Boom Gateway and Choke Point
posted by November 15 at 16:12 PMon
Even as the national housing market declines, Lexas Companies is banking on Seattle’s boom to continue. The developer, also behind the fancy 30-story Escala on Fourth and Virginia, has announced plans for a soaring twin-tower complex in the Denny Triangle called 1200 Stewart.
Denny – for decades a traffic funnel flanked with light industrial, parking lots, and a few terrifying restaurants – is becoming a high-density corridor. Awesome!
About a dozen new residential developments are proposed or under construction, and 1200 Stewart, in its nascent stages, will likely be a giant among them. If approved, it will sit on the triangular lot wedged between Denny Way and Stewart Street.
This image above is how the block currently looks to a satellite. Thanks, Google Maps.
And this is a visual orientation of 1200. Thanks, Sclater Partners Architects.
“It’s the gateway to downtown,” says Dave Reddish, of Sclater Partners Architects, one of two architects designing the building. 1200’s footprint would fill the entire block. Planners propose commercial spaces in 1200’s 65-foot-tall base, topped by two towers, each with 150 condos, that would max out the city’s new zoning height limits at 400 feet.
At that height, 1200 would overlook the neighborhood, giving residents on the top floors a vantage to peer down on much of Capitol Hill. By comparison, the tallest of the three nearby Metropolitan Park towers (formerly the twin toasters, now the, um, toaster triumvirate?) is only 20 stories, reaching 279 feet. Photos and more after the jump.
Here’s how the block looks now, with the Metropolitan Park buildings in the background and Capitol Hill behind them.
New zoning regulations allow developments to exceed the previous cap of 290’ if developers meet certain criteria—provide residential units, meet certain environmental standards, and, in some cases, provide affordable housing or pay into the city’s affordable housing fund.
In order to bolster 1200’s enviro-friendly "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED) rating, Dave Reddish says, “We’re talking about using heat pumps to use heat generated by commercial to use in residential.” I’ve put a call into Lexas to find out if 1200 will either pay into the housing fund or provide discounted units in the building. The latter is particularly unlikely.
“They see this as being a world class luxury destination for condominiums,” Reddish says.
As remarkable as the towers’ visibility above the street may be, the uses below grade are what could make people gasp. Parking. Lots of it. For 800 vehicles. That works out to 2.6 cars for each of the 300 units.
“This is higher than average,” says Alan Justad from the Department of Planning and Development. “The average is a space-and-a-half per unit.”
Reddish says many of those spaces would be reserved for customers of the six commercial floors. To mitigate traffic congestion, architects are pushing for vehicle access on Minor Ave, the quietest of the three bordering streets.
Regardless, that’s a lot of cars to add to an already-congested intersection. Even without the thousands of new residents and their cars moving into the new developments, Denny is a clusterfuck.
This was taken midday, when traffic is relatively light.
Complicating matters, 1200 is about a block from where the I-5 exit dumps onto Stewart (hence the gateway thing), which is also a major corridor for buses. With a bus stop on the same block as the proposed development and 800 or more cars a day trying to turn right around them to access the parking garage--all with freeway-exit traffic behind them--it's a recipe for gridlock.
“There will be a traffic analysis for this project,” assures Justad. DPD would work with the Department of Transportation and an independent consultant, which would conduct an impact study. The results, he says, could give the city just cause to place restrictions on 1200’s proposed design. “There may have to be a transportation management plan,” he says, “but since this is residential that may not be the case.”
“We are a little bit at odds with the [design review] panel,” says Reddish. The panel discussed having more retail on Denny, he says, “Nobody can really stop there to use it.”
Seems to me, unless a traffic-management plan is imposed, cars will spend a lot of time stopped on Denny. A design review meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for Tuesday, December 4th in City Hall.