Mill Creek Residential will need to take another crack at their plan for two mixed-use apartment buildings that will eventually rise on the site of Broadway’s Bonney Watson Funeral Home.
At Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board, board members asked the developer to come back after presenting them with a laundry list of more details they want to see before the project moves on to the next phase.
The Weber Thompson-designed proposal calls for two buildings on both sides of Howell Street along Broadway called Modera Broadway. Both buildings will be 65 feet tall. The north building, on what is now a parking lot, is planned for 134 residential units, 5,500 square feet of space for commercial uses and 114 vehicles. The second building, on what is now the site of the funeral home, will include 87 apartments, 3,000 square feet of residential and 23 parking spots. Cars will enter and exit onto Nagle Place.
Straddling Howell, the developers noted, provides them with the opportunity to create a welcoming connection between Broadway and Cal Anderson Park.
“This project has a really unique opportunity to act as a gateway,” said Mindy Black, project manager.
The design board agreed, but didn’t think the project achieved that goal. Several members commented that the design they saw didn’t seem to invite people to turn the corner from Broadway and go to the park. The Howell side of the building, which is along a steep block, is planned for all residential uses.
The plans call for planting some new trees along that stretch of road, and the developer is considering making it a woonerf-style street – more pedestrian friendly, with no curbs. But board members wanted the plan to act as a gateway more deliberately.
But most of the board’s problems centered on the buildings’ Nagle Place side. The design called for residential units facing Nagle, and for the first floor to be recessed under the upper floors. Board members disliked both aspects of that. The plan, they said, doesn’t seem to focus enough on that side of the building.
“They’re treating Nagle as an alley,” said Curtis Bigelow, board chairman.
Last month, CHS first reported that Mill Creek was acquiring the Broadway property with plans for mixed-use development just south of the Capitol Hill Station projects.
Board members Wednesday night said they really wanted to see some retail along Nagle Place facing Cal Anderson Park. This could both act as a way of allowing the building to interact with the park, and also of increasing activity on the street, which could help make it safer. Board members noted there are some commercial uses at either end of Nagle Place, and having more in this location could really help make better use of the street.
“This is the last big piece, and its two blocks, and it makes or breaks Nagle,” said Andrew Haas, board member.
The upper floors extending out beyond the lower floors, they said, made the building seem like it was looming. The Nagle face of the building, doesn’t work well with either the park or the street, said Bigelow.
“It feels like its attacking the park,” he said.
Another sticking point is the streetcar power substation along Howell. The large building squats in the middle of the sidewalk on the south side of Howell. The developer planned to not have windows facing the substation, and use the area for some needed venting. They also called for some landscaping around it, but they are constrained by the substation’s placement and the need to allow access to it.
The board didn’t care for that treatment. While they were sympathetic that the substation will be difficult to work with, they said the plan seems to try to simply ignore it. They want to see the developer try to do something with the substation, though they were short on suggestions of what.
The project will come back to the review board at a later date.