City says missing color means Capitol Hill’s completed Broadcast Apartments must go back to design review

The 70 or so residents living inside and the owners of an incoming restaurant don’t seem to mind one bit but a newly constructed Capitol Hill building has a major color problem and is likely headed back to the design review board to sort things out.

“We think it’s an extremely attractive building. It’s been very successful,” Trent Mummery tells CHS about the Metropolitan Homes development now standing on the northwest corner of 15th and Madison. “We’re puzzled why this issue is even coming up.”

The date hasn’t yet been set but the Broadcast Apartments could end up being one of those unusual — but not totally unheard of — Seattle projects to be approved by the design review board after its construction has been completed.

According to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, a routine inspection of the building revealed what the city believes to be an important discrepancy between the finished structure and the plans approved in design review in 2015. A city inspector reported that the metal siding of the Broadcast Apartments was one single, non-varied, uniform, dark bronze.

“The original permit was approved for specific colors and materials, and the Design Review Board recommended approval with minimal modulation based on the concept of fins in a contrasting color to create a certain appearance,” a department spokesperson tells CHS. “During an inspection of the building design, the City Planner noticed the design change and determined it required a permit revision if the developer didn’t want to replace the fins with the approved color.”

Replacement would be prohibitively expensive, Mummery said. But it’s not like going back in front of the review board is free. The process will likely cost somewhere around $15,000 in city fees and work from the design team, Mummery said.

The Broadcast Apartments development has been playing out on a much longer timeframe than most recent Capitol Hill projects. At one time home to a Capitol Hill Taco Time, the family behind the chain razed the restaurant and began planning the land’s mixed-use future in 2009. But after years of slow progress,it was sold off in 2014 for $3.6 million for the property and the permits. Construction finally wrapped up in 2017 some eight years after the last mexi fries were sold on E Madison.

Somewhere along the line, the dark bronze cladding went up. Mummery said the color change wasn’t an attempt to slide one by. “We understood from our contractor that our original color was no longer available in heavy gauge,” the developer said. The heavier siding is necessary so the material doesn’t “oil can” where lighter metal can form waves, dimples and ripples, or crinkle.

“They’re fins, they create shadows. It’s nearly impossible to see,” Mummery said. “We didn’t think it would rise to be on their radar.”

But an issue with the color of siding has threaten to derail a Capitol Hill project before. In 2014, CHS reported on the Viva Capitol Hill project’s run-in with City Hall over its monochrome siding after it had been “approved with an accent color.” The Viva building was ultimately granted its needed permits and certificates — without any changes to the color of its siding. UPDATE: In the comments, d reeves says we’re wrong — the Viva did end up changing some of its siding.

While the Broadcast building has already received its temporary certificate of occupancy allowing residents to begin living in the apartments, the project cannot receive its official certificate until the color issue is cleared up. A public meeting will be required to review the change “and to obtain comments from the public and board,” a city spokesperson tells CHS. “If the board does not accept the change, then the developer will have to replace the fins with the correct color,” the city rep said.

Developer Metropolitan Homes is still hoping the design review somehow won’t be necessary but it is preparing its case.

“If you hold the material to sunlight, they’re chameleon-like in appearance,” Mummery said. “We don’t believe that 9 out of 10 people would notice.”

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28 thoughts on “City says missing color means Capitol Hill’s completed Broadcast Apartments must go back to design review

  1. Good!
    This unfortunate dreary mass, when under construction, was looking hopeful until they covered it in the monotonous brown.
    Like the Viva, aka Skidmark, I doubt an accent color will help the gloominess.
    When I walk Madison I try to focus on “Bullitt Park” or the beautifully painted GOLDIE APARTMENTS next door.

    • Agree with you. It’s laughable that the
      developer calls this “an extremely attractive building.” It’s just another ugly, metal-clad structure with useless Juliet balconies.

  2. Actually, Viva did have to change some of their siding to add an accent color after the issue was raised by the city. All of the lighter, non-corrugated panels set in with the windows were replaced as an outcome of that process.

  3. Human beings are eating out of garbage cans and sleeping on sidewalks all around this building and the city’s concerned about color? No wonder trust in local government is so low. A head tax might not be the answer, but I sure hope the city of Seattle gets its head out its butt and does something about REAL problems before the armies of homeless walking our streets become even more violent and desperate.

    • Concerned about color because this is what the developer agreed to as a condition of their permits. If you start letting the little things slide then eventually the big things get overlooked. Ideally the building should have it’s occupancy permit pulled and the developer pays moving costs and penalties to the residents. In reality it will be a slap on the wrist. Or nothing.

