‘Timeless’ Hugo House and Piecora’s developments sail through first design review

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Two high profile Capitol Hill development projects more or less glided through their first meeting before the East Design Review Board last Wednesday evening on their way to final reviews.

Equity Residential and architects at Ankrom Moisan showed off their plans to replace the old Piecora’s building with a 140 unit, six-story development that includes parking for 140 cars. The second project — a 90-unit, six story building across the street from Cal Anderson Park — will be replacing the Hugo House on 11th Ave and E Olive St. The project from developer Meriwether Partners and designed by Weinstein A+U has drawn the ire of at least one resident of a nearby condo.

The view from the street and inside, however, should be a welcome surprise to those who bemoan the prevalence of Hardie board siding and corrugated steel exteriors. Plans call for a full brick facade, and not just the pasted on variety. “A real brick building,”said architect Ed Weinstein, adding that it was the longtime property owners and Hugo House benefactors that insisted the building have a timeless look.

During the public presentation, the architects displayed detailed images of the brick facade and other design elements, but declined to share those images with CHS until they received “client-side approvals.”

CHS wrote about the planned “mixed-use” future of Hugo House late last year as the literary nonprofit announced it would be part of the redevelopment project.

The placement of the Hugo House development’s parking garage on 11th Ave generated significant discussion on the board. Concerned about cars clogging up the “green street” up the block and 11th Ave’s connection to Cal Anderson Park, several members were frustrated that the garage was not placed on Olive St. Architects from Weinstein said the street grade on Olive St was too steep for a ramp.

Meanwhile, the project has generated a swell of public comment letters from residents of the neighboring Onyx condominium building. Needless to say, this building is not going to add to the charm of this neighborhood,” one concludes. “Walling off Cal Anderson park, creating numerous traffic and noise issues, and blocking light for surrounding buildings are just a few of the points of negativity related to this building project. Capitol Hill should be preserved, not made an industrial eyesore of giant buildings which lack respect for the surrounding community.”

Piecora’s
During discussion of the Piecora’s project, architects suggested the Madison-facing storefront would be a good fit for a 24-hour gym drew snickers from the board.

“I’m personally not that crazy about another gym at the street level,” said board member Barbara Busetti.

The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council put its support behind both plans. Capitol Hill architect and P/PUNC member John Feit read letters from the group that praised both teams for working with neighborhood groups. Both P/PUNC and the design review board also supported the handful of minor code departures the teams asked for.

In an effort to keep newcomers better informed, one board member read a new prompt explaining how the design review process works and what comes under its purview. Meanwhile, the city is looking for ways to improve the design review process.

CHS Notes:

1401 E. Madison St

  • Ankrom presented three different layout options, including their preferred option with a south facing courtyard facing that would face the courtyard at the Chloe.
  • The “lush and traquil” courtyard will be private but viewable to public, architects said.
  • Most of the retail will be concentrated on 14th, with perhaps one retailer on Madison.
  • When asked about how shading in the courtyard would affect plant life, the landscape architect said “there are plenty of plants that could survive in this situation.”
  • Board member Natalie Gualy urged the developers to avoid making their leasing office “a typical office with the blinds closed at 3 PM.”
  • Board member Curtis Bigelow said the proposed development seemed to be an appropriate size for 14th and Madison.

1634 11th Ave

  • “The driving force was the Hugo House,” said Meriwether’s Brian Oseran. “A new home thats a little bit more efficient and allows them to grow their mission.”
  • Earlier this week, CHS published this letter from a resident of the Onyx condos, who criticized the project that will rise on the same block.
  • Architect Ed Weinstein said the Onyx architects made a “curious” decision to put the windows so close to the property line. “The original developer and architect made a conscious decision to put units at risk.”
  • No unit windows will face the Onyx in the preferred scheme.
  • Initial plans call for apartments that are “slightly larger” than the standard market size, with many one bedrooms and two two-bedrooms.
  • Plans call for a sidewalk bulb on the corner of 11th and Olive for milling about before and after Hugo House events. Board members supported the bulb with some asking if more could be done to give more room to pedestrians.
  • “Cal Anderson Park is analogous to Central Park,” Weinstein said while explaining how larger buildings could fit around the Capitol Hill park. “There are some scale differences, admittedly.”
  • The corner cafe is conjoined with Hugo House and would share a common entry, but the two will be able to be separated.
  • One public commenter said that the building’s should better reflect the auto row character of neighborhood, with taller a first floor and bigger street level windows.
  • Another commenters praised the development team for working with the Hugo House community. “It gives me hope for development in the neighborhood,” she said.
  • The project will include 80-90 parking stalls with 20-25 reserved for Hugo House events.
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14 thoughts on “‘Timeless’ Hugo House and Piecora’s developments sail through first design review

  1. I’m still not very positive about the Hugo House design, because it seems so box-like and monolithic. But it’s great that it will be an all-brick building….a rarity these days!

