CHS notes from the 230 Broadway design review: ‘Straight out of Bellevue’

CHS’s preview of Wednesday night’s meeting of the Capitol Hill Design Review Board to examine the 230 Broadway project drew dozens of comments about how the planned development will look and feel when it takes over the block of Broadway south of Thomas.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, many of the same sentiments voiced on CHS about the plain design and heavy bulk of the planned building were repeated during the public comment session. Afterward, the board deliberated on approving the plans so SRM Development can begin work on the project in February 2011. The board has two weeks to issue a report on their decision or to request another recommendation meeting with the developer.

Summarizing the majority of feedback voiced by community members at the meeting, there were many “out of context,” and “too big” comments. A handful of people suggested that the building be lowered to 40 feet on the Broadway side. It is currently planned to be 65 feet tall on Broadway and 40 feet on the 10th side of the structure. One neighbor said she and others nearby will have their views completely blocked by the structure, lowering their property values. The board also heard plenty about the lack of originality in the design. “This is straight out of Bellevue.”


As for the review board, members (see a roster here) focused questions and discussion mostly on specific issues like the building’s service entry and its impact on neighborhood noise and access issues. Another issues discussed by the board was a desire for more visual connections to the courtyard. The board also praised the building’s “modulation and symmetry,” especially on the 10th Ave side of the structure — though one board member did admit the design reminded him of a building in South Lake Union.

CHS Notes:

  • One major shift in plans was outlined during the presentation. A plan for community space has been eliminated from the design. The community room is now just a private room for residents and guests.
  • The possible salvage of the “First Bank” arch was discussed. The architects called for putting it on a blank wall in the courtyard but a number of community members suggested incorporating it into the Broadway facade for the public.
  • The developers are planning to include about 50 affordable units to qualify for an affordable housing tax exemption.
  • Sound Transit will be tunneling under the site, so they are working closely with SRM on construction dates.
  • Like the new Broadway Building, 230 Broadway’s retail locations will be varied in size, shape and height.
  • Presenters talked of a “10th Ave Plan” to increase planting strips and make it a pedestrian connection to Cal Anderson. The route is already designated a bike boulevard.
  • Two trees on Broadway will be removed for construction and replaced in the same locations afterward.
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13 thoughts on “CHS notes from the 230 Broadway design review: ‘Straight out of Bellevue’

  1. “One neighbor said she and others nearby will have their views completely blocked by the structure, lowering their property values.”

    I understand change can sometimes be hard to swallow, but does she really believe you can block development because you deserve a clear and unobstructed view from your living room? She should have bought the property herself.

    “A handful of people suggested that the building be lowered to 40 feet on the Broadway side.”

    Why? This site is a stone’s throw from the light rail station. We should have as many people in this area of the neighborhood as possible.

    So these were the top concerns of the day? No one brought up the vast amounts of parking (bring on the parking crew on this site) or the loss of the community space or the disconnectedness of the center courtyard from public spaces? Also, is anyone paying any attention to the driveway entrance, including the proposed additional service entrance on 10th? Specifically, the design needs to make damn sure that cars and trucks know they are crossing pedestrian space and need to proceed cautiously after yielding. And please, oh please, do not put up an annoying buzzer alerting pedestrians of an approaching car…we know a car is there; just don’t care.

  2. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to talk about parking at Design Review meetings because that is part of EIS and not Design Review.

  3. ” So these were the top concerns of the day? No one brought up the vast amounts of parking (bring on the parking crew on this site) or the loss of the community space or the disconnectedness of the center courtyard from public spaces? “

    Or that it is a huge ugly, unimaginative turd of a building that doesn’t fit the neighborhood?

  4. Wes wrote, “I understand change can sometimes be hard to swallow, but does she really believe you can block development because you deserve a clear and unobstructed view from your living room? She should have bought the property herself.”

