Analog Coffee looks to keep it simple on Summit

Tim Hayden and Danny Hanlon (right) stand in front of the new space at Summit and Thomas. They hope to open Analog Coffee some time in early 2011. (Image: Jon Polka for CHS)

Starbucks’s renovation of their East Olive Way location has drawn quite a bit of attention to the Hill; it is certainly hard to miss their faux-Pike Place signage. But just down the street, tucked a little deeper into the old slope of I-5 Shores, a different kind of coffee shop is taking form: Analog Coffee.

Two long time friends, Danny Hanlon and Tim Hayden, are in the process of transforming the old fitness gym space at the corner of Summit and Thomas into a small, independent coffee shop. The name is a reflection of the partners’ goal: a barista-run establishment with a focus on simple, hand-crafted coffee. “Lots of the coffee places around Seattle have grown pretty fast,” Hayden says, explaining that while they still make good coffee their focus has shifted to the company rather than the product. Analog on the other hand, will be one-of-a-kind, with no plans to expand elsewhere. “We’ll be the only two employees. You’ll see us here every day, making coffee,” Hanlon said.

Both baristas have been in the coffee business for over a decade. Most recently Hanlon has managed Magnolia’s Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe, while Hayden has been a manager (and still is for the next few weeks) atHerkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge. Herkimer will supply the beans to Analog, beans that Hillites may be familiar with from TNT and Porchlight Coffee. Analog will serve pour-overs, french press, and, of course, espresso, which will be made on a Seattle-created but world-renowned Synesso machine. Hanlon says that they hope to serve some pastries as well, but aren’t sure about that aspect, yet.

The opening of their little shop on Summit will be the completion of a nearly three year process of weekly planning meetings, saving money, and looking for a location. “We’ve been searching for a space now for over a year, but when we walked into this one we instantly new it was the perfect spot,” Hayden said.

Analog will join Arabica Lounge, only a few months old itself, as two independent coffee houses within blocks of the $550,000 overhaul of the the Olive Way Starbucks.

The coming soon Analog (Image: jseattle)

Hayden and Hanlon are currently in the midst of building out the space and getting permits from the city, a process they say has been quite a learning experience. Luckily they have had a lot of support, especially from Herkimer. “There have been a few rumors going around that Herkimer is opening a Capitol Hill location because people have seen the truck up here. But they have just been nice enough to let us use it, mostly for hauling lumber.” Hanlon explains. There is still a lot of work to be done but the pair hope to open for business sometime in early 2011 according to Hayden, “yeah, that seems vague enough.”

As Hill development slows, BelRoy Court project one step closer to construction

Update: The contract rezone has not actually been granted yet. DPD has recommended the rezone but a final decision will not be made until after the public hearing on November 30th (see below).

I think it can be unanimously agreed that Capitol Hill’s development market boom times are definitively over. Instead of six-story apartment complexes, development activity on the Hill has been reduced to public parks and Starbucks renovations. While this new development environment is not likely to change for a long time, there are still a few projects on the boards, slowly working their way through the permitting process. Last week, one of those projects, the BelRoy Court, was successfully granted received a DPD recommendation for a requested contract rezone, a key part of the development proposal.


Rendering courtesy of Point32

The rezone changes the site from L-3, or a maximum of three stories, to MR, or mid-rise, which allows up to six stories as well as ground floor commercial space. However, as the name implies, the rezone requires a contractual agreement by the developer to only build what the current proposal calls for.

In this case, the developer, Point32, has proposed to rehabilitate the historic Bel Roy Apartments while adding 58 residential units in two new structures. Most of the new development will remain at three stories, the height of the current Bel Roy, with only a small portion on the Northeast side of the property reaching up to six stories. During the design review process, architects said that the rezone was necessary in order to build a “network of gardens” within the property, a main design feature of the project.

“It is great that the city recognized the attributes of our proposal,” Chris Rogers, CEO of Point32, said of the rezone decision. Even though this was one of the last hurdles for the project, Rogers said that construction likely won’t begin before next summer.

We last reported on the project in May, when the Design Review Board asked the project team to redesign the Northeast corner of the site where a 980 square-foot commercial space was proposed. According to the meeting report, the board was satisfied with the changes, officially completing the Design Review process for the project.