  2. The building replacing Hugo House is ok, but it could be much better if it had a better street front presence and a set back from the park providing room for an outdoor cafe and proper entrance to Hugo House. It looks a bit too much like something that would be better located in Redmond town center rather than the home of an arts organization on Capitol Hill. It is frustrating that PPUNC issues their stamp of approval with very little transparency and community involvement, yet they claim to represent the neighborhood.

    • Thank you for your interest, and your comments. PPUNC meetings are the third Tuesday of the month, at the CH library, from 6 until closing. CHS is on our e-mail list (please post, CHS, if it fits within your format), a list that has over 220 people. I am more than happy to add your contact information (Justin knows how to get in touch with me), as I have done in the past when others have expressed your concerns about inclusion and accurately reflecting neighborhood priorities.

      PPUNC can only represent people who participate in our meetings. To that end, your participation is welcome as another voice in managing the development in our neighborhood. The projects mentioned have at least one more presentation before PPUNC and the Design Review Board, probably in the next three or four months. People who’s e-mail I have will receive notice of the meeting, and a chance to opine. Please join us, so that your voice is heard. Alternatively, CHS does post design review hearing’s the day of, and you can always attend and express your concerns independently others. Written comments are also another way to have a voice should you not be able to participate in PPUNC or design review meetings. The planner for the project’s contact information is available though the City of Seattle, DPD Design Review, Upcoming Reviews.

      Please contact me, should you have other questions or concerns.

      • I contacted you before the PPUNC meeting to inquire about the time and place for meeting with the developers regarding these projects. I showed up at the library. Nobody was there. I know I was at the right place and time because the meeting room was reserved for PPUNC. For a group that commonly speaks for the community in public forums, an email list of 220 people is inadequate outreach for a neighborhood of 45,000 people.

      • PPUNC might not have the broadest participation but its far better representation than you get from any official. But it doesn’t sound like thats your concern. You are obviously upset about the project. You do know you can attend the design board meetings and voice your opinion there right?

  3. The HH street presence makes sense given most of the ground floor will be occupied by HH. If it were all retail then the likelihood of a restaurant going in that can support a large outside seating space would be an option. But looking at the tiny footprint of the corner cafe, not sure how its supposed to support a large outdoor dinning room – especially given it would only be used half the year.

  4. The solidity of Hugo House being all brick will enhance the buildings gravitas as a building housing an important CH institution. For all the rewards Sunset Electric has garnered nearby, I still think it looks like a tornado dropped an apartment building on top of a neat old building. Now had the new construction been brick as well (not mimicking the current brick, however) it would have helped the integration. I’m Leary of setbacks on new construction, because what seems to happen over time is an undesirable element sets up shop there, and then the landlord erect some sort of fencing. Then you get neither the setback nor the street wall. It’s best to develop the project right, which I feel they’ve done here.

  5. It is sad that the bar for new architecture on Capitol Hill is so low that all it takes for a building to have “gravitas” is the use of some brick. The proposed building design has clean lines and isn’t an undulating, technicolor mess (I.e, Bill’s Off Broadway building, Lyric) but it isn’t special either. The neighborhood should demand a higher bar for a building replacing a character structure across from Cal Anderson park. I find it bizarre that anyone would be against a setback of a couple feet along the entire face of the west facade to provide room for people to gather as they enter and exit Hugo House events, room for some outdoor seating at a parkside cafe, plantings, and reduced shading impacts on the park. The developer shouldn’t be allowed to dump a bunch of cars out on 11th, a designated green street, either. What happens here sets the precedent for all park-side properties.

    • Could you please explain what a “designated green street” is? I am not aware of such a category of street. Other than the fact that it borders on the park, 11th Ave doesn’t seem very “green” to me. Or is that alone which makes it green?