The East Design Review Board put the final touches on the public process Wednesday night surrounding the planned multi-million project to transform E Pine between Melrose and Bellevue into an eight-story, 180-unit apartment, restaurant and retail development.
Architect David Hewitt said he and the Madison Development Group had been “very sensitive in our efforts” to integrate the old buildings on E Pine in a unified design.
“The composition is as one structure,” Hewitt said. “This isn’t a series of little buildings.”
The final approval paves the way for the project that will retain the facades and character of the Melrose Building — currently home to Bauhaus — and the Pinevue Apartments building — both rejected as possible Seattle landmarks during the process to finalize the project’s approval. By the way, one of the elements that left the Pinevue short of landmarks protection was the loss of its original cornice. The Hewitt design includes a faithful restoration of the lost element.
Two other apartment buildings will be demolished to make way for the project — as will one of the last remaining Capitol Hill “mound houses.”
Thanks to preservation incentives in the neighborhood, the building will soar to 75 feet. A planned publicly accesible terrace above Melrose — during business hours, of course — will likely be a popular feature for restaurant or bar-focused commercial tenants.
The project will also include underground parking for 170 vehicles with plans for the lot to be available to the public in the increasingly busy area around Melrose Market. The developers were successful in their bid for a departure from zoning to allow the parking levels to be accessed from Melrose instead of Bellevue as code would have required. Public comment at the project’s first design review expressed mainly concern at the plan. Wednesday night, speakers said commercial tenants in the area were eager for the future parking relief. The board agreed that Hewitt had done the massaging necessary to squeeze a safe entrance/exit onto what is regularly a street bustling with people and traffic. Hopefully history will be as kind.
Much of the public comment was supportive of the project though some speakers expressed concern that the apartments would likely command exorbitant rents and the retail spaces below the Pinevue would no longer be affordable to small businesses. “The apartments are extremely costly,” one speaker said. “I’m just not convinced that this is a sustainable approach to creating density in the neighborhood.” Figuring out how to translate that concern into architectural and zoning-related arguments will be the challenge for any opponents of future developments of this scale.
CHS looked at the final proposed design for the project earlier this week.
The approval comes just a little more than one year after CHS first reported that development of the block was imminent. Bauhaus has since opened in Ballard and its owner says he plans to return to the corner when the construction is completed in the next two years. Other businesses are making plans to close or find new homes as summer winds down — and demolition, preservation and construction begins this fall.