At the beginning of October, with the support of Point32, the Bel Roy Apartments received official designation as a historic city landmark. Designed by prominent Seattle architects Lionel Pries and William Bain, the 1931 structure has been praised for its unique Art Deco style. Interestingly, Bain’s granddaughter, Lesley Bain of Weinstein A|U is the lead architect for Point32’s current BelRoy project.

A public hearing on the rezone decision recommendation will be held on November 30th at 9:00 AM at the Municipal building. Full details here.

Rendering Courtesy of Point32


Shake-up for Pike/Pine Sunset Electric mixed-use project but redevelopment still a go

One of the most interesting development projects announced last year was a mixed-use building in the shell of the old Sun Electric building, also known as the Spray King building, at the corner of 11th and Pine, kitty corner from Cal Anderson, across the street from the offices of the Stranger and smack in the heart of Pike/Pine. The proposal called for adding 95 residential units above the restored auto row building with two-floor tall commercial spaces at ground level. Last we heard, the project passed through it’s second Early Design Guidance meeting in November, but things have been quiet since the new year began. CHS has heard rumors about the project falling through or being shut down. We’ve learned those rumors aren’t true but there have been some changes in plans. The project is back for its first Design Recommendation meeting next month and it seems that there was a bit of a shake-up.

The developers of the project, Pryde + Johnson, have changed out their architects, bringing in Weber Thompson to replace Kohler Associates. The switch seems to be promising for community members concerned about the integrity of the project: Weber Thompson has received substantial praise in the past few years for their focus on quality and sustainability and was recently named one of the top 10 architecture firms in the nation by Architect Magazine. (In contrast, Kohler is probably best known by Hillites for the Plaza Park building at Pike and Boren; the one with the giant Montana advertisement covering its vacant commercial space.)

Central Courtyard Rendering

I recently spoke with Weber Thompson Senior Associate Jeff Reibman about some of the updated aspects we can expect to see at the Design Review Board Meeting on July 21st (time and place TBA). Reibman was most enthusiastic about the many green features of the building. Readers may remember the central courtyard in the building, which Reibman says will provide substantial energy savings through light penetration and air circulation. In addition, the building will utilize an innovative mechanical system, called a chiller, to take advantage of the underground garage’s relatively stable temperature to heat and cool water. The project is going for LEED Gold and Built Green 5 Star certifications and is participating in the city’s new Priority Green Pilot Program.

On the more public-facing side of the building design, there are also a few important changes. Rather than both commercial and residential entries facing 11th, all of the 11th Avenue facade will be commercial, with the residential entry moved to Pine. Reibman said this created a clearer delineation between the residential and commercial uses and was also a better complement to the current commercial vitality along 11th Avenue. The upper facade has been updated to be more “historically honest” as Reibman put it. Rather than replicate the old garage, the building will take its cues from other buildings of the time that were closer to it in size and scale. The materials will be cast iron with more windows than the original proposal. “When I looked at the old proposal it looked a little heavy to me, we’ve tried to fix that with lighter elements,” Reibman explained.

Since many project plans have gone the way of the dodo due to the rocky economic climate, I asked Reibman whether this project could be put on hold for the foreseeable future and to my surprise, he said no, “this project is outside the problematic financing market.” It turns out that the project is participating in the HUD 221d program, which guarantees mortgage loans on rental and cooperative housing projects, making them much more likely to receive funding. Reibman said that there are actually few eligibility requirements for the program but that it has high penalties for developers that don’t hold on to their properties for an extended period of time. This is also likely good news for community members as it creates an incentive for the developer to build something that will maintain its marketability for the long term. Reibman was reluctant to say when the project will actually break ground but he did suggest that it would probably be sometime next year.

View Larger Map

The loneliest place on Capitol Hill? McGilvra Place study results

Last Tuesday, a group of students from Seattle University’s Community Design Workshop presented their research on McGilvra Place Park in a talk entitled, McGilvra Place: A Reconnaissance Study of a Pocket Park. In front of a crowd of about 40 people made up of both fellow students and community members, the two project managers, Chase Clancy and Leah Julius summed up the findings of four project teams, which analyzed various aspects of the small, triangular park off Madison and 15th Avenue. The presenters set the tone of the presentation by starting a real-time video of the park, filmed from the top of a nearby apartment complex, and challenging the audience to find a single person actually using the park during the duration of the talk.

