Members of the West Design Review Board had mostly positive feedback about a proposed five-story mixed-use building in Interbay on Wednesday night, but were not convinced about the merits of a pair of land use code departure requests.
Three concepts were presented during an Early Design Guidance meeting at the Queen Anne Community Center for 2258 15th Ave. W., one that preserves an exceptional tree on the site, one that conforms to current zoning, and a third — the preferred concept — that relies on the two departures. All plans call for the demolition of the existing structures at 2254 and 2258 15th Ave. W.
That third concept, which would include 32 residential units and ground level commercial space, was the one the board ultimately expressed their preference for, but were tentatively not in support of either departure; one that would decrease the depth of the setback along the rear property line from 15 to 13 feet, and a second that would decrease the depth of the street level commercial space by just over three feet.
Architect Steve Bull with Workshop AD said the primary rationale for the first departure is that “it’s allowing us to do more on the 15th Avenue side,” and providing a better outdoor streetscape environment than with the other two concepts. That is also designed to account for the nearby RapidRide stops on either side of the street.
“This is a really busy area, and we are actually providing with this option a landscape buffer, kind of softening that edge,” said Diana Hammer, the project’s landscape architect.
“We really feel like creating that breathing space on the front is important,” Bull said.
When asked by board member Christine Harrington on what would happen if the development did not receive the departures, Bull said the depth of the 15th Avenue sidewalk would be affected, negatively impacting the pedestrian experience on that street.
Likely, he said, the planners would look more toward the second concept, which meets the current land use code and has the same number of units and parking, or a combination of the second and third concepts. The downside of that second concept, Bull said, is that it pushes the residential units closer to the street, and constrains the sidewalk space on 15th Avenue.
Though the board expressed doubts about the necessity of either departure request, they did not entirely dismiss them. To be supportive of the setback, the board wants to see an “exceptional give back to the public,” in the pedestrian realm and landscaping.
There was more skepticism regarding the plans to cut into the depth of the commercial space on the ground floor, with Harrington noting that retail at this location will be tricky without parking. The belief from the board is that the depth is necessary for a viable commercial tenant.
Outside of the response to the departure requests, the board was generally in favor of the preferred concept. Board member and Queen Anne resident Patreese Martin said the plan’s core principle of enhancing the pedestrian realm made it her preference.
There was less enthusiasm from the board for the other two plans. That includes the first concept, which saves the Douglas Fir on the parcel, has slightly fewer units than the other two proposals (28) and parking stalls (21), but it’s unclear whether the tree would survive even with measures to work around it.
“We really looked at it, but it’s a big challenge for the project,” said architect Steve Bull with Workshop AD.
Because of the logistical hurdles with maintaining the tree, and the unsafe condition it’s causing for pedestrians in the current right of way, there was little interest in trying to preserve it in this instance.
The board also voiced its support for the architectural direction the project is taking, saying it supports a “strong Interbay identity” while creating a textured residential feel.
The project will come before the West Design Review Board at least once more in the coming months.
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