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Madison Valley, saved: Developers back with revised plan for mixed-use PCC building

You can call Save Madison Valley a bunch of NIMBYs if you like but the result of the community group’s pushback on the planned development to create a 75-unit, mixed-use PCC grocery and apartment building on the site where City People’s stands today will be a four-story, vine-covered, terraced building that includes community space and integrates and preserves much of the surrounding tree canopy. Or, at least, that’s the plan that will be presented Wednesday night by developer Velmeir and the architects at Meng Strazzara as the project takes the stage for its second try at passing through the city’s “early design guidance” phase of review.

UPDATE 10/26/2016 9:01 PM: Madison Valley isn’t saved just yet. The design review board Wednesday night threw down a challenge to the project developers that could call for some radical revisions to the plans for the large parking lot walls facing the residential neighbors along Dewey Place on the backside of the building. After a more than two hour session, the board agreed Wednesday to ask Velmeir to return for a third early design review to solve the problems around the building’s massing and relation to the single-family homes below. The decision is a blow to the project’s timeline with City People’s already planned for an end of the year closure. One possible solution to the major design challenge? Cut down on the 150+ car lot levels below the planned mixed-use building and integrate apartments along the building’s backside. We’ll have more on the meeting soon.

Original report: The developers say one key change will be increasing the amount at which levels of the building are pushed back from the parcel’s edges:

The increased setback allows for a response similar to a rear yard residential setback. Within the increased setback layered landscaping helps create natural beauty along the street. To provide visual interest throughout the year, a continuous green screen wall is located from the base to the top of the retail space.

“A mixture of ivy and native vines,” the presentation document for Wednesday night’s meeting continues, “will enhance the landscaping and serve to elegantly screen the building and eliminates the blank wall condition.” Sounds nice. And, according to the numbers, the developer didn’t have to cut a single apartment unit, grocery store square foot, and even can keep most of its plans for more than 150 parking stalls.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-5-21-00-pmIn July, the project being planned with some 26,600 square feet of E Madison facing grocery retail space faced a wall of opposition from neighbors concerned about the building’s mass and connection to nearby single family home-filled streets, the loss of trees and greenery, impact on the area’s pedestrian safety, and a two-story blank wall of concrete that would face homes down slope from its 156-stall parking garage levels. The city’s notes from the July session summarize the various feedback received on the project thusly:

In kicking back the project for another round of early review, the East Design Review Board asked for a major overhaul of the concept. “The Board acknowledged the public’s concern with the height, bulk and scale of the proposal and agreed that the massing needed to further transition along Dewey and the single family zone,” the reviewers weighed in.

Velmier and its architects believe the new tiered concept should do the trick. “In the revisions to the Preferred Design Option, the setbacks have increased to 15’ for the majority of the residential frontage allowing for lush, layered landscaping on site,” the proposal reads.

The “generous” setbacks will also allow the development to include an E Madison-fronting “community space that connects with the interior spaces” of the project where “goods and produce can be brought outside when weather permit” and “outdoor dining opportunities exist for both the neighborhood natural foods market and the small corner retail.”

Still, there will be squabbles to settle. The developer’s arborist report maintained that none of the trees destined to be lost to the project are worthy of saving. Save Madison Valley disagreed in July tallying 39 mature trees, more than 20 native plant species, and more than 14,600 square feet of tree canopy that the group said would be lost to the project.

The board will also have to decide if “quality woodgrain metal siding” added to “distinct portions of the residential facade” along with the “native vines” will be enough to soften the blank walls that caused so much Madison Valley consternation in summer.

Design review: 2925 E Madison

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30 thoughts on “Madison Valley, saved: Developers back with revised plan for mixed-use PCC building

  1. None of these changes addresses the fact that traffic is already congested there, and it will get much worse. How will cars get in and out the garage without a traffic light? And while we spend millions on “rapid transit” for Madison Street, at the same time you will be making it worse with an additional light. The Safeway is just up the street, Madison Park has a market, and Grocery Outlet is nearby. What, that’s not enough grocery shopping?

    • Madison BRT is on its way to help reduce car usage, vote yes on ST3 to help expedite it. This project has done a great job catering to the neighborhood, hopefully it gets passed on this round.

    • There is no reduction in car usage by building destination parking at this location. With 150 spaces, people WILL drive there. If the developer wants to work with the neighborhood scrap the 2 store exposed parking garage. You can’t have it both ways – both saying that traffic will not be impacted in a notorious bottle neck AND creating destination parking to make sure people drive there. And the project hasn’t “catered” to the neighborhood at all. They’re doing the EDG meetings as required and presenting a mock up that is little changed from the original and shows trees that will never be planted or grow in the space provided.

    • uhh, if the grocery fails, it fails. design review is not the place to complain about choice of business. not sure why you think its your business to ask about business decisions.

    • “With 150 spaces, people WILL drive there.”
      And without 150 spaces, people WILL drive there anyway. They’ll just jam up the street and surrounding areas. It’s delusion to think if you take away the parking, people will just start walking and busing. People ditching their cars is an evolution due to lots of reasons. You take away the parking at this building, people who intended to drive there will just drive their cars to another store farther way that has parking. Is that better? Wishing away cars doesn’t make it so.