McGilvra Place, 1944 (background). Courtesy of Chase Clancy

The presentation started off with the basics: It is a 2,600 square foot park with eleven 60-70 year old London Plane Trees, and a small patch of grass surrounded by a nearly two foot high cement wall. The park came about when the city street grid was extended across Madison street, leaving a small,disconnected parcel between Madison, 15th, and E. Pike street. The land was officially acquired by the city in 1901 and named after U.S. Attorney of Washington Territory, John J. McGilvra, the man who funded the original “Madison Street Improvements” in order to connect his Lake Washington estate with downtown Seattle. Although included in both the Central District and Capitol Hill Neighborhood Plans, there have been no significant improvements to the park other than the initial planting of the London Planes. Today the Parks Department spends about 60 hours and $3,622 a year maintaining the park.

Next, the presenters went on to the “meat of the project” as Julius put it, displaying their findings about human behavior in and around the park. The project team set up observations at four different time-blocks throughout the day and logged a grand total of 36 hours of park watching. Although the observers witnessed 1,400 people in the park area, they saw a mere 12 actually use the park itself. Of those 12, eight simply walked through the park, leaving just 4 out of 1,400 people who sat or laid in the green space. When interviewed, 80% of people said they weren’t even aware that the open space was indeed a park, and the majority said the area felt “unwelcoming and cold.” One common perception of the park was that it was used by the homeless population as a place to sleep, yet, observers did not directly witness any of this activity. The team spoke with East Precinct Sergeant Jay Shin about this issue and he did say that they were asked to increase patrols of the park two months ago, but he also emphasized that all members of the public are allowed to utilize the park during regular park hours.

Photo by Josh Mahar

The human observations in the park highlighted the main theme of the presentation: Even though the park sits in the midst of a dense urban neighborhood, it is vastly underutilized. They recommended a number of park improvements that could highlight the park’s unique position at the intersection of some of Seattle’s most culturally rich neighborhoods. For example, they suggested some possible “decorative boulders” that could be used both as interpretive signage as well as seating. They also recommended a number of green features, such as bio-swales, but they pointed out that the current slope of the park is too steep for such additions, and would need some regrading to make it work. Acknowledging the city’s troubling financial situation, they recommended a public-private partnership as a possible funding source, pointing to the success of the Portland Parks Foundation as a model.

Two of the most likely candidates for a public-private partnership could be Point32 Development, which is set to build the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction just east of the park on 15th Avenue, and the Bullitt Foundation, which plans on occupying a portion of the Cascadia Center after completion. Point32 CEO Chris Rogers and Bullitt Foundation Director Dennis Hayes both watched intently during the presentation and stuck around afterward to chat with the presenters and answer questions. When asked what kind of financial commitments Bullitt was willing to provide to the park, Hayes said that they are currently open to all options. Rogers said that they are considering having a shared buy-in from all tenants of the Cascadia Center that would contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the park.

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation was when CHS itself was invoked during the question and answer session. Point32 CEO Rogers asked whether the team looked into vacating 15th between Madison and Pike, suggesting it could provide additional space for the park. Clancy said it was a possibility, but that comments on CHS’s preview of the McGilvra study illustrated that some people were worried about the park being incorporated into the Cascadia Center’s campus. He recommended that further public outreach be done on that particular issue. Both Hayes and Rogers seemed stunned by the possibility raised in comments on CHS and when asked later Hayes said he believed that closing 15th to vehicle traffic could make the park and the Cascadia Center more accessible to the public, not less. CHS will let you know if there are additional public meetings on the topic, but until then, feel free to share your opinions below and perhaps we can again help shape the discussion on this little park.

230 Broadway returns to design review board on Wednesday

230 Broadway, the massive building planned for the corner of Thomas and Broadway, has sparked some serious discussion here on CHS. With a building footprint of 61,000 square feet, it is set to dramatically change the streetscape along Broadway, replacing seven buildings as well as the current home of the Broadway Farmer’s Market.

Meanwhile, repercussions from the development have rippled to north Broadway as Bank of America’s temporary home and plans for nearby development in that area have increased tensions between SRM Development and community members.

