Boom Biotech and Retail on Dexter Ave N
posted by February 7 at 13:44 PMon
A few months back I wrote about 1101 Dexter, a proposed biotech facility on Dexter Avenue North. Considering the vacant retail spaces nearby, I wondered whether the city’s mandate to include 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, as per the “Seattle Mixed” zone on Dexter, was an unrealistic requirement. At the time there were no renderings of the design, so I looked forward to seeing how LMN Architects would try to attract shoppers, diners, and retailers.
The problem with Dexter is that the steep topography and parallel arterials (Aurora and Westlake) limit the number of pedestrians who can access it for day-to-day commercial purposes. Compounding the problem, the roar of traffic prevents it from feeling like the sort of place you’d stop the car, pop in somewhere for lunch, and then go for a stroll.
An initial design of 1101 Dexter.
I applaud LMN for departing from the green glass that chills many modern science institutions. However, the design fails to promote sidewalk activity. It comes down to personal taste, of course. But it makes me want to cross the street to get away. The setbacks look cavernous and foreboding; the concrete columns are menacing.
Translucent people aren’t convincing.
If the ground-floor of buildings on Dexter are ever to support shops and restaurants, developers like Capstone Partners must do a better job designing for them—using an approachable, human scale. And if they do that but retail still cannot be supported, the city should just change Dexter’s zoning. Empty storefronts are depressing.