    Without passing any judgment on the wisdom of allowing greater building heights in the neighborhood:

    I can’t speak for that neighbor, but I suspect that there’s no expectation of the right to block development because a clear and unobstructed view is deserved, but rather a belief that zoning laws should continue to prevent development of the sort which is too tall for the location just as it did when he or she purchased the home and has since.

    I know restrictions on construction that come from the regulations we’ve created to keep the city from turning into a big mess can be hard to swallow, but does the developer really think he can devalue scores of other people’s properties and to some degree degrade their quality of life simply because he deserves to build higher and generate greater profit?

    Should everyone who purchases property ignore the zoning of surrounding properties, assume that any views out their windows may be blocked someday, and plan to someday build much taller structures on their own property if they see fit to do so?

  5. Phil, the developer is planning to build at a high density and height and make a profit because the property has been zoned for high density development. Yes, he does deserve to do it, and I want him to do it. Views are lost all the time to adjacent development — that’s life in the city. I bought the house I currently live in with the knowledge that, due to the zoning on our block, my neighbor could built a house right next to our dining room window, where there is currently a nice green yard to look at. That is a known risk. If the neighbor builds a house in that yard, I might buy a different house if I’m unsatisfied with the view out my dining room window, but I won’t blame the neighbor for taking advantage of existing zoning.

  6. What about all the empty space on Broadway right now? Putting up a huge bland building (basically another Joule project–not even close to full) is taking away from Capitol Hill, not adding to it. I would agree with you if there was the demand, but there isn’t. Think Brix, Joule, Trace, etc. Brix had to go to auction just to dump their property. We just do not have the demand for a project of this scale.

  7. But this bulding isn’t being built for 2010. It is being built for the future. When this property will allow residents to be at their jobs in downtown Seattle in 2-5 minutes, Bellevue in 12 minutes or so, UW in 3 minutes, or Northgate in 5 minutes, do you not think there will be demand?

  8. Wave: Got it, thanks.

    You’re focused on the zoning allowing this developer to build to 65 feet. That makes sense. How else are we going to keep development under control? I’m curious how your feeling would differ if we changed your hypothetical situation with your house so that the zoning when you bought the home did *not* allow construction on the lot next to you, then at a later time, zoning was changed to allow the owner of that yard to build a house. In other words, if you had bought the house you currently live in with the knowledge that, due to the zoning on your block, your neighbor could not build a house right next to your dining room window, how would you feel about your neighbor doing so at a later date?

  9. I grow a little tired of this complaint. Its a 6 story box… What can you do with a 6 story box to make it imaginative? Take a look at the fairly classic building that would be right next door (The one that houses American Apparel): ( http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=&geocode=&q=se)

    What exactly is imaginative about that? The reason people like an old building like that vs this design is the inclusion of smaller decorative details. But the overall layout is still an unimaginative box. Perhaps we should be asking for more architectural details since I don’t really know how the architect is going to improve on a box (maybe make it a sphere or oval shaped?)

  10. great point. i was thinking that this weekend as well. further, i don’t think i’ve heard much praise for anything built recently, no matter the modulation and un-boxiness. a few that have received praise, generally (not inconclusively), are:

    the agnes (perhaps the strikingly different windows provide enough details) http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Seattle,

    and whatever this is called (again, the windows plus simple and functional detail provided by the diagonal braces) http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Seattle,

    Both are box-like. However, they are both smaller than a quarter block, the size I believe to be the best scale for Hillers to swallow.

  11. “Should everyone who purchases property ignore the zoning of surrounding properties”

    No. Zoning does not change that often.

    “assume that any views out their windows may be blocked someday”

    Yes. We are in a very urban environment. Things are not static, nor should we want them to be.

    “and plan to someday build much taller structures on their own property if they see fit to do so? “

    Maybe. Depends on economic realities. Is demand quickly outpacing supply? If so, then we need an upzone because the zoning is only serving to make things more expensive.

  12. I wonder how long it would take to have a hill design committee meet with the architects BEFORE pencil hits paper to come up with a design. I must say I’m surprised by the amount of parking. It sure seems like a lot for the size of building, but they are the ones paying for it.