Back at 230 Broadway, as we noted about a month ago, the Capitol Hill Design Review Board was not satisfied with the proposal, sending it back for a few more studies and revisions. Eager to get through the design review process, Runberg Architects will be back in front of the board on Wednesday, June 16th (details below), making the case for a new and improved version of the building. The developer, SRM, hopes to begin construction of the project by early 2011.

A report on May’s recommendation meeting spells out some of the concerns the board had about the project proposal and points to what we can expect from the new design:

    View from 10th Ave

  • Interestingly, much of the Board’s concerns were with the north and south building facades, the smaller, and arguably less prominent, of the building faces. The board suggested that the north facade, which transitions from commercial to office, be more consistent with the rest of the design, and that the landscaping respond to the unique street grid shift at this spot, which creates a visual corridor to the building from 10th Ave. The south facade had little architectural detail because, as the architects argued, it would likely be hidden from view in future adjacent redevelopment. Still, the board recommended at least a “toned-down” version of the other facades. They also asked that an 8-foot tall solid wall on the south side be replaced by something less “imposing”, such as a metal fence.
  • Perhaps responding to some of the community concerns about the loss of diversity along Broadway, the Board recommended a scheme for more unique storefronts within the building, suggesting that tenants be allowed to choose from a variety of “storefront systems, signage, and other commercial expression”. Yet, they did want to see some regularity and recommended that the retail canopies remain consistent.
  • The board was a little concerned with the usability of the walk-up patios along 10th Ave, which extend just 5 feet out from the building, and recommend further examination on this element.
  • The project team had proposed salvaging the First Bank facade and incorporating it into the residential courtyard of the building. The board recommended that they use it in the public facade along Broadway, a suggestion that came up multiple times from community members at the meeting.
  • Finally, the board felt that the gates and balconies were too generic and recommended the designs be “inspired by the diversity and creative character of the Broadway community.”

As always during the design review process, there will be an opportunity for community comments and feedback during the meeting Wednesday night. It will be interesting to hear if there are any new concerns from the community that will further shape this project or if the review process is finally ready to draw to a close.

Review Meeting: June 16, 0:00
  Seattle University
  824 12th Ave  map
  Meeting Room
Review Phase: Recommendation past reviews
Project Number: 3009249 permit status | notice
Planner: Lisa Rutzick

SU researchers examine Madison green space as plan for ‘living’ building takes shape

An easily missed, triangular patch of green space walled in between Madison, Pike, and 15th near Capitol Hill’s radio and television towers could find new prominence if plans to build the most significant “living” building yet in Seattle continue to move forward. Tuesday, June 8th at 2pm in the Wyckoff Auditorium, a small group of Seattle University students will be presenting their findings on just about every aspect of the small park, called McGilvra Place, from its history to how pedestrians use the space.

The presentation will be the culmination of Seattle University’s Community Design Workshop, a class that brings together students from all majors to complete a project for an actual client in the community. “This is not a theoretical workshop, but a practical task for a real firm.” said Dr. Marie Wong, Associate Professor at SU’s Institute for Public Service and faculty leader of the workshop.  In previous years the Design Workshop has done studies on land use and zoning in Little Saigon as well as construction and maintenance of the Chinatown gateway. Like those projects, Professor Wong said she agreed to the McGilvra Place project because the students could see a real positive change for the community from their work.

The project came about when Point32 CEO Chris Rogers approached Professor Wong with the idea in anticipation of Point32’s development of the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, which is planned for the adjacent property to the east, current home of C.C. Attle’s. According to Rogers the project presented an opportunity “to demonstrate new ways of thinking about sustainability in the landscape, through green stormwater infrastructure, rethinking secondary roadways to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and ways to enhance existing open spaces that have been made inaccessible.” The Bullitt Foundation, which will relocate its headquarters to a portion of the Cascadia Center building, has also shown support for the idee, applying for $650,000 from the Parks Levy’s Opportunity Fund for the project.

Tuesday’s presentation will cover the findings of four different teams involved in the Workshop. Chase Clancy, one of the two project managers of the workshop, provided a brief summary of what each of the four teams has been studying.

