Pam Kurz, senior associate at Perkins Eastman, presents the development's design plans to the board. Photo by Sarah Radmer 
Pam Kurz, senior associate at Perkins Eastman, presents the development's design plans to the board. Photo by Sarah Radmer 

The proposed Aegis development (2900 Third Ave. W.) got the Design Review Board’s accolades but not approval at a Design Recommendation meeting last night (Wednesday, Jan. 22).

The development is a three-story, 124-unit senior and memory-care home, with parking for 47 vehicles in an underground garage. The site is adjacent to the Queen Anne Bowl.

The meeting at the Queen Anne Community Center (1901 First Ave. W.) drew a much smaller crowd than recent Design Review meetings, something that audience members attributed to the lack of awareness about the project. In total, about 12 community members attended.

The Queen Anne Community Council (QACC) was very involved with the development nearly two years ago, wrote Land Use Review Committee (LURC) chair Martin Kaplan, in an email to the community. In May 2012, progress stopped, and Kaplan assumed the project was on hold; in reality, the project switched architects, from VIA Architecture to Perkins Eastman Architects, and continued design progress.

Aegis vice president of development Michael Derr took responsibility for “inadvertently excluding LURC and the community council,” saying, as they progressed with the new developers, contact with the community “fell off.” He promised to make a presentation to the community soon.

At the meeting, Kaplan urged the board not to make a decision until the architects could come before the LURC and the QACC to present the new designs.

“This is very important,” Kaplan told the board. “This is a huge project — not many like this have been built in the past 30 years [in Seattle].”

The Design Review Board granted Kaplan’s wish, recommending Aegis and the architects return to the community, along with several other requests. 

Requested departures

The board did recognize that the new design improved upon nearly all of the board’s recommendations from 2012.

The new project built on the old project’s building placement and main design, said Pam Kurz, senior associate for Perkins Eastman. The new architects wanted to make a more residential building with Victorian-era design inspiration, she said: The Victorian design would bring “whimsy, A-symmetry and playfulness that’s really satisfying.”

The new design features a 15-foot dome with roof access, a wrap-around porch, a covered roof to disguise ventilation features, an arched bridge and a curved driveway. (View the entire design plan here.)

The design has three departures, which the board supported. The first is a 90-foot building-length requirement. The proposed structure is 245 feet, with a bridge acting as connection between the two halves of the building. The board agreed with the departure, saying it would be within code to do three separate, 90-foot buildings, and that this design is more pleasant.

The building also features a loading dock for deliveries. Code dictates the area should be 14 feet tall and 35 feet long; the developers asked for a departure for a 12-foot-tall, 25-foot-long loading dock.

The third departure asks for car access off of two streets (Third Avenue West and West Florentia Street), instead of one. Neighbors, like QACC member Don Harper, were concerned about the amount of traffic on both streets.

With proximity to the Queen Anne Bowl, the area has a park-like setting the developers wanted to retain and enhance, Kurz said. The site has some exceptional and significant trees that will remain; the hazardous trees are removed in the new design. The developers are required to replace the trees so that there is no net loss of tree canopy, said Colin Vasquez, senior land-use planner with the Department of Planning and Development. 

Neighbors’ concerns

The night skies were a big concern for neighbors who enjoy the purposefully dark night sky by the Queen Anne Bowl. Both neighbors and board members asked that common-area lights be on motion detectors so the Bowl would remain dark at night.

Harper was also concerned about how the massive building would dwarf people looking at it from the Bowl. Another woman requested the developers replace the “dilapidated fence” along the Bowl.

The development has multiple green-screen walls. In some cases, like along Florentia Street, the walls are to protect the memory-care residents. With some memory-care residents, the urge to escape is very strong, Derr said, so a green wall provides security but doesn’t create the visual connection of “a prison.” There’s also a wall between the property and the Queen Anne Bowl, with the intent to “still have interaction but also separation,” Kurz said.

During deliberation, the board asked for a light plan or motion-sensor lights in the common areas and improved access, with an option for stairs on the pedestrian path. Walls built to block headlights on the driveway from Third Avenue were too high, and the board recommended lowering or terracing the walls.

The board also asked for a pedestrian-perspective sketch from the sidewalks and the Bowl. It also wanted a sample of the building materials and encouraged the developers to be more playful with the color pallet, especially on the east side of the building.

Now, the developers will need to return to LURC before another round with the Design Review Board.

If and when the development is approved, construction will take 18 months, Derr said: He’s hoping to get permits and start development this summer, “but a lot of things need to happen first.”

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