Reviewing the 230 Broadway design review: ‘You’re complaining in the wrong format’

To get the flavor of what is wrong with Seattle’s Design Review Process, here is the response a Capitol Hill Design Review Board representative gave a community member who took the time to show up at Wednesday night’s meeting to discuss the 230 Broadway mixed-use project. Resident rep Sharon Sutton was — technically — correct when she told Julia’s owner Karsten Betd this:

“You’re complaining in the wrong format.”

But if Betd’s preceding diatribe about big building, mixed-use design on Capitol Hill should be heard; If not by the Capitol Hill Design Board, then by whom?

(Image: SRM Development)

Betd’s statements Wednesday night, though dramatic, were similar to many comments you’ll read on CHS about mixed-use design on Hill.

“This is not downtown Seattle,” Betd said during the public comment portion of the review meeting. “I suggest that the board walks around the QFC building. It’s shameful what went up in QFC. I hope that no one will move into the retail space.” The Broadway businessman’s acrimony was directed at the Joule development that has filled up a block where QFC once stood and is a frequent target for criticism of large developments on the Hill. Joule, by the way, is a CHS advertiser.

When other community members in the meeting audience agreed with Betd and made comments about the 230 Broadway project’s Joule-like bulk and scale, Sutton was quick to shut the discussion down. “For all of the people who are objecting to the size of the building, we do not create zoning,” she said, ending the public comment portion of the review.

Instead, the board’s deliberations Wednesday night were focused on five remaining unresolved elements in the 230 project’s design:

  • The building’s north elevation
  • Its south elevation
  • Storefronts on Broadway
  • Balconies on Broadway
  • Residential use on 10th Ave E

You can read more about these elements and Runberg Architects‘ solutions in the review document. The board has up to two weeks from Wednesday’s meeting to decided if a third design review is needed for the project. Here is our coverage from the first review, by the way.

In addition to Bedt’s criticism, other public comments included:

  • A woman who said the project should have a smaller footprint and was too tall for Broadway
  • A suggestion that the Broadway side of the building not have balconies
  • A suggestion that the Broadway side of the building should have balconies
  • Dennis Saxman, a neighborhood activist and frequent thorn in the side of developers and the DPD, criticized the plan for the project to request a departure from city rules for a larger than typical setback to allow for a five-foot planting strip between the sidewalk and the building. He also said the plan to include an old bank facade as an interior courtyard element “treats it as a trophy.” “You’re not preserving anything but a figment,” Saxman said.

And then it was Bedt’s turn.

We’ll have more on the Department of Planning’s design review process and some ideas for changing it soon.

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8 thoughts on “Reviewing the 230 Broadway design review: ‘You’re complaining in the wrong format’

  1. Sharron Sutton was correct to shut down the comments. The DRB does not decide the zoning of the site. And the comments about the size of the building are completely misguided; the zoning was changed for a reason, to encourage exactly this scale of larger building and increased density. This happened years ago, complaining at a DRB isn’t going to change the overall zoning

    And I wouldn’t call Dennis Saxman I dont know what would make him happy. He’s so well known for it that I doubt the board would take anything he said serioulsy anyway.

    And Bedt’s comments; would she rather have the blank facade and surface parking of the old QFC? I guess she wont serve the 500+ residents that will be moving into the Joule. As for not being “downtown seattle” its a mile away, this scale development is perfect in creating nearby density and housing so there is a downtown. And if I may, buildings in downtown are a little bit taller.

    I’m not saying the building is pretty. Certainly I would hope for better architecture for Broadway. But with people just complaining about the size and scale of the project they miss the point of design review: Design; it’s not a zoning meeting. So the chance for better architecture is lost.

  2. I reiterate from one of my comments on this project earlier: This project is built for many decades to come. It is the first large project that is going up near the new light rail station. Capitol Hill should be encouraging density. We will be having better transportation accessibility with light rail. This project fits in perfectly with our goals of a dense neighborhood.

    The biggest problems that I have with this development are the bank arch. It is the only architecturally significant part of the current structures. I wish that the Broadway facade could have been designed around it, instead of the arch being stuck somewhere in the project.

    Maybe in the future developers can get together with their design teams and members of the community and see what they want to keep and what styles they’d like to go up. But for us to gripe and moan about the zoning that had been approved after a long community hearing process is just obstructionist.

  3. I am sorry but overall height of the building IS a design feature and is debatable at the DRB. DRB isn’t just to make sure the builders are code compliant, but to make sure the design fits into the neighborhood and is acceptable to the neighborhood. Please read the stated objectives of the DRB on the City of Seattle webpage for them. If you listened to the board debating you would have heard that only the board chair feels that height is not debatable. Several other board members brought it up as a debatable issue and she just shut them down.

    BTW–the community forums held to change the zoning from 40′ to 65′ were universally negative as well. But the city doesn’t care what the neighborhood wants.

    And ProstSeattle–this building is just another Joule. That building is not even close to being sold in any way shape or forum. Brix had to be auctioned off! Half of Broadway is empty! You can fantasize all day long that Capitol Hill is going to magically get all this growth when the light rail opens but I would caution against that. Just go ask Beacon Hill. Not to mention the MAJORITY of the building is condos–have you seen the new regulations for getting mortgage approval for condos? This building will not meet most of them and is going to sit unsold like Brix/Joule/Trace.

  4. I forgot to mention the 700 Broadway building. That was finished more than 6 years ago and has never been successful.

  5. I for one think that growth is positive for cap hill. Change happens, don’t be naive and think that a design review meeting sets zoning policy.

    I’d rather see denser projects in the city with access to transit and supporting amenities, instead of farmlands mowed down in Marysville, replacing local crops for farmer’s markets, and dairy farms put out for massive developments in Enumclaw and Maple Valley.

    Large developments like this one aren’t out of place in this neighborhood. Look at the Biltmore on Summit and Loretta. It was once a towering monstrosity that wasn’t to scale with the neighborhood, now one of the greatest buildings around (up until four years ago there were still single family homes on the same block, indicating the neighborhood it was built in at the time.)

    There are many other examples of rather large buildings both old and relatively recent that somehow managed to find their way into cap hill. (Mercer and Belmont, the wall all along Melrose, the existing six story building on Broadway and John, seven stories at Belmont and E Howell, or the nine story building on E Olive and Belmont to name a few.) All of which are now a part of the fabric of cap hill.

    This is an urban neighbourhood in one of the most densely populated areas on the west coast. You’re not going to win the argument against more density.

  6. First, make the rules, locations, and times for having “your voice heard” obscure and difficult to obtain. Second, attack anyone who missteps, speaks out of turn, is unable to comprehend the obscure rules or just looks too dirty for your neighborhood. Third, repeat.

  7. Janis, Get your facts straight before posting on here: Joule is market-rate apartments. Not CONDOS. Same goes for this project. The posts associated with this project are very entertaining…uneducated nimbyism at its best. Go density!