The Historical Research Team has been looking into the history or the park, along with the surrounding area, from roughly the 1860s forward.  We have collected information about the history of the ownership of the land that McGilvra Place sits on, as well as the history of Madison, E. Pike St., and 15th, and the business development in the area.  Also, we have collected a great deal of information about the streetcar era in Seattle, specifically looking into the history of the Madison Street Railway and the subsequent trolley and bus systems.

The Physical Investigations Team has been looking into what is actually at the park.  This includes researching the eleven trees surrounding the park (although they looked like Sycamores, it turns out they are London Plane trees) and understanding what their average lifespan is, the typical structure of their root systems, etc.  The physical investigations group was also tasked with researching and reporting on sustainable features that might be applicable to this pocket park, including different types of permeable pavements as well as bioswales and vegetative swales.

The Existing Park Management Team was tasked with researching who owns and who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the park.  It turns out that the trees are in fact owned by the Department of Transportation, but it is the responsibility of the Parks Department to maintain them.  This team is also responsible for figuring out what the costs associated with the park are in its current condition.

The Human Observations Team took up the task of observing the park and the people and traffic that are in or near it.  Staking out for multiple set times over the course of two weeks, this team recorded every person that was in or near the park, what they looked like, what they were doing, if they were accompanied by someone or alone, etc.

Chase, a junior majoring in Liberal Studies, said the class had been incredibly valuable because it had empowered the students by giving them an opportunity to do work that was practical to real world situations. Another student, Christina Walker, a Sociology major, echoed Chance’s sentiments, explaining that the research had given her a very thorough understanding of the inner-workings of city infrastructure and budgets. “Working on this document has been an incredible hands-on experience and has given me the opportunity to work together on a community research and planning team in hopes to help a business better utilize a space in the community.”

Cyclists sue City over SLUT — Will the pedal vs. rail debate continue over our streetcar?

Biker’s Beware! (Courtesy of EPA Smart Growth)

Earlier this week reported that a group of cyclists are suing the city of Seattle for failing to accommodate bicycles in the design of the South Lake Union Streetcar. The six individuals, who were all injured riding along the streetcar route between 2007 and 2009, are seeking compensation due to what they claim was negligent planning and design. “The City designed, constructed, and maintained streetcar tracks that it knew would create a crash danger for cyclists.” the lawsuit states. According to there are four intersections that the lawsuits cites as “particularly problematic” since they are places where the streetcar turns, making it difficult for cyclists to cross the tracks at a safe angle. In the past few years there has been significant uproar from the bicycling community about these obstacles on such a major cycling route.  The city has since added bike lanes and signage to 9th Avenue and hopes to open Terry Ave as a woonerf after the new Amazon headquarters are completed. But, as David Hill was quoted as saying on Publicola earlier today, “we wish everything had been better thought out to begin with.”

As many Hillites are well aware, a second streetcar route is currently being designed that will run right through the heart of our neighborhood, from the future Capitol Hill light rail station, along Broadway into First Hill, and on to the International District station at 5th and Jackson. While Broadway may certainly be lacking in bike infrastructure at present, it is the most direct and level connection between Capitol Hill and First Hill and thus an important route for those on two wheels.

This time around, it appears SDOT is being more careful in their approach to bikes. Along with doing a number of best practice exercises, the project team also commissioned a preliminary analysis of the streetcar/cycling compatibility in the various design alternatives. SDOT has also said they will favor a center alignment whenever possible in order to keep the tracks away from the typical placement of cyclists on the street. Even more ambitious is a possible cycle track that SDOT is currently studying. Rail Transit Manager Ethan Malone referred to this track in an email statement sent today:

“We are considering a community-initiated proposal to incorporate a two-way bicycle facility as part of the design for the streetcar on Broadway.  This new bike facility, known as a “cycle track,” would  provide a dedicated space for northbound and southbound cyclists on Broadway, separated from general vehicle traffic and the streetcar tracks.  We are in the process of analyzing how this facility would function and it appears promising.

