On 22nd Ave, listening in on Seattle’s new design review community process

The community meeting was held at the site of the planned development (Image: CHS)

Seattle has a new design review process designed to add more community time and discussion as developers continue to reshape many areas of the city. Hybrid, a Capitol Hill architecture firm located on E Pike, held one of Seattle’s first early community outreach meetings as mandated by the new design review process last week.

As CHS reported last month, an ordinance passed last year that went into effect July 1st requires developers to “actively solicit community input before beginning the design review process” if the project begins its development permitting process after that date.

This new rule allows Seattle residents early opportunities to shape local developments and, hopefully, create more transparency and community engagement in the design process.

The meeting on 162 22nd Ave dealt with the demolition of an existing blue single-family home that sits on this property to create room for the construction of three new townhouse units and one single family residence. Five neighbors from the surrounding houses attended the outreach gathering hosted by three members of the Hybrid team.

“What are your guys’ main concerns about it? Is it the fact that it’s here at all? Is it the density? Is it the parking? Is it the building form?” Continue reading

Street Critic | What’s your Capitol Hill sign’s story?

An acute lack of imagination is displayed when a building owner arrives at no more interesting a building name than its street address. When there are so many possibilities for story telling – including a neighborhood’s history, its geography, or its cultural landscape – why should a building settle for “The 1620 12th Avenue Building” when it can proclaim itself as “12 Ave Arts” and add a rich narrative to a neighborhood? Business do have names and frequently a good story to share, but it often remains untold because its branding – its sign – fails to weave a narrative into its design. Both buildings and businesses, through their signs, have the ability to inform their neighbors by providing signs with a story or message that entertains, educates, and enriches. Continue reading

Central Area Design Review Board ready for first project: 23rd Ave S microhousing

The first project in Seattle history to be examined by a design review board dedicated to the city’s Central District is an aPodment project slated to replace a south-of-90 23rd Ave retail strip.

The review for 2000 23rd Ave S will come before the newly formed Central Area Design Review Board Thursday night.

While the 23rd Ave S microhousing will get the first look from the new board, last week CHS reported that the group is likely to get involved with the much higher profile project at Midtown Center that started the permitting process before the new body was formed but is now facing community pressure to be part of a more conscious review.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on the creation of the new review board, splitting off the Central District neighborhoods from the East region in an effort to preserve and grow the historically Black culture of the Central District.

New Seattle design review rules will give neighbors earlier say and, hopefully, better buildings

“This new requirement is for developers to begin conversation with community members before project designs are complete.”

New rules are designed to give Seattle residents early opportunities to comment on new developments in their neighborhoods. Just don’t expect it to usher in a new era of neighborhood-led construction plans.

Stemming from an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2017, the new rules went into effect July 1, and will apply to any project which starts its development permitting process after that date.

The changes simplify the rules for which projects are subject to design review. Then, if a project is subject to any level of design review – streamlined, administrative, or a full board review – the developer must actively solicit community input before beginning the design review process. Continue reading

Midtown design looks too much like SoLU, not enough like the CD — Can new Central Area Design Review Board help?

Public comment and the East Design Review Board aligned Wednesday night in agreement that the latest designs for the proposed redevelopment of the Central District’s Midtown Center did not meet expectations for recognizing the history and the culture of African Americans and Black Seattle at 23rd and Union.

The “portals” that open to the street from Midtown: Public Plaza are still not open enough to foster a strong connection to the surrounding neighborhood and to support the hoped-for Black-owned businesses inside — the building needs to do more than utilize masonry to recognize African American-style architecture from the neighborhood — the design needs more “Afro-centric” colors and patterns and, as currently designed, looks too “South Lake Union” — features like the open plazas and a proposed video screen installation to showcase local arts and history need to have more fleshed out programming plans — a proposal to keep costs down on the three building development with connecting skywalks and fewer elevators and stairs needs more thought — and more.

They also agreed on something else.

The review board covering neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Montlake, and First Hill wasn’t necessarily the best body to make the decision.

“How is the Central Area design team not looking at this?,” one speaker asked during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s night’s review, the final stage for the project in the city’s public design process. She also stated the obvious — each member of the design board Wednesday night was white. Continue reading

Street Critic | The Audacity of Volunteers — an I-5 lid update

Riisa Conklin and Alex Zeilier of the Freeway Park Association presenting design principles (Image: Scott Bonjukian)

Tuesday, June 5th saw the second gathering of the faithful for the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative (CHTC), a partnership between PPUNC (the Pike|Pine Urban Neighborhood Council) and Lid I-5. An all-volunteer effort, the goal of the CHTC is to provide visionary urban designs to inspire Seattleites to advocate for covering Interstate 5 with parks, housing, and neighborhood centers. While no public agency has committed to our vision, Lid I-5 was recently successful in securing a $1.5M grant for the City of Seattle to begin a year-long feasibility study. In addition, Lid I-5 continues to have promising discussions with civic leaders and WSDOT and we have been invited by the DOT to a work group that is studying I-5’s future in the Puget Sound Region. With the CHTC’s results in hand we are confident we can capture the public’s imagination and convince leaders to transform Seattle by re-imagining its largest publicly-owned asset.

Spirits were high and the results of the seven teams’ efforts were remarkable. Beginning with the Connections Team (infrastructure, mobility, and branding) and progressing through the South (recreation), Central (commerce), and North (housing) Teams, it was apparent that each team was excited in presenting their work and in the work of their fellow designers. Scott B, Sony P, and I were excited too, not only by the goodwill and cheer exuded by the teams but also by our recent success in the $1.5M grant. The work of the CHTC will help the city visualize and define the scope of work for their RFQ scheduled for later this year. Continue reading

Design board settles on big new mural to solve Capitol Hill building’s color problem

The mural is planned to cover this giant blank cement wall currently facing the FAME Church parking lot

Murals solve everything. The fix for this Capitol Hill building forced to return to design review this week because it has the wrong color siding will be a giant mural running the length of the western wall below the Broadcast Apartments. No matter the solution, the situation is going to be a challenging and potentially expensive outcome for the developer.

The East Design Review Board settled on the solution Wednesday night in an extraordinary session for the body that had it questioning the very essence of its own existence. “Should we accept a $5,000 mural vs. a $50,000 fix?” one board member asked.

At issue was the bronze-colored siding used across the entirety of the completed and occupied Broadcast building, the champagne-colored siding that was supposed to be used on the structure’s vertical “fins” but wasn’t because the developer says the material was not available, and, of course, what to do about it. Continue reading

Design review slated for Capitol Hill apartment building’s missing ‘champagne’

For lack of “metallic champagne,” Capitol Hill’s newly completed Broadcast Apartments building will, indeed, face a rare post-construction design review Wednesday night. This public comment letter might sum up many reactions to the meeting:


But the effort to review the change in materials used on the project is required, the city told CHS last month when we reported on the brewing color issues at the 1420 E Madison development.
Continue reading

New guidelines set to refresh design of Capitol Hill development

The design of the next waves of Capitol Hill redevelopment could get a refresh under a set of proposed design guidelines that would govern buildings in the neighborhood.

“I think there’s an acceptance there’s going to be growth and there’s going to be change,” said Patrice Carroll, an urban planner with the city who is helping with the development of the new guidelines.

Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Open House

The original guidelines for the area were established in 2005, then revised in 2013 to reflect a larger, citywide update. In broad terms, the guidelines give developers an idea for how a building should look, and what sorts of amenities are important to the neighborhood. Continue reading

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. Continue reading