    • Safeway sucks and the Grocery Outlet has no fresh food at all – it’s not a real grocery store. PCC is most welcome! Traffic issues must be solved by the city.

  2. This neighborhood is dense enough, there should probably be a grocery store within walking distance. I doubt many in the valley walk up that hill to get to Safeway. My main concern is that it doesn’t appear like they redesigned the south side of the building, they just tacked some vines on it. After the first meeting I was hoping they would reorient some of the grocery functions that need a big blank wall, and open up to the neighborhood a little more in an inviting way…. It is also really hard for the board to be ensured that those vines will actually grow. How long will they take to grow? What will the building look like without them? Who is maintaining them? Traffic will be a problem, but not part of the boards purview. Hopefully most neighborhood visitors will be walking.

  3. Ugh, you guys are so annoying. We need more density, and right now the only places that it can be put it is on thoroughfares such as Madison. Plus, it’s only four stories tall! You live in a city, traffic can be bad.

    • It’s 6, not 4 floors. And I’m all for density. Build the apartments! That can be done without a 2 story parking garage making the building 6 stories.

  4. Maybe if we were building smarter in dense, transit rich areas of the city (like Capitol Hill) we wouldn’t be “sprawling” out into quieter neighborhoods.

    That being said, this development is on an arterial. Its being built within zoning. Its being built legally. Your issues are traffic and vines on the wall? Wow….

    • You do realize that the city is over 60% single family neighborhoods, right? The density is pushing out because there is no place else to go. Your fellow neighbors in Capitol Hill fought taller buildings, so guess what? It is now coming your way. You don’t seem to understand how this city is not affordable because the majority of the land is single family homes. This type of density allows the middle class to actually live and work in Seattle.

    • Mark I want 20-30 floor residential buildings on Capitol Hill (people here are tired of me yammering on about it). This allows us to take advantage of the cubic feet above us and maximize transit. As a Capitol Hill resident I’d enjoy the additions to the skyline.

      Doing this keeps your precious single family homes in Madison Valley intact and you can enjoy your car drives in/out of your neighborhood. I’m willing to “sacrifice” to keep density and reduce sprawl.

    • But do you not see the issue we continue to run into in Seattle? The Capitol Hill residents, just like you in Madison Valley (where I assume you live since you seem impassioned with this project), fought for less dense buildings back before Seattle was growing at its current rate. They used the same tactics you are using and won. Now the pressure is forced to sprawl out into your neighborhood.

    • Do you not see how people love to be progressive in this city as long as it does not directly affect them? It is frustrating to say the least, because every single family home owner is intent on “saving” their neighborhood, when in reality they are forcing this mid-rise sprawl everywhere. It is truly short sighted.

    • Mark, please read posts instead of blindly replying. I am a Capitol Hill resident but I do visit Madison Valley and Madison Park frequently.

      I’m 110% of this project and have no concerns about traffic or vines on a wall.

    • Well it appears I posted under the incorrect place and continued the conversation without re-reading! Egg on my face. Sounds like you and I both agree. Sorry!

    • This isn’t sprawl. Its in the city. This kind of density is totally appropriate for this neighborhood (and all neighborhood centers in the the city). It just needs to appropriately transition design wise to the single family zone. In my opinion, that area shouldn’t be zoned single family, but it is. So an adjacent building needs to reflect that.

    • Amy, I used the “sprawl” loosely. Like I said, I support this project. My point being when you limit growth in one place, you end up spreading the growth into places that some do not desire. I like keeping dense places dense, quiet places quiet. Madison as an arterial is not a quiet place.

      As long as Capitol Hill and other places have the current zoning in place, we will see sprawl in undesirable ways.

  5. Looks great, though honestly 4 stories isn’t very tall for a key spot along an arterial just minutes from one of the major employment centers in the entire country. Could have designed it so that another story or two fit well with the neighborhood. Though since we’re complaining about ivy and traffic already, I guess another level of places for people to live is a non starter already in the dustbin…

  6. It looks ok on Madison but it’s ugly as sin on the back side.

    I’m pretty shocked that the city lets developers build above-ground parking garages still.

  7. If this is a stop on the expensive Madison BRT line it needs to pull its weight in terms of ridership. If anything, even more housing is needed at this site and in the surrounding area.

    • I agree. Scrap the 2 story ugly as hell 45 foot high wall facing residential homes 27 feet away and instead build more apartments where the garage would have been.

  8. The density is good, the PCC is good (all for having another one in the neighborhood), but I’m still baffled by the garage facing Dewey. Why couldn’t there be a row of shallow, 2-story town homes below fronting Dewey Place? Would eat up some of the parking, but going down another level doesn’t seem out of the question, as it would only be one floor below ground at Dewey. Certainly would be more pleasant to have that over a massive green wall. Studio Gang’s Aqua Tower handled a large grade difference in that way in Chicago, and it looks fantastic.

    • Great idea to have some of the housing face the residences 27 feet away vs. a parking garage with noise and light cut outs facing those houses. Scrap the parking garage altogether and build more housing.