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Workshop will try to get community priorities out in front of coming, taller 15th Ave E redevelopment

15th Ave E from above

By the time the bulldozers show up, it’s way too late to have any impact on how a new building might look.

So a pair of architecture firms located on 15th Avenue East are planning to get ahead of any development on the street they call home. Board & Vellum and Environmental Works are hosting a design workshop, open to the public, to discuss what 15th Ave E could look like as redevelopment happens.

Thus far in the recent building boom, 15th has largely been spared much redevelopment, save for the old Chutney’s site being replaced by the Stream 15 building in 2013. And the lack of change hasn’t just been during the current boom. Chris Parker of Board & Vellum notes that in going back through archived photos, the neighborhood looks largely the same as it has for decades.

“It hasn’t changed much since the 1950s,” he said.

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But that stagnation is likely soon coming to an end. Kaiser Permanente is planning a $400 million renovation to its buildings, Hilltop gas station may soon be sold, and redevelopment is likely once it happens, the block which houses QFC recently changed hands, though the new owners say redevelopment won’t happen soon, and while plans may have stalled to build on the parking lot surrounding Board & Vellum, they could always come back.

“Change is happening,” said Shannon Carrico of Environmental Works. “How can we make this positive for the neighborhood?”

No change, while it might be nice to imagine, isn’t really an option. Current zoning would allow for 40-foot tall buildings in most of the area. If the Mandatory Housing Affordability guidelines pass, that number could go even higher, essentially allowing five-story buildings in a street largely made of one- and two-story structures now.

“The general assumption is, in the next 10-20 years, it’s going to get taller,” Carrico said.

The two firms joined forces at a meeting of 15th Ave E merchants soon after new broke of impending changes at Hilltop. From discussions started at the meeting, they decided to try something more constructive, and host the workshop.

The plan behind this is to recognize that buildings in the area will be redeveloped in the coming decades, and it might be best for neighbors to come together before it happens, to try and discuss what they’d like to see.

15th Ave E Design Workshop

They conceived of a workshop-style event. Interested residents can come together look at some maps of the area –- generally between the Canterbury and the 7-11 at Denny — and talk about things they hope to see incorporated in any new developments.

Carrico and Parker both said they aren’t really looking at trying to find a way to change the zoning, or even to worry about the added height that affordable housing guidelines might allow. Instead they hope to focus on community priorities at the street level; amenities like benches, wide sidewalksm and trees.

Both noted the event is not sponsored by the city or any developers. No one will be under any obligation to incorporate the results of the discussion, or even to consider them.

But Parker said it might help a developer who is willing to listen. If a builder is able to incorporate some of the ideas into their project, it could help smooth their way through the design review process.

“I think having that information is going to help them hit the mark,” Parker said.

After the workshop, Carrico said the results will be posted on the project website, and likely on the websites for each of the firms.

Depending on how well the workshop goes, it could become an ongoing event. Over time, the results of this workshop will become less relevant –- tastes will change, economics will shift, people will move away, others will move in. Carrico acknowledged it might be helpful to continue holding workshops if there’s community interest.

“It’s a good idea to keep it updated,” she said.

The 15th Ave E Design Workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon April 28 at The Summit on Pike, 420 Pike Street. RSVP through the workshop website. Food will be available starting at 9:30. People are still welcome if they don’t RSVP, but it would be appreciated by the organizers.

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6 thoughts on “Workshop will try to get community priorities out in front of coming, taller 15th Ave E redevelopment

  1. Sounds great. Redevelopment works much better when everyone is pulling in the same direction. Once it becomes adversarial, you end up with solutions that leave everyone unhappy. If a developer knows what the flashpoints are, much more likely they will start with a reasonable proposal.

  2. This seems like a good idea.

    The bigger issue to me is avoiding what happened in the redevelopment of Broadway where much that made the street great was lost. And by that I don’t mean that the new buildings are cheap and ugly, although they are. I more mean that the many wonderful and unique small businesses were displaced and replaced by bank chains and vacancy signs. 15th has a wonderful set of businesses now and careful thought should be given to seeing them maintained. How can we do that?

    Also, brick and trees is the way to make things look nice.

  3. I think you missed out on the sale of the qfc and adjacent lot a while back. That would b a big changing it goes high rise. No more easy parking, grocery, or small scale development…

  4. That’s tough, because it’s mostly driven by how high the rents are. So in a way, 15th comparative lack of development is likely preserving the character of the stores. But there are higher rent stores that are more local. Some communities pass rules that exclude larger chains in certain areas. Probably would be a good fit for 15th.

  5. It would be great to infill with taller buildings along 15th when redevelopment opportunities become available. If the camera that took the photo above had panned to the right, you’d see buildings with 5, 7 and 11 floors so higher structures would fit in well and be a better use of space over parking lots we have on 15th now.