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Design review: Seven-story Jewish Family Service ‘Conover House’ development on 16th Ave

(Image: Weinstein A+U)

CHS reported on Seattle developments lining up to opt in to the city’s new streamlined design review process hoped to help unclog the project pipeline during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Turns out a few are out in front of the pack including one 16th Ave project CHS noticed just in time for a brief about the proposal just as its 14-day public comment is coming to an end.

You have until the end of the day May 20th to weigh in on the 1620 16th Ave proposal for a new seven-story, 88-unit apartment building with space for a ground-level restaurant, and underground parking for 105 cars.

(Image: Weinstein A+U)

The project from property owner Jewish Family Service and the architects at Weinstein A+U will undergo the final “recommendation” phase of examination under the city’s streamlined administrative review process.

Your feedback is encouraged:

This project has opted to temporarily change from full design review (community meetings with the Design Review Board) to administrative design review (SDCI planner review) in accordance with emergency legislation Council Bill 119769 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are providing an extra 14-day public comment period for you to submit comments in writing on the proposed design to Please visit our website for tips on how to provide the most effective Design Review comments.

The city’s guide to “effective” review comments is here. “To make your comments more effective, reference the applicable criteria, policies or guidelines relevant to each specific type of application,” it reads.

The property set to host the project was the center of debate over Capitol Hill historical preservation last spring as the 126-year-old Conover House just down 16th Ave from the Central Co-Op was deemed unworthy of protections, clearing the way for development. CHS reported on the plans of the building’s owners, the social services nonprofit Jewish Family Services headquartered nearby, to demolish the Conover Residence and develop the property.

JFS says the new development is intended to raise money to further the organization’s services, including a food bank as well as providing emergency services and assistance to refugees and the homeless.

“Any revenue generated from the project will be put towards our mission of serving the vulnerable people in our community,” said Will Berkovitz, CEO of Jewish Family Service said at the time leading up to the landmarks decision.

Adjacent to a lot it already owned, the house was purchased by the organization for $1,699,500 in 2016.

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10 thoughts on “Design review: Seven-story Jewish Family Service ‘Conover House’ development on 16th Ave

    • Except it won’t.

      Though, in fairness, even with design review it all depends on who is making the decision and who is making the complaints; look at the awful strip-mall-y design for the building replacing Hilltop station on 15th.

      The current expansion is (design-wise) hobbled by far to many allowances for low-cost materials, particularly hardy-board.

      Don’t get me wrong, hardy-board has a place, but, esp. when used with more expensive materials like wood and brick.

      The issue is, of course, when it is used to clad an entire structure…which just looks awful and very, very cheap (though I am sure this doesn’t appear that evident when officials are looking at the pretty sketches brought in by the design folks).

      At least this period of expansion has been dominated by okay to good modern-ish structures, as compared to the period before the Great Recession when all those ugly particle-board-craftsman townhomes were put up…so ugly, and clearly a complete capitulation to the tasteless grandmas that populate design review meetings advocating for architecture they found palatable….

      I swear, anyone over 60 should not be allowed to make any input to design review given that the rest of us will be living with their poor taste forever. How many grandmas whose complaints led to the awful scourge of Particle Board Craftman design in Seattle, I wonder, are still around? 50%? Less?

      We’ll be living with grandma’s poor taste and nostalgia, architecturally, for many decades to come….

      • Name several townhouse developments from the last 25 years which entered design review with good modernist design and high-quality materials which were abandoned due to public desire for crappy materials and faux-Craftsman style.

        It’s more probable that they all started out that way, and that they look the same all over the country.

        Developers in general don’t want to pay for good architecture.

        If the grandmas are so influential, why have so many buildings of modern design been built during their lifetimes?

  1. Agreed, Weinstein should just get a pass to not even have to do design review. They’re one of the few firms in the city which consistently create great buildings that contribute back to the community. The Bel Roy with Barjot and the 19th and Mercer building with Tallulah’s, Hello Robin, Cone and Steiner are all great mixed use buildings with great retail/street presence.

      • Or just delete the balconies altogether???

        No one uses them anyway, and they often turn into ugly outdoor storage or graveyards for dead plants.

  2. Envisioning a future requires the wisdom of all generations. Many here seem to have a grasp on the contributions that 20- 30 years old have to offer. Older adults and elders have more of a sense of how needs and narratives change overtime. As far as I can tell individuals in any of the age groups can become closed minded and set in their ways and individuals in each group can remain open minded listening to various perspectives to move forward. Balance is always needed. Our current disposable society is not sustainable. Fads pass and contribute to the destruction of our society. Sometimes it takes time to distinguish between a fad, a temporary need and a long term sustainable solution.

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