The cycle track was originally pitched to SDOT by the Capitol Hill Community Council as part of their Complete Streetcar Campaign [full disclosure: I’m a member of the CHCC and have worked on this campaign], which the CHS community endorsed in April. Along with the cycle track, the campaign calls for a 2-way Broadway alignment North of Union St. (which the city council approved in May), and an extension of the streetcar North, beyond the planned terminus at Denny St. While the city council has not allocated funding for the estimated $20 million extension, they have endorsed the plan and requested that any excess funds from the streetcar project be put towards the extension. The CHCC’s Complete Streetcar Campaign is currently lobbying Sound Transit to fund preliminary planning of the North Broadway extension, arguing that it would make the project eligible for any future federal funding of rail investments.

As currently planned, the First Hill Streetcar would connect the Capitol Hill and International District light rail stations, via a 2.2 mile route through First Hill. The $132 million project was approved by voters as part of the ST2 transit initiative on the ballot in Fall of 2008. Earlier this year a heated debate arose over the alignment, but in May the City Council approved a route that runs along Broadway to Yesler, then turns on 14th to Jackson. SDOT hopes to have a full design finalized and construction to begin by the end of 2011. They are planning to have the streetcar operational by the beginning of 2014, two years prior to the opening of the Capitol Hill light rail station. For more information on Seattle’s streetcar plans, check out

UPDATE: The PI has also picked up the question of bike safety and the Broadway streetcar this morning. Much of the comments from City officials echo the same sentiments recorded here. This passage describes one essential issue in the SLUT design:

A safety flaw with South Lake Union Streetcar, according to the lawsuit, is the streetcar runs along Westlake Avenue in curb lanes, where passengers can easily board from the sidewalk. But that’s also where cyclists usually ride. And with little room to navigate, there is more risk of tires getting caught in the gap between the rail and the road. That risk was even greater because so many cyclists used Westlake to get into downtown before the streetcar opened in 2007.

But the PI points out that some bicyclists say they have also been hurt trying to “navigate around the tracks.”

The rise of Melrose Ave: Ambitious green development planned for former Auto Row

While it might seem like Capitol Hill is immune to the Great Recession with areas like Pike/Pine filling to the brim with stores, restaurants and bars, the healthiest spaces on the Hill seem to also be the most unique while the most common are more likely to sit vacant. It seems that landowners have to offer up something truly special in order to sign interested tenants. That is the strategy of developer Bruno Lambert with his plans for an eco-friendly, historic rehab, right across the street from Liz Dunn’s recently completed Melrose Market.

Lambert’s Melrose Square, calls for a full renovation of the 1928 automotive garage at 1510 Melrose Ave, into what Lambert refers to as “a bit of a green lab.” He hopes to minimize the building’s carbon footprint by using a diverse range of sustainable technology features, including solar panels and urban wind turbines as well as a green roof that produces fruits and vegetables. Since being green also means mixing uses, the building will include ground floor retail topped by 2,800 square feet of office space and an 1,800 square foot residential unit.

Yet for all of its ambitious green plans, Lambert says it has been a struggle meeting the city’s energy code. The problem stems from the fact that older buildings are inherently less efficient and bringing them up to code without sacrificing their historic charm can be a serious challenge. For example, the building’s classic red brick walls are incredibly inefficient and code requires that they be further insulated by covering the interior walls with an additional layer. Luckily, while the north wall will require this addition, Lambert was able to convince the city that since the east and south walls touch other buildings, the heat isn’t lost but transferred to the adjacent spaces. Similarly, the characteristic industrial windows on the second story can only be kept because they will be backed by an additional pane of glass in order to conserve heat. “If my goal was to make money,” Lambert admits, “I would just tear the whole thing down. You really have to be a believer.”

Along with being a silent partner on a number of development projects, Lambert is a serious investor in clean energy start-ups. He took on this project as a way to meld his interests in development and clean energy and really explore the possibilities for creating great buildings. The process has helped him learn about, and advocate for, a better approach to the city’s energy code which he believes should be more accommodating for creative property owners. He points out that the current system doesn’t take into account the vital role that older buildings play in neighborhood identity and suggests that developers should have the flexibility to preserve these buildings’ less efficient features if they are willing to utilize other green features such as clean energy technologies.

