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Developer says auto row-inspired design for 15th Ave E project rejected for not being modern enough

The developer behind a 15th Ave E project set to rise above the corner long home to the Hilltop Service Station is questioning a city board’s decision to reject its design proposal for the planned brick, concrete, and metal five-story building inspired by auto row-era preservation elsewhere on the Hill.

“Through deliberations the theme of the board was to get the applicant to create a more modern and contemporary design and come back to present again,” Michael Oaksmith of Capitol Hill-based real estate and development firm Hunters Capital tells CHS. “There were several other small items to be worked on, but a more ‘contemporary’ design was clearly the deciding factor for rejection.”

Oaksmith says he and Hunters respect the board and its volunteer members but feel that any push for a more modern design is beyond the scope of the design review process.

During the design review board session late last month, board members focused on the building’s relationship to the 15th Ave E commercial strip and nearby housing.

“There’s still quite a few things unresolved with the facade articulation and the concept as it relates to the neighborhood,” one board member said during deliberations as the board agreed that the developers needed to return with a full privacy study in hand and “a better understanding” of the project’s south wall, a section of the building planned to be left blank in anticipation of future neighboring development.

Oaksmith said the Hunters project’s design by firm Studio Meng Strazzara was inspired by feedback collected from the community:

This board tasked us after EDG with taking the best design elements of the surrounding area and incorporating them into a DRB design. We heard over and over again from 100’s of residents and business owners, the most liked buildings in the area are 15th ‘s historical buildings and the surrounding brick apartments on the hill – not the more modern structures around 15th. Hunters Capital’s package was supported by all who commented during the public discussion as well. Twenty minutes later, the board unanimously rejected the project.

The rejection means Hunters will need to return to the board with an updated “early design guidance” proposal in coming months. Oaksmith says there’s no good avenue for challenging the board’s decision and that they’ll set about updating their plans with hopes of a new review in two to three months.


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Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
8 months ago

It is hard to argue that the design review board believes there is a housing crisis.

Michael C Wesner
Michael C Wesner
8 months ago

that building design was one i liked. it fit right into the neighborhood. it was very unique not like all the other buildings that they put up that look all alike.

Glenn
Glenn
8 months ago

Somehow the board allows the monstrosity that is the Stream 15 mixed use building located directly across the street, but this design is found wanting? What a joke. And the board makes this decision without regard to the money and time expended to tailoir the design more to their taste. How about sticking to the details of a project rather than rejecting it for being not modern enough for your taste?

Rob Tyrrell
Rob Tyrrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

Amen, brother!! How/when’s the next meeting so we can tell the Board to get their collective heads out of their asses.

cliff
cliff
8 months ago

I was at the review meeting, and I left with disbelief and concern. Why are these kinds of decisions in the design review board’s hands? I think it’s fair to have input on outdoor seating, windows, garage access, etc – basically have a check on the core ways that the building will interact with people on the street – but why should architectural style be their decision? They were even griping about the cornices on the fifth story, something you’ll barely even be able to see from street level.

Time for a reform of this process

Melda
Melda
8 months ago
Reply to  cliff

Because other people live in the neighborhood and design impacts life and safety.

Richard
Richard
8 months ago

Who controls the design review board? Who do we complain to about this board? Clearly the review process is broken.

Rob Tyrrell
Rob Tyrrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Amen, brother!! How/when’s the next meeting so we can tell the Board to get their collective heads out of their asses.

The building directly across the street is a monstrosity.

tom
tom
8 months ago

I personally don’t care for the style of this building (it feels a bit 2005 suburban strip mall to me), however that is my personal opinion. I don’t believe the design review board should be in the business of dictating architectural taste. Particularly considering some genuinely awful buildings that they have allowed. I also think that hunters capital is a thoughtful and responsible developer and this is overall a great project.

PD
PD
8 months ago
Reply to  tom

The design review board got this one right.

2005 called and they want their oversize cornices back….SO ugly.

Doesn’t the architecture firm that came up with that design actually specialize in Bellevue strip malls?

The Stream 15 building has some issues (such red accents, such skeezy massage parlor retail tenant with brothel vibes), but it’s actually a fairly well designed building that will age well.

This proposed corniced milquetoast POS? That design would age about as well as the Particle Board Craftsman monstrosities this city its up in the 2000s.

The final structure needs to look more like the Hugo House building, which is gorgeous….and Hunters Capital needs to find a better architecture firm to do that.

Rob Tyrrell
Rob Tyrrell
8 months ago
Reply to  PD

This is horrible. So they want “more corrugated metal”? You mean the crap that looks like a pile of shipping containers? Are you kidding? Developers use that because it’s cheap and they can pass it off as “modern”.

As for the Stream 15 monstrosity next door, that looks like three competing designs all recoiling in alarm at how hideous they are. Each one is “modern” (i.e., ugly) in its own right; together they are a blight on the neighborhood that we’re gonna have to live with for the next 30 years.