      • Really? Your comment epitomizes the problem with Seattle politics: so lefty that it falls off the face of common sense.

      • Yeah, great. Punitive justice that penalizes everyone, including the tenants. Great thoughtful solution to a non issue.

      • Rageofage: Yeah, not like the brilliance of trickle-down economics, ranting about Double-Reverse Secret Muslims in the presidency, freaking out over people in The Wrong Clothing trying to use the bathroom in peace, and voting for a pathological liar. I suppose if we lefties wanted to be rational as you, we’d just start calling Donald Trump the Antichrist and start screaming “fake news” every time we hear something we don’t want to. :)

    • These apartments aren’t helping anyone eating out of garbage cans. And if you’re going to allow builders to just negate design review, why have it? You’d prefer willy nilly design all over the city resulting in the soviet bunker type horrors we had going up in the 60’s? You have only to look at parts of the UW and community colleges from that era to say “I can’t wait until that ugly thing falls down already.” Developers are getting FILTHY rich in Seattle. Why should they get to skirt regulations when the rest of us cannot? It’s shocking to me that the review in this case is coming after building rather than before it.

  4. The Broadcast building actually looks good for once in this city. Reminiscent more of brutalism and board-formed concrete, less of the standard corrugated metal. The single color reinforces that.

    Looks like an architect designed it, rather than a design review committee.

    It’s my strong opinion that the trend of varied colors / materials / setbacks make new buildings look WORSE.

    • Agreed. To often the DRB takes good designs by talented architects and turn them into circus tents. It’s also important to note that the Design Review process with it’s delays and high cost is one of the reasons rents are so high in Seattle.

  5. Wait… so the city has been MANDATING the crazy multicolored buildings this whole time? Ugh.

    I am not a fan of the random patchwork of clashing colors school of design that all the new apartment buildings have.

    • It’s not a mandate so much as it’s a simple design review fast-track. There are more creative ways to pass that design review criterion although the quasi-random Lego brick panel look seems to be what’s most popular for it these days, much to our detriment.

      Basically the review criteria give some easy ways of making a building not look “boring” but don’t actually do anything to deal with the aesthetic fallout as a result of it. So here we are, with 2010s architecture already looking dated and embarrassing.

      • I believe the answer is that they shop from the hardi panel catalogue of pre baked colors which is cheaper than painting the cement boards.

    • If you have strong feelings about design in Capitol Hill, come by the May 30th Neighborhood Design Guidelines Open House! Capitol Hill Housing has partnered with the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to update the guidelines (for the first time since 2005). The guidelines are a signpost for architects and developers working in our neighborhood and can help lead to better design.

      OPCD will be sharing a draft of the updated Capitol Hill guidelines for folks to provide feedback and comment. The draft is based on a survey and open house conducted late last year.

  6. You can argue that the design review process is a costly mess that slows development in this city. But permits are permits. Developers/builders can’t just get a permit for one thing and do another.

    I imagine that west face of the building will be obscured by another before too long.

  7. It looks better than Viva apartments down the hill. Now that is an apartment that I’d put in the top ten of the ugliest new apartment buildings in Seattle!

    • I would also nominate for this “honor” the new building at the NE corner of E Thomas St & Harvard Ave E…..truly an abomination, with its faux-wood siding.

  8. Can anyone put together an oral history of how Seattle’s “Four Kinds of Ugly” design considerations came into being? I’m picturing a spirited community meeting in Fremont circa 1992.

  9. I was JUST thinking how good this building looks without the stupid patchwork of pointless bling that adorns most of the new construction around here…

  10. This building is quite polarizing. I noticed it for the first time last week when driving past and had to do a double take – I was shocked, at first.

    Once I got past the darkness of the cladding, I enjoyed what I was looking at. The buildings starkness was pleasing. The balconies are actually usable with people placing furniture on them (these are not Juliette balconies). This, the amount of windows and uniqueness made it actually seem warm and inviting. Adding pops of red and yellow would seem garish and silly.

    All this does not mean the developer should get a pass for their bait and switch tactics. They need to be accountable for not fulfilling an aligned upon design.

    • Timmy, the balconies are very small, whether they are “juliet balconies” or not. Just because there is furniture on some of them does not mean they will be used by tenants….I think the developers/marketers put out furniture because they think it adds to the building’s appeal.

      It is my understanding that these “tacked-on” balconies are included only because they help to satisfy the “open space” requirements, allowing developers to build closer to the property lines. Can an architect confirm this?