Lambert, who purchased the property in 2008 from the same land owner as the Melrose Market buildings, doesn’t yet have a scheduled construction date for the renovation. He has lined up all the necessary permits but is looking to secure a tenant first who can provide the much needed assurance to acquire capital. He is hopeful though; with the Melrose Market filling up fast and the recent announcement of a new Maclise/Wiemann establishment setting up shop across the street, he is confident that he can find a perfect fit for the unique space. And once he does, Melrose Ave may be the new heavy-weight amongst Capitol Hill’s contenders for the ultimate urban experience.

BelRoy Court back for second design recommendation meeting

A few weeks ago Weinstein A|U architects presented to the Design Review Board hoping to get the green light for the BelRoy Court development. The project aims to rehabilitate the historic Bel Roy Apartments as well as add 58 additional units in a few new structures. While there was significant support for the project from the public, the Board asked the design team to rethink a few details. Their concerns centered on the northeast corner of the building which is one of the main residential entrances as well as the location of the single commercial space in the project. They had questions about how the commercial space would integrate and engage with the public realm on Bellevue Ave as well as concerns about the bridge that connects two of the new residential structures.

This time around the design team, led by Lesley Bain, granddaughter of one of the original architects of the Bel Roy, William Bain, will examine three alternatives to the corner. In addition to the original design, one alternative completely removes the bridge allowing greater visibility into the courtyard, while another sets the bridge back 15 feet to capture the feel of two buildings while maintaining the weather protection.

In all of the new proposals the commercial space has been modified. The east wall has been pulled back to add additional covered seating along Bellevue as well as to connect the public realm with the patio seating on the north side of the building.

Bridge Alternatives (Left: No bridge; Right: Bridge with setback)

Chris Rogers of Point32, the project developer, said that the earliest construction would bstart was spring of 2011,  likely beginning with the Bel Roy rehabilitation before constructing the other buildings.

Commercial plan, public realm is shaded

A group of residents in the building across the street have shown strong opposition to the project, worried that it will block their views of Uptown and Puget Sound. A source says the group is pursuing legal action against the development but Rogers says that no legal action has been taken to date.

Meeting Details:

(Note: the meeting will be at the Seattle Vocational Institute rather than the SU A&A building.)

Project: 711 Bellevue Ave E  map
Review Meeting: May 19, 8:00 PM
  Seattle Vocational Institute
  2120 S Jackson St  map
Review Phase: Recommendation past reviews
Project Number: 3010378 permit status | notice

Lisa Rutzick

How to design a big, mixed-use building that Capitol Hill likes

You like the Agnes Lofts (Photo: Justin Carder)

A couple weeks back we had a post about the mixed-use building planned for the SE corner of Thomas and Broadway. The post generated some serious comments, 44 to date, most of which derided the design of the building and the negative impact it would have on the already deteriorating Broadway commercial strip. Here is a quick sampling of some of those comments:

“too monolith, facade too boring, the new Broadway is looking pretty bad” – Mike with Curls

“Blah. You have a chance to do something different, to push boundries [sic], and to design for a neighborhood that would embrace something a bit different. Why bother paying your architect to come up with the same thing the chaps down the block came up with, when you can just copy it”. – emartin

“Typical, boring, out-of-scale, designed and planned for construction and developer efficiency and profit maximization and future slums.” – designeronthehill

“Whatever charm and character Broadway once possessed is rapidly being flattened and replaced with the above. Nightmarish, really. Soon we’ll have plenty of places for people to live on Broadway, but little reason left to live *there*.” – seymourbutts

And even those who didn’t hate it, didn’t love it:

“Agreed that it is not very exciting but if you want density this is what cost effective design looks like.” – mikewithgirls

Well, here on CHS we like to keep things positive, so rather than just identify what it is you don’t want built in our neighborhood, we thought it would be worthwhile to explore what it is people like when it comes to building design.

A good place to start is the CHS Community Design Preference Survey. The survey, which I encourage everyone to check out, has over 100 pictures of buildings on Capitol Hill and allows members to rate them. Most of the top buildings are older, but a few new ones did make it into the top ten. Weinstein A|U-designed Agnes Lofts, at the corner of 12th and Pike is currently #7, and Pb Elemental’s John Residence further North on 12th is #6. 1310 E. Union Lofts, designed by Miller|Hull Partnership, used to top the charts before falling back to #2.

Earlier I spoke with David Miller of Miller|Hull about the success of 1310 E. Union Lofts. His comments about good design sum up why I think all of the above buildings are appreciated by the neighborhood.

