Four-story East John Court project has a lot to prove at third design review

This was the plan for East John Court in January

This was the plan for East John Court in January

We don’t know what the new proposal for the four-story East John Court project at 1113 E John looks like — a SNAFU has the latest design packet delayed from posting to the Department of Planning and Development web site until Wednesday afternoon.

But we do know what the East Design Review Board will be looking for when it takes its third look at the planned project featuring 47 “small & efficient residential units” in a building slated to replace the old 1903-built houses that have served as Seattle Hill House bed and breakfast.

Its notes from the January 2014 recommendation session on the project are clear:

  • The Board reiterated that the presented design didn’t demonstrate how it related to the existing architectural character and siting pattern of the neighboring historical and modern structures.
  • The Board was very confused about the distribution of exterior materials and colors. The Board stated that the color palette and materials should be simplified.
  • At the Recommendation meeting, the Board voiced strong support for the graphic geometric pattern artwork applied to the front exterior stairwell in the context of a simplistic subdued design

We said the issues were clear. We didn’t say it was going to be easy. That’s not a trivial amount of issues for Soleil Development and architectural firm Caron to work out. Wednesday night, we’ll learn more about how they plan to do it.

1113 E. John St. - Design Proposal available at review meeting
Review Meeting: April 9, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
901 12th Ave
Student center Multi Purpose room #210
Review Phase: Recommendation past reviews
Project Number: 3014162 permit status | notice
Planner: Tami Garrett

24 thoughts on “Four-story East John Court project has a lot to prove at third design review

  1. By cracky, what used to be a lovely urban street in the old days is now a series of blobs dotting the boulevard, most lots razed of their century old buildings. Walking up Olive Way on Summit “That Huge Thing” (former B&O) which when looking down from 14th, what used to be a vista open to everyone now looks like the end of a dead end street, the “lovely” remodeled mid century and equally “lovely” new higher density complex on 10th. East John Court. The massive and hideous “Weatherford bank”, he, or his heirs should be ashamed.
    “Bitter, party of one”…excuse me, my tables ready.

    • Funny! True, too. It’s hard to be happy about much of it. Some of the recent development on the hill has been an improvement, though. Do you remember how dodgy Cal Anderson Park once was? Now it’s a wonderful playground for all. So many great eateries and bars, too. But you’re right. The new building going up at the former B&O site is truly outsized and overbearing. Sigh.

  2. Honestly I love watching all these under utilized lots disappear. I could care less about my view of the space needle when I walk around Capitol Hill. If I want to see the space needle I’ll go to the space needle. One thing seattle seriously lacks is density. So, I support all these 4-8 story wood frames. I’m hoping 15-20 years later once people are no longer obsessed with starring at the needle (which was meant to be temporary) or terrified to walk in a shadow we can raise the height limits to a proper 12-20 stories. Can’t really understand why so many seattleites expect growth to come crashing to a halt just because they don’t like it.

    • to be so flippant about people’s feelings on density is lazy thinking.

      you say: “Can’t really understand why so many seattleites expect growth to come crashing to a halt just because they don’t like it.”

      higher densities dramatically change the way we move and navigate space and economy. negotiations for space become a constant in high densities. at some point the the benefits associated with density become a burden.

      capitol hill is home to a lot of long term residents – many of which have gotten older in this neighborhood; this is their home. you should try to better understand where they are coming from when they say they don’t like how the density is being implemented in this City.

      i tend to agree with many of these people; where are the outdoor spaces in these developments? why do so few of them have balconies? why are the building facades not stepped back every floor – or at least every other floor to afford people better views? why are indoor bike lockers not standard in every new apartment development? why are not all of these new developments required to make usable space on the roof? etc. etc.

      ohhh, and why do these new developments spend so much bank on signage with fonts that will be dated and sad in the near future?

      • Oh what a perfect place to respond. I am, in fact, a long term resident of the hill, more than 35 years. I am also pro density. If we assume that Seattle’s population will continue to grow then the two options are to build up, or build out. Building out means more roads and commutes, more utility expansion, more government services, etc. Building up in the sky doesn’t eliminate these needs, but it makes expansion generally more practical, and cheaper overall, to build. Besides, the Capitol Hill of the 1970′s was a lot of vacant lots. The current Hill looks a lot better.

        One wonders if the people who are most opposed to density moved here recently, and now want no one else to move in? Answer this question-what was there before the building you are living in now? Odds are that wherever you are living now is a higher density building than what replaced it.

    • @ wes….I suppose you don’t give a damn about the views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympics either. One of the things that makes Seattle a great city is that we have a window on the natural world…if you don’t appreciate that, then you might as well live in some flat Midwest city with no mountains nearby. Or perhaps in an apodment with a lovely view of a blank wall.

  3. Who cares if it is not creative and/or a little ugly..just build it. I do not see why we waste time and money on people commenting on more orange here, less yellow there.

    As far as density, Capitol Hill is a core neighborhood in the downtown area…it is the place to add higher densities.