Glenn
Glenn
8 months ago
Reply to  PD

Stream 15 has seven different exterior siding materials, if I recall correctly, on a smallish four story building. It’s like the architects had no idea what they wanted to convey. The whole design is cut up, overly complicated, and dreadfully confused. Plus, it has zero relation to the 15th corridor aesthetically, and appears to have descended from outer space. As for the salon which occupies it’s retail space, there is nothing unseemly about it. The presence of Asian nail and beauty technicians should not imply what you suggest.

CD Rez
CD Rez
8 months ago
Reply to  PD

Who are you to tell the building owners what their building should look like?

Adam
Adam
8 months ago

“Needs more colored corrugated metal”

Seriously though, wtf? This actually looks good when so much utter crap is being slapped up around the city. What is the design board smoking?

Michael C Wesner
Michael C Wesner
8 months ago
Reply to  Adam

the design board is spending to much time at Uncle Ike’s…….

dave
dave
8 months ago

Disappointing. I really like this design and how it fits in with the existing architecture in the neighborhood.

oliveoyl
oliveoyl
8 months ago

hey guess what whiners/armchair quarterbacks, all of you can go to these public meetings and voice your support for any project presented – the DRB is made up of volunteers and you’re also more than welcome to apply to be considered to join the board.

Albert Speer
Albert Speer
8 months ago
Reply to  oliveoyl

Volunteers? I guess we get what we pay for.

GregoryH
GregoryH
8 months ago

Generally I’m for building more, and building faster with less delay and costs imposed by the DRB, but I don’t really understand how a developer and architect came up with the idea of transporting the “auto row” aesthetic to a part of the hood that was never really auto-row? Sure, give a nod to the history and context, use brick and stone or terracotta like some of the surrounding neighborhood’s apartment buildings, but you can’t just recycle a design from pike/pine bear broadway and call it good. With that said, if everyone commenting, and everyone that Hunters talked to who live and work in the area like this faux historical, I don’t see why the DRB should blanket rejecting it.

Alan
Alan
8 months ago

It looks fine to me and I’m a longtime customer at Hilltop who misses the old garage. The Seattle “process” can be quite annoying at times. Just build it and after a few years it will develop it’s own idiosyncrasies .

Brad
Brad
8 months ago

Wait, you’ll approve the ugly EIFS-clad box that is Stream Fifteen across the street, but have an issue with this!? Please stop this lunacy.

Gordon
Gordon
8 months ago

It looked great. What a shame they want more bland modern boxyness instead

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
8 months ago

This decision by the Design Review Board is a travesty. We need MORE of buildings like this, which respect the past and the surrounding neighborhood, and which don’t use cheap/ugly materials. It is far superior to most of the crap which is being built in Seattle.

We need to pack the next design review with lots of people who loudly express their opinion if the Board continues to stick to their myopic view of this project!

Anonymous Architect
Anonymous Architect
8 months ago
Reply to  Bob Knudson

Respecting the past and using good materials are totally different.

We shouldn’t look to replicate the past, we can’t. Labor isn’t cheap enough anymore. We should look to do the best work with the materials that make sense now.

That said, I wish we wouldn’t allow hardy panel siding in the city.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
8 months ago

I see no reason why we can’t replicate the past, at least to some degree. If Hunter’s Capital wants to spend their money using quality materials and “expensive” labor, they have every right to do so. You get what you pay for.

Sao
Sao
8 months ago

Wait does this mean that all the buildings on 15th went through a design board review? So what you see today was planned? Someone thought, yeah this looks good and makes sense?

Anonymous Architect
Anonymous Architect
8 months ago
Reply to  Sao

Yup, all buildings you see are designed and reviewed by many, many people.

Eduardo Plata
Eduardo Plata
8 months ago

Yeah, who wants to live under a powerful antenna anyway? Goodbye sperm count, hello brain cancer!

MB
MB
8 months ago

The proposed building fits in with the west side of the commercial blocks on 15th Avenue East.
We need relatable architecture that has detail and openness that makes one happy to walk by or look at. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the proposed building.

DRB has limits….they seem to have gone over on this one.

Anonymous Architect
Anonymous Architect
8 months ago

This is not the fault of the design review board, but the failings of the design review process in general. It’s just filled with people who push their opinions and don’t stick to enforcing the requirements.

It just adds time and rarely does anything beneficial.

Is this a good design? No, it’s doing all kinds of weird things that I wish could be fixed.

Would I approve this design if I were on a board? Sure, it’s fine, we need housing.

catherine hillenbrand
catherine hillenbrand
8 months ago

Their design actually references the building a couple of blocks south on 15th E, the building housing Rione XIII and the Wandering Goose etc. Even though they’ve used the auto-row reference (which is misplaced on 15th), the direct design cues come from a neighboring vintage building.
This is truly unfortunate decision by DRB. I agree with the commentor who referenced the Hugo House Building – that is a lovely, simple, clean building using brick. Another wonderful building by Weinstein is the expansion the designed to Jewish Family Services on 16th just north of Pine. More modern, again, elegant. Simple, well-conceived and well-executed buildings with thought to the experience of those living in them is what we need.