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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tonight’s Design Guidance Meetings

posted by on March 11 at 13:20 PM

Props to the developers and architects who submitted proposals for three brand new projects before their first design-guidance meetings tonight, and much love to the Department of Planning and Development that made them do it. Folks can now see, in detail, plans before they attend. Heck, this may even inspire more residents to show up.

If you envision a bustling and visually appealing metropolis—one that doesn’t spill with ranch homes to the town of Index, you should go. Your voice may be necessary to counter meeting-goers who are there to carry out grandpapa’s final wish to limit Seattle’s future construction to single-story brick houses, preserve the precious, precious parking lots, and to tear down that new-fangled space thingie. The bravest among you might even challenge a design-review board’s well-meaning advice to build something that was perfectly suited for Seattle in 1942.

So here, dear Sloggers, are the design reviews de jour.

Eighth Avenue and Stewart Street

Remember those cold mornings in line at the Greyhound Bus Station, standing in a pool of transients’ urine? Sweet yesteryear. Those memories are all you’ll have after R. C. Hedreen Co. builds a 51-story hotel and Convention Center expansion.


This is a superior use for the block, no doubt, but can Seattle’s market support another skyscraper? “It might be somewhat of a slowing down for high-rise condos, although that market is still chugging along,” says Shauna Decker, principal architect of Spencer Decker Architects. But the hospitality market, she says, is strong as ever. “We have the smallest amount of convention space [of major cities] on the West Coast, so people are interested in increasing the capacity of the Washington Convention Center.”

Based on this initial massing proposal, it’s impossible to determine if the tower will make a statement in Seattle’s skyline. But the base will be certain improvement for the sidewalk.


The proposal shows that the two buildings will be joined by a promising atrium, which is unfortunately also referred to as a “hall of light.” Ugh. But the worst term in their otherwise excellent proposal is the always-trite use of “water feature.” Which brings us to a pressing question: Isn’t the term “water feature” just a super-pretentious way of saying “fountain” or “pond”? Or are there legitimate uses? (UPDATE: Decker emails to let me know the “water feature” will collect rainwater and circulate it to the building, so it’s neither a fountain nor a pond. Duly noted, but I will forever find “water features” to be ambiguous and loathsome.) In linguistic redemption, an open-air aperture to the sky is referred to as an oculus. I love octopus…

The meeting is tonight at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall, room L280. Here’s the groovy proposal. Here’s the groovy notice.

Rainier Avenue South and South Walden Street

It’s flat Albert… razing Chubby and Tubby. Owner of the Rainier Valley site, South East Effective Development is proposing 58 affordable “workforce” apartments on the arterial corner and 10 more units across the alley on Claremont Avenue. The project is funded through one of four grants for low-income housing recently awarded by the city. Nice work.


A funny thing, though. The design proposal proclaims it the “Chubby and Tubby Workforce Housing” and prominently displays the logo, but project manager Diana Keys reveals that Chubby and Tubby isn’t actually involved with the development. Not at all? “No, no at all,” she says. “We call it Chubby and Tubby because it’s a landmark,” says Keys. “It’s just a placeholder name.” Chubby and Tubby, the namesakes, died years ago, and their respective sons sold the site for use as a warehouse, she says.

Here’s more chub on the tub. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the Rainier Cultural Arts Center banquet hall, 3515 S Alaska St.

15th Avenue South and South Oregon Street


This exquisite parking lot is located next to the former Christian Restoration Center, which is now vacant. In its place, a four-story mixed-use building with up to three retail units at the ground level and 30 residential units above has been proposed by Rudeen Development. No decision yet on condos or apartments, according to Carlos De La Torre of architecture firm H+DLT Collaborative.


The location is a crossroads between Beacon Hill and Columbia City, so like an evangelical density zealot, I’m pro-life—for this intersection. However, this design is stillborn. “It is purposefully boring,” explains De La Torre. “This is the early design, and there are very specific rules to early design guidance. [The design-review board members] don’t want to see a lot of design,” he says. “As architects, we have something in our heads and we’re very excited, and we’d like to get people geared toward that goal.” Attend the meeting and goad them on.

Here’s the proposal. The meeting is tonight in the banquet hall of the Rainier Cultural Arts Center, 3515 S Alaska St.

RSS icon Comments


Oh good! Another opportunity for consensus building in Seattle! Hopefully, with enough public oversight and comment, all originality will be leached out of each of these designs and Seattle’s cherished middle class banality will be diligently protected.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 11, 2008 1:39 PM

1 & 2: fine.

3: going to suck.

Posted by max solomon | March 11, 2008 1:44 PM

Too short. Need to be much taller and surrounded by green space or mini-parks.

You want affordable housing, build multi-income-level inexpensive residential rental apartment buildings in the 40 to 100 story range, with 40 percent for people at half the median income, and 20 percent for the ultra-rich to upper-middle income people who currently get 100 percent of the housing built.

Until then, house prices will keep skyrocketing. And people will create global warming emissions living in Kent and working in Seattle.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 11, 2008 1:47 PM

If we can get SPD to quit bugging hookers and pot dealers, we can totally get our convention business up.