  4. Too short. I know it’s within zoning but that needs to be at least a 10 story building given it’s along two arterials, steps away from light rail and shopping corridors. We need to stop wasting air space and build higher.

    More taller buildings = less stubby buildings. Fewer stubby buildings provides more air and light (like Vancouver BC). Otherwise we’ll be walking down corridors of 4 to 6 floor buildings built to the sidewalk with zero ground-level breathing room and light.

    That being said, I agree with the other poster. Less fussing about colors and just build it. Too much beating a dead horse and it takes forever from the sale of a property until a new one actually goes up.

    • This is not a “downtown.” This is a neighborhood. People move to neighborhoods instead of downtowns because they want to live with some separation from their neighbors, not surrounded on four or five sides in privacy-stealing rabbit hutches. Adultys with lives don’t want to live in entertainment districts like Belltown.

      • I didn’t say it was downtown and if you expect privacy, you don’t move a building that sits on an arterial. There are plenty of places on the hill that are less active and offer more privacy.

        Unlike Belltown, Capitol Hill is actually quite diverse. People can choose to live on the hill in whatever way they like. Like it or not, South Capitol Hill is an entertainment district, it has been for decades. North Capitol Hill is much more residential and offers greater privacy.

        QNetter, you should visit the hill sometime and make your way around. You’ll discover it’s not all the same.

          • Having lived in both, I can say it really isn’t that much different. Actually if we require setbacks above the 3rd floor 12+ floor towers allow much more sun to hit the sidewalks. Also the bottom 3 levels can be town homes with maybe some small retail or offices mixed in. The town homes on the bottom would be perfect for young families, while the towers above could house singles and young couples. Allow a few income restricted units and bam you have a neighborhood that’s livable for all walks of life.

  5. Buildings like this are just a tragedy of the commons.

    People want to live in Cap Hill and are willing to pay a ton of money, so we build really hideously ugly crap that makes the neighborhood unattractive. At some point, the desirable neighborhood people want to live in ceases to exist because it all looks like junky, cheaply built low-income housing (even if people may be paying $2K/month to live in it).

    We could learn from Vancouver BC. Talk to their city leaders – they’re very clear – they welcome density and development, but it has to be high-quality or it won’t be permitted for construction.

    I talked with a developer who worked in Seattle and Portland, and he was very transparent that they do lower quality work in Seattle over their work in Portland. The City doesn’t enforce high standards, and they’ll do the minimum permissible to make a buck. It’s the nature of the business.

    • Thank You for affirming what has been my suspicion. That developers do, in fact, build with less attention to quality and design in Seattle than Portland or Vancouver simply because when we have our manic “boom” periods, planning doesn’t pay attention to what happens . Have lived a fairly long lifetime on the Hill, there are multi-unit buildings that actually got built in single family zones, eventually being “grandfathered in” still a blight in a neighborhood, though, but that was 1960 and everyone was running for the suburbs.
      The homes that are being destroyed on John, were some of the very homes rescued in the 70′s and 80′s. Yes, it hurts, yes, clear cutting is ugly and necessary for wood, but, there is danger when ugly saturates an area, too, a landslide of indifference and neighborhood pride.

  6. Nooo, not the Mermaid House! I’ve given in to the fact that this city is being razed over to accommodate a zillion people (and have my exit strategy planned accordingly), but I hate to see houses with character in seemingly good condition like these being replaced with Ikea-style housing. Money talks though. I’ve seen various dilapidated buildings go and not mourned their loss, but the city is losing a lot of its character that initially drew me in.

    • EXACTLY. The Seattle I came for is changing rapidly, those that cry density don’t get that many moved her 15-30 years ago for the vistas, the vibe and the breathing room and the neighborhoods of character. I can cry stop the density just as loud as the pro – but it’s too late, money talks to shady developers and the DPD alike. Capitol Hill has become a vast patchwork wasteland of generic monolithic people farms (but with RETAIL IN THE BOTTOM!) that is just a foreign generic place to be. Why stop now?

  7. the noise really bothers me alot in this area we are living, Renfrew Height area. a neighbourhood owner who lives at 3249e23rd avenue vancouver bc canada puts the silver baking plate at the back of the house. or at the balcony. as we see it, the plate is hanged near a metal pole. when the plate blows by the wind. the plate would hit the metal pole. it would create noises at all. we notice that the plate is hanged for 24hours: morning, afternoon, night, mid night early morning. we don’t know what is the purpose of that plate for but we are surely that the plate creates noises for this neighbourhood. people in this neighbourhood attempt to reach her. however, the owner refuse to discuss anyone of us here. we don’t know what to do . We need a help from God that we wish God could remove the plate for us. thank you

  8. To all you “newbies” remember you live ON Capitol Hill. Not in Capitol Hill

    I am seeing it more and more and its PISSING ME OFF!

    Capitol Hill is a HILL an actual geographical feature, you don’t live in it, you live ON it.

    I just saw a flyer the other day advertising some new crap apartments built by some out of state company “Brand new apartments in Capitol Hill”

    I know if you are going to argue about it then you are not from here.

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