The City of Seattle will — at least temporarily — let work get back on track at a nearly completed, six-story Capitol Hill apartment development brought to a halt by a dispute over the color of the building’s siding. Meanwhile, we have the letter from the project’s neighbors that helped spur the Department of Planning and Development to act — and might prove a type of manifesto for those in the neighborhood that would like to see greater efforts to create higher quality, better looking developments on the Hill.
In late March, CHS reported that Alliance Residential, the developers who acquired and are now constructing the Viva project at 12th and Madison, had been denied a temporary certificate of occupancy over an issue with the a discrepancy between the building’s approved design and its final form.
“The building was approved with an accent color, but was built all one color,” a DPD representative said about the dispute.
According to DPD, Alliance will now be issued the temporary permit which will allow work to continue as the project transitions from construction to finishing and preparation for new apartment and commercial tenants. DPD says “the applicant will address the accent color siding issue” before a final “Certificate of Occupancy” is issued for the 105-unit mixed-use apartment building.
Alliance development manager Dave Knight called the situation as “unfortunate misunderstanding” resulting from the building’s long path from original plans in 2007, to a new architect, then a new owner in Alliance. “You think you’re doing the right thing,” Knight said. “Then the planner came out and said what was built didn’t match renderings.”
But, according to a lengthy letter sent to DPD by residents of the Union Art Coop across the street from the Viva, the issue with the discrepancy over the approved siding color is only one of a list of problems with the new building.
“It appears that the builder has violated several conditions of their Master Use Permit,” the letter reads.
When the siding of the building was being installed, we noticed only a single color of corrugated metal in use, even though the design (which was approved by the DRB) depicted a more vibrant facade. Emails sent to Alliance while the work was still in progress remained acknowledged but unanswered and now we are facing a solid wall of brown metal.
When Synergy began construction on the rooftop deck, once again we noticed a discrepancy between the approved plan and the delivered result. After their review by DRB, the developer initially agreed to keep a buffer area between the edges of the building and the edges of the deck to give us, their neighbors, a much needed sense of privacy. However, the finished product has the deck tightly hugging the building’s edge.
More issues are raised — some nit-picky. But the Coop seems to have won DPD’s attention with an impassioned plea for help:
In the case of the Viva Project, we would like to know what the consequences are for their lack of adherence to the Master Use Permit. We look across street right now, and none of the above seems to be being addressed. We as a community demand a better solution, one that keeps design changes in the public view and actively seeks the immediate neighborhood’s feedback.
More projects are coming in, including a couple more by Alliance itself, and we appeal to you to help us ensure that developers are held accountable to deliver on their promises. We would like to ask you to step in and take action on Alliance as well as other developers that might decide to follow this precedent.
We love our little corner of the city and we want to see it grow into an even more energetic and quirky version of itself. Neighborhood density shouldn’t translate into disposable structures with little long-term potential and low aesthetic value. Please help.
Union Art Coop
The development-focused Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council also sent a letter on the Coop’s behalf:
Members of PPUNC have met with members of the Union Art Co-op on several occasions and are supportive of their efforts to hold the developer accountable for either following through with their approved design or reaching an amiable adjustment to the VIVA building that is acceptable to DPD and the community. To that end, we are very supportive of the actions DPD took in denying the developer a Certificate of Occupancy until they are in compliance with neighborhood requests. As I know you are aware, the entitlement and permitting process is only as effective as its enforcement; given our community’s past friction with this developer on another project (which was ultimately resolved to the community’s satisfaction), and their initial reluctance to engage Union Arts — not to mention the apparent high turn-over of the developer’s staff — require extra vigilance on the part of the city and neighborhood to ensure what is approved is what is built.
These are of course difficult actions for the city to take, and are obviously a last resort when previous dialogue has not succeeded. As leaders in the Capitol Hill community, PPUNC will continue to track this project — as well as the one under construction by the same developer and caddy-corner to VIVA — and support Union Arts, the neighborhood, and the city as called upon.
CHS earlier this week reported on what many say is a bland sameness in Capitol Hill developments and the challenges developers bidding for property in the coveted neighborhood face when they win at a premium.
Company officials at Alliance thus far have made it clear that they don’t believe they are at fault for the design review issues with their project. At this point in the construction, removing and replacing sections of the building’s siding would likely be prohibitively expensive for the developer who also has millions of dollars at play across Union in the massive Davis and Hoffman project.
An email to Alliance’s Knight about any updates in the situation has not been replied to.