Initial plans for Safeway development get cool reception

Second Early Design Guidance meeting to be held

Plans for a new Safeway and 250 apartments in Queen Anne will have to return for a second Early Design Guidance meeting, after a tepid response from both the public and the West Design Review Board on Wednesday night at the Queen Anne Community Center.

Architects from Ankrom Moisan presented three proposals for the site (2100 Queen Anne Ave.), all of which called for a 50,000 square foot grocery store — double its current size — with 3-to-4 stories of residential units above, and approximately two levels of underground parking below (154 commercial stalls and 175 residential).

"What we're excited about in this project is its transformative nature," said architect Scott Waggoner, noting that there are few opportunities left in the neighborhood for such a large undertaking.

However, he said, the aim was to craft a plan that respected the existing character of the area.

“A great neighborhood is already there,” Waggoner said. “We understand that.”

But the review board had trouble determining just what the vision was for the project.

"Everything seems to feed off the Safeway," said board member Stephen Porter.

That sentiment informed the board's lack of preference for any of the three massing options presented, wanting instead to see a larger architectural concept driven by something other than the store's proposed footprint.

What did receive positive feedback were plans for row houses along First Avenue North, and the concept of a public plaza at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Crockett Street, one that could seamlessly coexist with the weekly farmer’s market through the spring and summer. The size of that plaza as planned, however, drew critiques from the board, with board chair Christine Harrington calling it merely a really large sloped walk, and member Patreese Martin unconvinced that it even qualified as a plaza as is.

Meanwhile, the size and scope of the project as a whole drew the ire of many of those to provide public comment on Wednesday, among them Queen Anne resident Tony Salas.

Salas — also an  architect — said the development dwarfs anything currently found in either Queen Anne or Uptown.

"It's alarming to me that we just spent an hour talking about this building, and no one talked about how big it is," he said.

In an interview on Thursday, he expanded on that point, saying that he believes the site presents a great opportunity but the proposed development is, “so out of scale that it does a lot of damage.”

This is a profit driven exercise by people with no stake in our neighborhood," he wrote in comments submitted to the city. "These are people who will not have to live with the consequences of a poorly conceived, physical manifestation of a proforma shoehorned into their long established and beloved neighborhood."

What's lost, he said, is the potential for a neighborhood square or substantial public space. He also questioned whether Queen Anne needs such a sizeable grocery store, and that the neighborhood design guidelines don't support a national retailer taking up an entire block of storefront, as the developers proposed.

The street-level experience also caught the attention of the board, with questions over what role elements like the store’s floral department or coffee shop could play. 

Michelle Fleharty, real estate manager with Safeway, acknowledged that the company is, “still in flux on our plan,” regarding layout, and how interior store components can activate the exterior. 

"It is a very large building without any breaks in the street frontage anywhere," said Harrington, as one of several members to note their qualms with the façade.

Meanwhile, landscape designer Kathy King of Picture Perfect Queen Anne expressed her concerns about the pedestrian realm under the initial plans.

“If the building could be pushed back even two feet, and given room for pedestrian-level greenery against the building, it would be a huge improvement," she said.

To that end, Harrington was also disappointed that the plans had done little to incorporate the bus shelter on Queen Anne Avenue, with no opportunity for additional seating at what would be a busy point along the sidewalk.

"This is a prime spot," she said.

Board member Brian Walters raised questions over how the residential entries — planned for the corner of 1st and Boston, and Queen Anne Avenue north of the Safeway — would interact with the rest of the site.

The board also voiced general support for a trio of departures being sought by the architects, one for three-feet of additional height in conjunction with a six-foot setback, another for a second parking access curb cut on Crockett Street, and one for a curb cut on Boston Street wider than the 30-foot maximum to facilitate delivery trucks. Currently, trucks back into the store’s loading dock from the street, while all three options presented to the board would “internalize” the trucks’ turns, allowing them to head in and out from the alley off of Boston.

It's unclear if the reception from Wednesday's meeting will affect the timeline of the project. In June, the company said it anticipated starting construction next fall. A date has not yet been set for the next Early Design Guidance meeting.

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Early Design Guidance Presentation — Queen Anne Safeway (Nov. 8, 2017) by QueenAnneMagnoliaNews on Scribd