive comments from the community, including Picture Perfect Queen Anne and the Queen Anne Community Council Land Use Review Committee. In their rejection, DRB members directed the design team include a number of small measures in a new plan but were most concerned that it included changes to the storefront facade to show better definition and make it look like it was comprised of several storefronts or businesses.

The most recent plan didn’t include separate spaces for independent businesses, as a few of the DRB members, and some members of the community strongly pushed for in the December meeting, but the final plan submitted satisfied DRB members, overall.

Barrientos said the latest plan did not include many significant changes, however. Differences in the latest design included incorporating balconies to some of the housing units on Queen Anne Avenue, changing the brick pattern on the Safeway facade and adding columns to better differentiate each retail space on the Safeway storefront. While the planner had the design team include a study on what the facade would look like with different colored brick, that idea was dismissed in the end in favor of the original solid red color.

As before, public comment at the Feb. 3 meeting was largely in favor of the project, with all but two people urging the DRB members to approve the project. Most comments in favor demanded the DRB stop delaying the project with small changes many deemed inconsequential that only served to drive up the cost of construction and slow completion of much-needed housing.

“...  This project started under Obama

“With public meetings full of drama

“Design review sure takes a while

“Ignore the housing crisis,

in denial

“What we really need is some housing built

“So please pass this project and absolve your guilt,” resident Ted Geisel wrote in a poem in the style of Dr. Seuss, named Theodore Geisel.

Barrientos said she was “delighted and shocked” by the public comments calling for the approval of the project, adding the delay from December to February added 300 hours of work and cost between $300,000-$400,000.

DRB members, however, stated, despite public comment, they believed the process accomplished what was intended, even with the delay.

Marty Kaplan, a former Queen Anne Community Council member and longtime advocate of the Design Review Board process, didn’t agree, however, and in an email stated he was not impressed with the last two meetings.

Kaplan was critical of the City Council’s decision to shift the development process from DRB to Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections administrative design review at the beginning of COVID-19 but did not feel the DRB handled the 21Boston project appropriately or was a good example of what design review boards should do.

He said the board’s delay of the project and its over analyzing of small business spaces was a “disaster” and accused members of needing to “pontificate without foundation.”

He also did not think the changes presented by architect Brian Runberg, Runberg Architecture, between the December meeting and the latest one were substantively different, either.

“Basically, all the issues they complained about previously all of a sudden became acceptable,” Kaplan wrote in his email. “They were so concerned about small business spaces, but, poof, they all thought it was now great. They voted against the murals, but now they are great. This board deserves to be completely changed. It cost the developer time and significant money, which has been the criticism leveled at DRB. I want to save DRB, but this review was not what anyone intended.”

Kaplan said he doesn’t feel ending DRB would be appropriate, however. Instead, he calls for updating the process to prevent more DRB meetings like 21Boston project.

With the project out of the design review stage, Barrientos said the project needs to wrap up the permitting stage. She said, if all goes well, the project could break ground in mid-June. The store will take approximately two years to complete, and the housing will take two and a half.

Barrientos said, in April or May, conversations will begin with community members regarding aspects of construction, specifically how to mitigate impacts to nearby residents and two preschools located in a church on Crockett Street.

To learn more about the project, go to seattle.gov/sdci and type in the project number: 3034141-LU at the Check Status field.