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Urban Neighborhood Council
April 17, 2013 To: Shelley Bolser, Planner Seattle DPD Cc: Diane Sugimura, Director Seattle DPD Re: Project No. 3013776, 1420 E Madison Street Early Design Guidance Meeting, April 17, 2013 Members of PPUNC met with the applicant yesterday, and prior to that members attended the applicant’s first EDG Hearing, yet the project is not sufficiently developed to move to a Recommendation Hearing. Had we been engaged by the team soon after their first EDG, we would have had the opportunity for collaboration. That being said, we feel the project is trapped somewhere between a bold, contemporary statement such as that made by the Bullitt Center or the nearby Jewish Family Center, and that of the more traditional building. The attempt to fuse a synthesis between these two differing approaches remains unresolved, as noted by the following: 1. The clash in materiality, scale, and detail between the lower brick portion and the metal siding upper portion. There is no suitable neighborhood precedent for such a mix, and we feel this project has not convincingly resolved the pairing of these elements. We prefer a more robust design approach to the elevation along Madison, and that it have a continuous vertical plane with no setback at the upper floors. This location lends itself to a more distinct urban presence rather than trying to emulate a softer residential building. If the applicant is committed on setting back the building at the 5th and 6th floors, we recommend eliminating the green area in favor of making these spaces available for tenant use, as the proposed planting will be difficult to maintain, relatively costly, and inaccessible. We also recommend continuing the brick on all sides and all levels of the building, with architectural detailing adding scale rather than color or material changes. 2. The canopies along Madison are too low and out of scale with the height of the storefront, especially along the SW corner where the storefront is 22 ft. tall, which would not only deprive retailers of significant frontage to display their wares, but also create an uncomfortable pedestrian environment. We encourage the applicant to incorporate awnings that will enhance the ability of commercial tenants to be seen visually. 3. The extremely narrow garage access appears problematic. While we typically support the lessening of curb cuts and appreciate the potentially enhanced relationship it creates with its neighboring building to the north, the applicant’s request for a 10 ft. drive width/entry is too narrow for 98 vehicles coming and going; thus seems unfeasible, and we cannot support this departure request. We would however, be amiable to a width of say 15 ft. 4. The design of the Commercial frontage – there is a great opportunity to make the building stand out with such a large expanse of retail space. At present, the renderings show a rather generic design. We encourage the applicant to work on differentiating each storefront to make them more appealing. We discourage the installation of a thick and flat profiled metal storefront system. We encourage them to look into installing operable windows and breaking up the glazing to be of a finer grain. Furthermore, the graphic representations of the proposal have left doubts in our minds about the resolve the applicant has in carrying forward their stated intentions. We were surprised to learn that the windows are intended to be set-back 8 inches from the surrounding brick – something we resoundingly support – as the drawings do not represent that. Furthermore, the drawings do not adequately convey the tectonics and detail of the brick, something important to represent when the bulk of the facades are quite planar. It is at the detail level that such an apparently flat facade will succeed or fail.
PPUNC Capitol Hill, Seattle
While we are supportive of density on Capitol Hill, and would like to be supportive of the project, we feel that the above issues raise serious concerns as to the overall appropriateness of this project for the important site it occupies. We therefore respectfully request the Design Review Board to ask the applicant back for another EDG hearing, after taking a fresh look at the site and its context and after better engaging the community, as the basic massing and the applicant’s preferred scheme remains problematic. Thank you,
John Feit PPUNC Chair
PPUNC Capitol Hill, Seattle