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Design board advances Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building, E Pike Passive House mixed-use project

The East Design Review Board moved two projects forward Wednesday that many hope will lead Seattle forward to new ways to develop the rapidly growing city.

24th and Union’s “inclusive development” showcase Liberty Bank Building and 1300 E Pike’s first Passive House-certified mixed-use project in the city received their final blessings from the review board Wednesday night clearing important hurdles on the way to the start of construction.

In its first decision of the night, the board unanimously approved the affordable housing development from Capitol Hill Housing slated to fill the lot that used to be home to Liberty Bank, Seattle’s first black-owned bank. But the group moved the development at 2320 E Union forward on the condition that Mithun architects reexamine its color scheme — a mix of beige, orange and brown — and choose more vibrant colors. “The color choices were a little bit more muted than they could have been,” board member Sarah Saviskas said.

Some commenters agreed. “We think it could go a little further. It’s 2016, not 1972,” Jeff Floor, co-chair of the Central Area Land Use Review Committee told the board during public comment. The committee continues to support the project including its request for a contract rezone that would allow the project with City Council approval to build to 65 feet tall in an area currently zoned for 40-foot limits.

The building is planned to have 115 studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom apartments and four commercial spaces. Apartments will be available at 30 to 60% of the area median income, ranging in price from $434 to $1,154.

The project to create the Liberty Bank Building is hoped to become a template for inclusive development in Seattle with a respect for history and the empowerment of the African American community.  The color scheme is intended to represent African American culture. Al Doggett Studios has been hired to curate art for the building that will honor the Liberty Bank and reflect African American cultural heritage as well. Nine artists will create 11 works for the development.

What the Liberty Bank Building will look like

1300 E Pike
Over at 1300 E Pike, developers made their case for a six-story building with 45 apartments and 3,187 square feet of retail space that could be Seattle’s first Passive House-certified, net-zero energy, mixed-use development.

So far, it’s winning the race to be the first in the city. With only three board members present, they approved the project 2 to 1.

Board member Curtis Bigelow cast the no vote, saying he would like to see the project use better materials, not “cementitious” paneling, and that it had too many ideas and no focal point. If developer Cascade Built and the architects at Weber Thompson had better materials, he said he could support it.

“I feel like they did not put their money where they should have,” he said.

Overall, he said the project has improved with more unity throughout and “we’re very excited about the passive housing.” But it wasn’t enough to earn his support.

Saviskas reluctantly supported the project, saying she would like to see better materials used as well.

Board member Natalie Gualy noted that building passive housing is more expensive. The project can’t have everything to develop the project at a reasonable cost. If the development moves forward at a reasonable price, it might lead a passive housing trend.

The passive features at 1300 E Pike will include increased insulation, and “exterior shading devices” to shield the south and western faces of the building from “heat loads.” Meanwhile, the design will use “the old rhythm of the column spacing” and “many elements such as the brick and the ornamental pieces on the current facade” but will not include full preservation of the auto row building currently at the corner sold by Fran’s Chocolates after moving its operations to Georgetown in 2014.

Design review: What could be Capitol Hill’s (and Seattle’s) first Passive House-certified mixed-use project

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12 thoughts on “Design board advances Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building, E Pike Passive House mixed-use project” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Why isn’t CHH building with the Native, Japanese and Jewish history of that neighborhood in mind? If it’s inclusive housing why is the historically contributions of other communities ignored? Where are the buildings for them? I live in a CHH complex and Asians, not Africans, are very, very underrepresented.

  2. I am curious why Liberty Bank is now considered a Black owned bank. At the time is was heralded as a multi racial bank. Three African Americans, a Jew and a Japanese man founded the bank. It was a big deal at the time. The property owner wouldn’t sell to the blacks and Jack Richlen (Jew) bought it and sold it to the bank and caught hell for it. I think the actual story is important, inspiring and more of what we need today.. Different races and religions working together to make the neighborhood better for everyone.


    • It’s history revisionism for self serving motives, obviously. The sad story about how it changed from a Japanese to black neighborhood is never told either. Not a lot of inclusion going on here. A lot of false narratives are though.

    • Although I agree that the (complete) history of the bank is a (more) compelling story, I certainly wouldn’t call the African American claims revisionist or self-serving. When I moved to the CD nearly 20 years ago, I bought a house from an elderly Japanese couple in a predominately black neighborhood. I don’t have to walk many blocks to find old synagogues which are now home to African American congregations. I’ve never heard anyone in the area claim that the CD was “always” or “only” black.

      The fact that Japanese and Jewish families aren’t being displaced NOW, is why I believe the African American narrative is important TODAY, in our neighborhood. In no way should this diminish the stories of those that came before, or come after.

      • I completely agree. I was just commenting on the bank. I become friends with Jack who past away last year in his late nineties. Liberty Bank was one if his proudest life achievements, and he led a pretty amazing life. At his funeral service Liberty Bank was mentioned many times. I learned a lot from him.

    • p-patch, The CD is only 20% black so the horse has already left the stable. Change in racial demographics is the norm. It’s very racist to expect everyone to welcome demographic changes when it’s certain groups but to treat it like it’s a state of emergency in other cases. It is racist to obsess over the black history while other groups contribution to that neighborhood are treated as trite.

    • Gawd I hate those huge empty storefronts in big boxy buildings! Why don’t developers build smaller retail units that can be affordable and used by small businesses! I mean, it in the best interest of the building for there to be an active, engaged streetscape, so why not lower the rent to a retail tenant, just for that added benefit! In fact, I’d even go as far as to say the city should require that storefronts not stay vacant for more than X months. This would prompt some action on the landlords behalf to lower the retail rent to find a renter, or spend some time working to fill the space, rather than let it sit empty, forever, waiting, for a staples, or whatever :)

      • They are building small retail spaces. I went to the LURC meeting on the building a few weeks ago. I think it is designed with 4 small spaces!

  3. “inclusive development” means only if you want to live in Seattle but don’t want a family…
    Where are any 3 bedroom apartments in these new developments for families? That’s right. There aren’t any.

    Dogs, yes. Children, no.

    So sad…Children and families are a part of diversity.

  4. Ian thanks for the history review. I always have to chuckle when people say”first owned black bank”. And let’s not forget why they closed Bad investments if I remember.