I think there needs to be more of a focus on buildings that are simple and elegant. Some of the new multifamily buildings in Seattle are too complicated with so many different setbacks and materials. I think new buildings need to focus on rationality and simplicity.

These buildings are much clearer architecturally than projects like 230 Broadway or Joule with their mish-mash of colors, setbacks, and materials. Of course, it’s also noteworthy that all of these buildings are much smaller in size and footprint as well.

Of the three modern buildings that top the CHS Design Preference Survey, two were developed by Liz Dunn’s Dunn+Hobbes. Dunn is a long time supporter of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and has been one of the most vocal activists in the fight to preserve Pike/Pine’s character.

Also joining the fight, neighborhood design firm Schemata Workshop has embarked on an in-depth study of Capitol Hill architecture, attempting to codify and catalog good design principles. They hope to put out a full report in the next few months but they sent this collective summary of some important aspects of good design.

Good buildings should have:

  • Durable and high quality materials at the pedestrian level …nothing that someone could damage with a swift kick (e.g., cement board or stucco).
  • Overhead protection for pedestrians to protected from rain as they move from shop to shop. And also for customers to be sheltered from sun/rain as they sit out while they enjoy their coffee, pastry, meal.
  • Been sited appropriately to maximize southern solar access and prevailing winds.
  • Four building facades that respond to their particular climatic conditions – solar orientation, shade from adjacent buildings or trees.  A building should not have four sides that look the same.
  • Authentic materials – no fake brick/stone.
  • Demonstrate restraint in the number of materials and colors – this doesn’t mean that a skilled architect can’t create a great building with 10 materials or colors, but we have yet to see this succeed on Capitol Hill.
  • Restraint in concept – along the same lines as above.  The design team should to pick one strong idea and execute it well.  There are too many buildings performing architectural gymnastics that lead to complicated/fussy buildings.  Great, historic buildings have a substantial presence of volume, where scale is addressed through removing part(s) of the building mass and will more likely result in an elegant building with a timeless beauty even 100 years from now.

    “Long life, loose fit, low energy”.  Integrate flexibility and adaptability to future unknown uses; provide long span, high-load capacity structure.  Think of the old warehouse lofts that have gone through 150 years of change of use.  This is why Elliot Bay Bookstore and Odd Fellows are beautiful, loved buildings after all these years.

The EBBC and Odd Fellows buildings aren’t the only old structures loved by Hillites, and this comparison of historic vs. new construction is the final aspect I want to explore. Whenever I ask people about their favorite architecture on Capitol Hill, I consistently hear praise for the many pre-war brick apartment buildings that dot the neighborhood. Some have argued, myself included, that much of the reason for our infatuation with old apartment buildings is that, simply, they are old. Time allows buildings to mature into their context and while they may have been big and out of place when they were built, today they are a integral part of our understanding of the neighborhood. I predict that with age, the jarring out-of-placeness of some of the newer buildings will soften.

That said, there are certainly some real differences between older buildings and today’s buildings. One aspect is the size of buildings. Many of the pre-war apartment buildings are small, with less than 20 units and only around four stories. This is in stark contrast to some of the over 200-unit apartment/condo buildings we see today, that create long, solid walls along our streetscapes.

Yet, there are a number of massive old apartment buildings, and even these seem to have more character than the new construction. A lot of this has to do with the human-scaled decoration on older buildings. Take, for example, the below comparison of two buildings off Olive Way.

The newer building has barely any differentiation along its tall wall. In fact, the only ornamentation is the odd sun-inspired arch on the very top. The older building on the other hand is full of decoration. The mission-style parapet, the terra-cotta detailing throughout the facade. Not only do these decorations break up the mass of the building and add a bit of unique character, but they help us understand the size of the building. The building is very aware of its massive size, and the small detailing up at the top informs us of this. Newer buildings lack this human-scaled detailing, making the structures seem detached from the human sphere.

A couple recent projects in Ballard and Fremont have some of this human-scaled ornamentation. Admittedly, I still can’t say these look as good as many of our older buildings, but I think with time these buildings will meld well into their neighborhoods and if nothing else, they are memorable, something very important in this age of mass production.