Design review: ‘Upscale’ microhousing must play nice with neighbors on Harvard Ave E

Neighbor issues on Harvard Ave E

A project to replace what just might the simplest, saddest little two-unit apartment building on Capitol Hill with an eight-story, 71-unit development will take what should be its final bow in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

Design Review: 225 Harvard Ave E

Designed by Cone Architecture and developed by Highpoint Investments, the project in the 200 block of Harvard Ave E between E Olive Way and Thomas will rise an extra story with its plans for 66 “small efficiency dwelling units” and a set of five standard “efficiency units.” Continue reading

Design review: 19 new townhomes on 12th Ave E, 111 units on 10th Ave — UPDATE

Much has been made of the condo revival of 2018 but on Capitol Hill over the past decade, the king of new home ownership has been the townhouse. Wednesday night, a project destined to create 19 more of the homes along 12th Ave E will take what could be its final pass in front of the design review board.

Design review: 506 12th Ave E

The project to turn the land currently home to the six-unit Lance Apartments at 506 12th Ave E has been in motion since developer Isola Homes bought the land in 2016 for $3.5 million. Ownership has passed across a couple Isola-related LLCs over the years including a transaction in the King County records that shows one Isola-related LLC buying the property from another for $5.3 million in July 2018. Seems like a good deal. The project is now set up for development company Mirra Homes to create four, three-story townhomes featuring a total of 19 units and parking for 19 vehicles. Continue reading

120-pastrami-sandwich-high, 78-unit building at 14th and Pine comes to design review board’s table

The concept for new retail on E Pine destined to be part of a new four-story apartment building set to rise at the corner of 14th Ave (Images: Revolve)

Nowhere in the design objectives for a four-story, 78-unit apartment building destined to rise at the corner of 14th Ave and E Pine do the developers include providing a key Capitol Hill resource: housing for foodies looking to minimize their commutes for stacked-high corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

Design review: 1320 E Pine

The planned L-shaped project from developer Revolve Development is slated to take its first bow in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

“This building site provides several unique opportunities,” developers write: Continue reading

Street Critic | Brutally lovely on Capitol Hill

The Dome and (back of) the Bema on 16th Avenue at Temple De Hirsch Sinai

I have always been uncomfortable with the architectural term brutalitist. Part of the rub is, I suppose, that the name is a perversion of Le Corbusier’s most treasured design element, béton brut; or, rough or raw concrete. The story goes that Corb was dissatisfied with the stewardship of some of his early, pristine, white buildings. Owners did not provide the level of upkeep required and the buildings showed their age more than Le Corbuiser (Corb) found acceptable. In a seeming about-face, he decided no longer to incorporate smooth and precise materials in his work but rather use them in a less finished, natural state. Concrete was an obvious choice. It required little upkeep -not even painting. His decision to raise what had hitherto been primarily a structural element to an architectural has been tremendously influential on generations of architects, particularity from the mid-1950’s through the early 1980’s. But alas, brut became brutal – and as one may suspect, brutalist. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Renters session hopes to explain ‘what exactly is design review?’

12th Ave Arts, the mixed-use affordable housing, commercial, theater, and nonprofit office space development from Capitol Hill Housing, completed its pass through design review in 2012.

Wednesday night, it will be the setting for the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative session designed to help Capitol Hill residents better understand the public process of shaping the design of its largest, most important new buildings. Seattle Design Explained: What Exactly is Design Review? takes place Wednesday night in the 12th Ave Arts Pike/Pine room:

Not sure why new buildings look the way they do? Wondering how design review affects renters? Want to find out about how to shape new design in our city for the better? Then come join us on September 12th for an explainer and discussion about design review! Christina Ghan from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections and Aaron Hursey from the Seattle Design Commission will be joining us to help explain 1) what Seattle’s design review process actually is; (2) how the recently-updated Capitol Hill Design Guidelines add on to citywide standards; and (3) how to get involved through the new Early Community Outreach process. There will be time for questions and lively discussion.

Seattle’s design review process continues to evolve. In July, CHS reported on new rules for the process designed to give communities an earlier say in shaping large developments. Meanwhile, the guidelines that shape Capitol Hill reviews underwent a revision this year for the first time in a decade.

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