1222 East Madison Street project kicked back by review board

Despite one of the nicest pre-summer evenings of the year last night’s meeting of the design review board actually drew 15 people beyond those who had to be there. The meeting, to discuss the proposed development for 1222 East Madison Street, was potentially the last chance to consider the development before it received the board’s recommendation and takes the next step toward permitting. CHS discussed the 1222 project previously here.

The project is slated for the lot where the Precision Tune now sits. It’s located immediately east of the Trace Lofts and just south of the Elysian Brewery. On the north side, it abuts a parking lot that could itself be developed in the future. As Josh noted the other day, the plan calls for a six-story, mixed-use structure with street-level retail and underground parking. The breakdown goes like this: 104 units, 51 parking spaces and 6,000 square-feet of commercial space. The units are mostly studio apartments, with a few larger units having “open bedrooms,” meaning a room that can be separated with a sliding door.


Baylis architect Kevin Cleary described an updated building that incorporated suggestions from last year’s design review board meeting. He pointed to the updated building’s smaller retail spaces, a relocation of the automobile entrance along 13th Avenue, a recessed entry at the corner of 13th and Madison and adding rhythm and articulation to the building as elements reflected in the new design.

In the end, a divided board did not grant its recommendation despite saying much in praise of the project. But concerns over the 13th/Madison corner compelled the board to request the developers address that aspect of the design and present an update at a future public hearing. Specifically, the board didn’t like the concave entry and asked the developer to look at more asymmetrical and different shapes.

Other issues the developers need to address include the auto entrance on 13th Avenue as well as how that entrance interacts with services such as garbage pick-up. And the board requested the developers reexamine the materials used and shape of the concrete awning above the main entrance (see to architect’s graphic and note the awning above “1222”).

Developer Kevin Wallace of Wallace Properties said he was hoping to receive the board’s recommendation last night. While not pleased with the decision, he asked that the board move as quickly as possible to schedule the additional hearing. The board made no specific promises but said it would expedite the process; the next hearing could take place in roughly two weeks. Meeting notices will be sent out once a date is established.

A few thoughts in closing. Wallace said that the project’s goal is to create “workforce” housing. When asked just what that meant, he said it meant housing that would be affordable to those making the county’s median income or less. For a single earner, the median income in King County is just less than $54,000 a year. While reminding that the building has yet to be built, Wallace said that rents in the neighborhood of $1,200/month were likely.

Also, the hearing lacked anything approaching drama, which is one way of saying that there were no diatribes of disgust at the proposal, no forceful opposition, no irate or hostile tirades. The few comments offered were largely positive. I’ve also been to design hearings where the board recommended projects despite voicing greater objections and more lengthy concerns.

One last thing that comes to mind is that this is a project where the developer seems intent on actually going forward as quickly as possible. This is notable given the current state of the economy and how that effects, say, the stalled project at 500 block of East Pine Street. Wallace expressed concern on several occasions about the difficulties obtaining financing and his eagerness to try to break ground soon. When I asked what soon meant, he said, “We hope to be in the ground in November. But financing is tricky these days.”

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4 thoughts on “1222 East Madison Street project kicked back by review board

  1. Hi Doug thanks for the update on this, as I could not make the meeting. There was so much happening last night. I hope for an SU update soon as well.

    Anyway, I wanted to provide this chart from the County which details how they calculate median income:

    http://www.metrokc.gov/dchs/csd/housing/IncomeGuide.pdf

    The FAMILY median is actually quite high (I believe skewed by certain areas of the County, i.e. East Side). This doesn’t show rents, but if we are talking about $1200 foe a one-bed or open one-bed (studio) I think they are affordable at median for a single person or more.

    Generally, when the City uses “workforce housing” they are typically talking about folks in the 60% of median -100% of median range. So I wouldn’t really call this a workforce project.

  2. Design review aside.Here’s your diatribe. The notion that $1200 is affordable for a studio or practically studio here is the kind of thinking that prices people out of the neighborhood.I moved here 4 years ago paying 700 for a studio.Have incomes risen at the same pace? No, of course not. Look at the demographic that makes up the surrounding area and tell me that they can afford that working their Trader Joe’s job. Find another place? can’t they’re all being replaced by these dormitories. There is no reason for people to get at least a full one bedroom IF they’re going to going over a grand a month.

  3. Thanks for the update. It does seem a little unfair to call this project “workforce” housing if it isn’t actually “workforce” by city standards. That being said, it is still nice that the developer is building new units that are probably less than most new homes going up on the hill.

    I have to say, this seems like a great example of Design Review’s problems. I understand that there are a few small things that may not be perfect, but what its replacing is so much worse. Personally it seems like the concave entrance adds to the public space of that big corner so I’m not sure why they would want it sticking out more. Personal opinion I guess. But anyway, Design Review should work by being lenient on projects like this and focusing their efforts on making buildings like the B&O replacement stand up to a much, much higher standard, which they certainly aren’t doing.

  4. I could not agree with you more actually! I guess that didn’t come across in my last post. New construction is largely only “affordable” to people making upwards of 65k a year (new construction that isn’t subsidized I mean). This project is certainly not low-income and it is not typically what is called “workforce housing” by the City and the County.