If property developers had designed a 50,000-square-foot commercial space for an unknown tenant at 2100 Queen Anne Ave. N., with no other retail in mind, the West Design Review Board would have quickly denied the proposal, said chair Stephen Porter. After some light bargaining Wednesday night, the board agreed to let developers return with a better case for Safeway doubling its size on the hill.

The Oct. 2 Early Design Guidance meeting followed months of vetting the project with community members and neighborhood groups.

barrientosRYAN plans to develop the site through a joint venture with Cahill Equities and Safeway to include more than 300 apartment units complementing a 50,000-square-foot urban concept store.

This is the second group to attempt to clear the review board with a  redevelopment that has a 50,000-square-foot Safeway store anchoring it. Albertsons Companies will not allow for a reduction in the grocery store’s size, which resulted in a lackluster reception by the WDRB when Holland Partner Group was the developer in 2017. The design team was asked to come back for a second Early Design Guidance meeting, but ended up being cut from the project.

barrientosRYAN principal Maria Barrientos informed residents at a September community meeting that all purchase-and-sales agreements had been signed, locking the joint venture development group in for the long haul.

WDRB members agreed that the design provided by Runberg Architecture Group and landscape designer Hewitt Architecture did many things well.

All of the board members liked the proposal to include townhomes along the First Avenue North side of the site. They liked the plans for a public plaza at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Crockett Street.

Unlike the previous developer’s first showing, the WDRB was even able to push the team’s preferred design forward over two other massing options. The 325 residential units — mostly studios and one-bedrooms — would be broken up among three buildings on a podium sitting on top of the Safeway store.

The sticking point with the WDRB was a requested departure in the preferred design to not include eight small commercial spaces in the project as required by code, and how that translated in the design of the Safeway store’s frontage on Queen Anne Avenue North.

“This is just so essential to how this building is going to affect its neighborhood for a very long time,” Porter said.

There are only two entrances proposed along the avenue — one on the north corner and the other connected to the south plaza — which is partly to prevent theft, said architect Brian Runberg.

WDRB member Brian Walters said a code-compliant design that included eight small retail spaces would have individual entries, and was joined by the rest of the board in pushing developers to treat the frontage as such, with more openings and programming. Walters liked one resident’s suggestion that something like a floral section be added; similar to what Metropolitan Market has at its Uptown location.

The EDG packet the development group submitted to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections puts all eight retail spaces in its code-compliant design option at the corner of Boston Street and First Avenue North, next to the residential lobby and leasing office.

Runberg said Safeway/Albertsons Companies doesn’t want any retail competing with its grocery stores, adding nail and tanning salons as examples of what could fit that bill.

Porter pushed for the design team to consider the building’s longevity, which he said could be much longer than Safeway’s presence on the hill. He also pushed back on Safeway’s insistence it needs 50,000 square feet, saying Seattle has many urban grocery stores with a smaller footprint.

Several residents who spoke during the Oct. 2 EDG meeting liked many aspects of the project, but also wanted to see space made available for small, local businesses.

Another departure request is to have the width of the Safeway store be 271 lineal feet along Queen Anne Avenue North; code allows a maximum width of 250 feet.

Barrientos said the departures were necessary for providing a public plaza, townhomes and increased setbacks to enhance the pubic realm around the project.

The review board nearly requested the design team return for a second EDG meeting, which would have delayed the schedule for redevelopment, but Barrientos convinced the WDRB they could come back for a recommendation meeting with a revised design that addresses their concerns about the retail space.

“This is EDG,” she said. “We don’t have that detail. This is about massing.”

Porter warned that should the design team not hit the mark at its recommendation meeting, the WDRB could make them come back for another.

Barrientos told Queen Anne News that the WDRB’s agreeing to pass the project through EDG now allows the development team to apply for a master use permit and begin working on more technical aspects of the redevelopment. It will likely be another eight months before the WDRB sees a revised design, she said.

Queen Anne Safeway EDG Packet by branax2000 on Scribd