Early plans for a seven-story apartment building in Uptown received the initial go-ahead from the West Design Review Board on Wednesday night, but the project’s approach to parking raised questions among board members.

Currently the site of a surface parking lot and two billboards, the proposed development at 110 1st Ave. W. calls for approximately 75 residential units with ground-level retail space. Though parking is not required under existing zoning, project architect Rob Kiker with Weinstein A +U suggested the financial feasibility of the project depended on its inclusion.

“I don’t know if the banks would loan money without parking,” he said.

In the preferred alternative presented, parking for 23 vehicles would be provided in a interstitial level above the commercial space, and below the residential units. Kiker compared the design to another project the firm worked on nearby, Ventana at the Market (2100 Western Ave.), that follows the same layout.

But the board felt that the design rationale was lacking, without the necessary justification that including parking would make for a better design outcome than a code compliant option that doesn’t have it. Project architects had requested a zoning departure — with the existing code allowing for no more than 50 percent of total parking located above grade — but found the board hesitant to support it.

“For us our purview is not whether it’s economically viable for you to not have parking or have parking," said board chair Stephen Porter.

However, the board did support the trapezoidal massing with the residential units atop a two-story podium presented in the preferred alternative as the best response to the context of the 12,000-square-foot site, which slopes steeply from the Northeast to Northwest corners.

“I think this parallelogram is pretty unique to this site,” said Kiker, noting that they allowed the geometry of the site to inform the shape of the building.

Also earning the support of the board was the articulation of the Western Avenue facade, and the ground-level plan, which sited both the lobby and commercial entrances off of First Avenue, with the retail space (approximately 1,500 square feet) along Western.

The preferred alternative was also the option favored by several residents of the neighboring Carrera Condos to the north during public comment. Though those speakers expressed concerns about what the new development would mean for air flow and natural light in their units, several of them also conceded that the preferred option was the best of the three, in part because of a small garden/courtyard included in the northwest corner of the site.

Ultimately, those elements were enough to overcome the looming parking questions, with the board clearing the project to return for a recommendation phase meeting in the coming months. That was the hope of project architects, with Kiker noting his preference to bring a more “fleshed out” plan before the board, as opposed to a second early design guidance meeting.

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Early Design Guidance Presentation — 110 1st Ave. W. (Aug. 1, 2018) by QueenAnneMagnoliaNews on Scribd