Posted by Gitai | March 11, 2008 1:48 PM

"housing prices will keep skyrocketing"? They're essentially flat here, and negative across the rest of the country.

Posted by happy renter | March 11, 2008 1:51 PM

Yeah, but the first one kind of looks like a dong. Someone should mention that at the design meeting.

Posted by tabletop_joe | March 11, 2008 1:54 PM

#1: Have you even looked at the architects renderings? Any originality was leeched out of these buildings before the pen hit the paper.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 11, 2008 1:56 PM

@7: With Seattle’s obsessive compulsive public processes they can surely be made to be much, much worse.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 11, 2008 2:01 PM

Seattle's design guidelines are essentially a guidebook for design. Follow the directions, and you get the same design every time. Every time you have to go back to design review, you waste a lot of money. Might as well design for what you know the review board will ask for in the first place, and save everyone a lot of time and money. On the other hand, take a walk around Portland, and you can see a few instances of real design. Seattle doesn't allow that.

Posted by cmaceachen | March 11, 2008 2:16 PM

@5 - not for long. You forget I used to write the software and help with translation for Century 21 Real Estate Canada (the national franchisor).

It all goes in cycles. Right now you're just feeling the downdraft from the global REIT meltdown of bad loans that never should have been made. And they're trying to unload them all at the same time which exacerbates it.

So long as supply (rental apartment) doesn't increase while the population and jobs increase, it's just a matter of when, not if.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 11, 2008 2:23 PM

another excellent boom post. fnarf, any thoughts on will in seattle's towers proposal?

Posted by dpa | March 11, 2008 2:58 PM

Not one suburban or exurban ranch house will be prevented by the erection of these projects. Not a one.

OTOH - a new luxury hotel will fuel housing demand in Kent, as none of the employees who clean the joint or serve fancy drinks to its upscale patrons will be able to afford to live within 10 miles of it.

Posted by Mr. X | March 11, 2008 3:33 PM

Since I cannot possibly be there (well, i could still catch a flight and be there in time, but really...), will somebody please mention that I don't mind another skyscraper(#1), but I absolutely mind another block-sized development that offers nothing at street level after 6pm? I'm not convinced that 'the base will be a certain improvement for the sidewalk' at all.

Posted by shadowdaddy | March 11, 2008 3:35 PM

Thanks for keeping us posted, Dominic.

Posted by Fitz | March 11, 2008 3:38 PM

"You forget I used to write the software"

Yes, how easily we forget the bings and bongs of Will's so-called mind. Why, surely everyone here is intimately acquainted with his life history. How was lunch, Will? See anything interesting reflected on the inside of your spectacles?

And, of course, knowing that Will was a code monkey for a real-estate firm, we can easily see how unusually qualified he is to design cities.

Posted by Fnarf | March 11, 2008 4:08 PM

This area of Beacon Hill is not within walking distance of the Link light rail station, and its local bus service is mediocre at best. This is not an Urban Center, nor even an Urban Village. Zoning and height limits are about right for this corner, and the real issue is good design.

BH has examples of grossly bad design (by architects who scored B's and C's in their Design classes) at 15th & Lucile and next to the old public library, on 15th just south of Beacon.

Irony is that both these travesties went through the city's Design Review process. Ugh.

Posted by BH voter | March 11, 2008 4:46 PM

I've been many things, Fnarf. I've even broken the original SimCity codes and applied urban design techniques and power plant redesigns you see in later versions. Like solar, wind, hydro and other add ons.

I was making alternative energy TV shows back before you learned how to type.

Your jealousy will get you nowhere, sadly. Grow up, realize knowledge is not found on the Internets, and lay off sucking on the Tubes for wood.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 11, 2008 4:48 PM

Personally, I always thought the Christian Restoration Center would make a great thrift shop or antique mall, but I think the days of great thrift shops and antique malls are over in Seattle.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 11, 2008 5:00 PM

Right on, Will. Right fucking on. You were THERE, man, and we'll never forget it. Just like you were there when they invented the internet at Simon Fraser University in 1989. I am INSANELY jealous of your multitentacled grasp of Sim City codes and the other crucial loci of world thought and power.

Can you even read? You know, like books and stuff? I'll bet I've read more books in the last three months than you have in your entire life, Willie boy.

Posted by Fnarf | March 11, 2008 5:04 PM

BH Voter @16 - AMEN! That's going to be a gateway eyesore to a pretty damned cool little neighborhood (behind there) which has some gorgeous houses. That area deserves better.

Catalina @18 - AMEN squared! The tile in front of that building and the original doors tell me it must have been a little supermarket back when. I wish I had the money to turn it into a thrift/vintage clothing/furniture store.

We Beacon Hillers don't need a new ugly building with FOR RENT signs in all the retail windows - we need to take care of the existing older structures (few) and try to lure businesses that actually serve the neighborhood and will be a destination location for surrounding neighborhoods.

One who lives by the golf ball shop...

Posted by A Beacon neighbor | March 11, 2008 7:38 PM

I guess the market for restored Christians isn't so good these days.

That was a nice little commercial center years ago; it could be one again. I don't know if this building will do it. If it gets filled with more nail and hair salons I will weep.

(I live on Beacon Hill too.)

Posted by litlnemo | March 11, 2008 8:17 PM

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