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Design review slated for Capitol Hill apartment building’s missing ‘champagne’

For lack of “metallic champagne,” Capitol Hill’s newly completed Broadcast Apartments building will, indeed, face a rare post-construction design review Wednesday night. This public comment letter might sum up many reactions to the meeting:

But the effort to review the change in materials used on the project is required, the city told CHS last month when we reported on the brewing color issues at the 1420 E Madison development.

Trent Mummery of developer Metropolitan Homes told CHS the reason the metal siding of the Broadcast Apartments went up in a uniform dark bronze is that the champagne colored siding planned for the vertical fins wasn’t available from the manufacturer. “They’re fins, they create shadows. It’s nearly impossible to see. We didn’t think it would rise to be on their radar,” Mummery said.

“The original permit was approved for specific colors and materials, and the Design Review Board recommended approval with minimal modulation based on the concept of fins in a contrasting color to create a certain appearance,” a spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections told CHS.

Wednesday’s review will mark a notable fourth session in front of the design board for the project that first lurched into motion way back in 2009 when the Taco Time that used to stand at the site was razed.

The Broadcast building currently has a temporary permit allowing its tenants and is reportedly fully leased. But any final permits including efforts for a new street-level business are on hold pending the new review process.

The newly submitted materials plan for the already built building — champagne hardie but bronze fins

Developers say the design review will cost around $15,000 in planning and fees but the cost of correcting the color issue with new siding is prohibitive. Instead, they hope Wednesday night to sway the design board that the building’s architecture solves any aesthetic concerns the body may have over what was promised vs. what was ultimately delivered.

Design review: 1420 E Madison

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18 thoughts on “Design review slated for Capitol Hill apartment building’s missing ‘champagne’

  1. I am glad that the Design Review Board is on top of issues like this, and is paying attention to what developers are doing. If the developer in this case decided to use a material other than what was approved, he/she should have gotten approval from the Board. Instead, he/she hoped they would not notice the change.

    As for the “public comment letter” quoted at the beginning of this article, I would argue that we have BOTH a housing crisis AND an aesthetics crisis. Most of the new buildings going up look cheap and ugly.

    • +1.

      The review Board would almost certainly have approved the change. The developer should be fined significantly for just ignoring the agreement.

    • The problem is highlighting the aesthetics. The reason we should be upset is not because the building may look ugly; rather, if they didn’t stick to the plans for the paint, who’s to say they followed building and safety codes?

  2. Trying to improve the aesthetics of these cheap, slapped-together buildings does not run counter to trying to improve the housing crisis.

    In the Broadcast Apts case, the building has already been built, the housing is already being provided. So we lose nothing by mandating that the developer try to make the building not look like some brutalist prison cell.

    • We also risk creating a knock-on effect telling future developers that they can ignore anything they present and/or agree to in the pre-construction design review process.

      I don’t personally care either way aesthetically, but the process matters a lot to me.

      • Well said. Whatever one’s opinion about this building (and like you, I’m indifferent about it), if the board didn’t investigate at all, the next building which deviated from its design – very possibly in a bigger or different way – would have a great justification.

        The comments opposing this meeting are mostly arguments against the scope of or existence of design reviews. While those arguments may be valid, retroactively cherry-picking which part of the process to follow is the worst possible outcome. One can be indifferent about this building’s deviation – or even opposed to design reviews at all – and still think this meeting is entirely worthwhile.

    • I don’t really care one way or the other, but it’s not “bureaucratic overreach”. It’s exactly what the Design Review Board is supposed to do. If they didn’t hold developers to what they agree to in the approval process, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. Then it would be bureaucratic failure.

      • It absolutely is bureaucratic overreach – e.g. the mere fact that color choice is in the scope of Construction and Inspections. They should focus on life/safety and land use – protect consumers from things they can’t see/wouldn’t understand or externalities that impact other property owners (and while you may think an “ugly” building hurts you, it doesn’t… Now having a nightclub or aluminum smelter next to you might.).

        Consumers are plenty capable of deciding whether they want to live in “ugly” or “beautiful” buildings. Market forces can handle this one just fine. Developers will spend if it has a positive ROI. And if it doesn’t, should taste makers in city government force it?

        As an aside, looking at all the new architecture in this city, I’d say the taste makers only have taste for one thing – all these new buildings look very similar to me. It’s like one of those nightmares where you are hopelessly lost in a maze of uniformity.

        C&I is partly responsible for making this city so expensive – a long, expensive, complicated and overreaching project review process.

  3. Yeah, I don’t think the public comment letter sums up reactions to the meeting.

    I don’t think many are in a ‘won’t someone please think of the poor developers?’ mood.

    They’re doing fine. They can follow through on their commitments and follow the law like the rest of us.

  4. Design review is part of the permit process and a building permit is a contract that the project proposed and approved is what will be built. Often concessions are made by the city to allow developers leeway on code if something is given back or if the project is better because of it – this often happens through the design review process. If we give a developer a pass because they didn’t order the approved siding on time what’s next?

  5. Seattle developers are slapping up apartments so cheaply they look like prison cells. There are a couple of nightmares on 15th and Pike/Pine that are great examples.

    • Another example is the newly-completed building at the NE corner of Thomas and Harvard…..truly ugly and cheap-looking, with the faux-wood siding. Yuck!

  6. I don’t know how this building looks in person. Certainly don’t want them to look like soviet prisons, but didn’t bother me in the photo, was actually kind of nicely understated. What bothers me is the review boards seem to have taste from the 80’s and 90’s that color contrast crap looks good, it looks cheap, dated, and immediately looks 25 years old as soon as they are built.