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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Silence, Disappointment, and Improvement

posted by on May 21 at 16:12 PM

The design review boards will consider these proposals tonight.

Where’s the Outrage, Madrona?

When a developer announced plans for a three-story, mixed-use brick building on the site of a parking lot on 34th Avenue, neighbors in Madrona lost their shit. Fifty complaint letters were filed with the city, according to an article in the Madrona Community Council newsletter, which then printed names and email addresses for the city and architect to complain about the project. And the lead story in the newsletter had this to say about losing the parking lot:

Many of us in Madrona fear that this development will negatively impact the open spaces and vintage character of Madrona and set a precedent for future structures on 34th Avenue.

So—shit the bed—when the announcement came that an adorable vintage gas station pictured on the front page of the community council’s web site (a bonafide neighborhood landmark) would be demolished for a new building, the newsletter was sure to come out guns a blazin’. Right? Wrong. The newsletter this month is neutral, and folks from the neighborhood group haven’t returned my call or they declined to comment on the new building.



The building will contain seven units; six of them are live-work units. “There were a few [concerns] about parking because at the first meeting there was no parking,” says Susan Jones of ateliarjones, the architecture firm designing the project. “Now there are five spaces,” she says. But did Jones or the property owner, Tom Flood, receive any complaints from neighbors about losing the neighborhood’s vintage character when it lost a nice old building?

“We didn’t,” says Jones “I can’t totally explain it.”

A design recommendation meeting is tonight at 8p.m. in room 102 of the Seattle Vocational Institute, 2120 South Jackson Street.

Valley Low

Remember when the city bent over backwards to rezone land in South Lake Union to allow taller buildings for Amazon? Now we’re seeing the designs of those buildings. The current proposal, for phase four being developed by Vulcan, will stand 12 stories tall and contain 16,403 square feet of retail space. I’ve said it before, the buildings are fine: They relate well to the street, they reinforce some of the warehouse themes of the SLU neighborhood, and they provide open space. But considering we’re making special accommodations for one of the city’s economic powerhouses, it would be nice if Amazon made a special contribution to the city. The campus—which occupies nearly six blocks and will define the area—should be awesome. Instead, designs, rather than looking like a landmark, look like a hospital wing.


Callison Architecture

“They are asking for all the development candy and not much is going into public benefits,” says Lloyd Douglas, president of the Cascade Neighborhood Association and member of the SLUFAN board. “I don’t know if [only] Class A luxury office buildings are a public benefit,” he says. A design recommendation meeting is at 8:00 p.m. in room 1 of the Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 1st Avenue West.

Beside the Brownout

This is what’s on Bellevue Avenue now.


It looks like it could be flattened in a gale. Here’s a drawing for the proposed building that will replace it, including part of the design for the proposal next door.


Roger Newell Architects

The new building would stand six stories, contain 23 residential units, and about 1,300 square feet of retail at the sidewalk. The design-guidance meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in room 102 of the Seattle Vocational Institute, 2120 South Jackson Street. It’ll be fun.

RSS icon Comments


don't expect consistency from NIMBYs

Posted by vooodooo84 | May 21, 2008 4:23 PM

Amazon's HQ actually looks pretty sweet in that "Let's grab a coffee between classes, okay?" sort of way. Seems to have a nice street-level scene, too.

I'd cap the roofs with nice crowns and add illumination. Seriously, that's all it may need.

Posted by AJ | May 21, 2008 4:27 PM

Nobody likes gas stations.

But they do like massive campaign contributions from a certain Mr. Bezos ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 21, 2008 4:41 PM

Dominic, couldn't agree more about the possibility Amazon is squandering. It would be really cool if a shortlist of the world's best architects popped up on Mr. Bezos's Kindle right about now.

As for the "historic" gas station in Madrona, the replacement looks interesting (what are the exterior materials?). The kooky-huge bays are cool.

Finally, that little Newell building, the middle one, looks fantastic. I'm getting all kinds of magnetic disturbances from the drawing: Mies, Stanford White, Richard Meier. Powerful. Now, please god, leave the thing pristine white and not daubed up with Pottery Barn's latest palette.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | May 21, 2008 4:53 PM
This is what’s on Bellevue Ave. now
So many good opportunities for Slog commenter humor here, I can't decide.
I agree, Jube, that the building looks neat, but who's to say that in thirty years it won't look like the ramshackle thing on Bellevue Ave. (, that's not it)? I'm all in favor of architectural kookiness, but that's just the sort of "modern" stuff that looks dated in the future. Now, I'm in favor of looking dated, too, which brings me around to....I kind of LIKE the thing on Bellevue Ave....
Posted by Fnarf | May 21, 2008 5:05 PM

@% -- Yeah, it landed on him like a witch...but hey, he thinks I'm god so I'll spare him and lift it up a little so he can escape.

The Gordon Curve postulates that a building's maximum popularity is at its completion; then the popularity of the building decreases for 70 years. This is the crucial moment, for, if a building has survived this long, it may survive for quite a longer time. This is because after 70 years, the building's popularity begins to increase until, at 100 years of age, the popularity of the building in the community is at or approaching the popularity it had at opening.

Will these buildings be here in 70 years? 30? 150, and visited as a landmark, such as Fallingwater?

I dunno. But I think the building is pretty cool for now.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | May 21, 2008 5:12 PM

It should come as no surprise that the company which contributes nothing to the arts in Seattle is also unconcerned about spending money for some architecture that is more than functional.

Posted by Tiktok | May 21, 2008 5:15 PM

Ooh, the Gordon Curve, I love it. Seems a bit long to me -- there are undercurrents and rumblings of awakening appreciation for buildings not quite fifty (which are just about my favorite). Maybe I'm just ahead of the curve. Yeah, that must be it.

Posted by Fnarf | May 21, 2008 5:36 PM

OK, what's scary is that a Google search for "Gordon Curve" returns a bunch of stuff about a baseball pitcher, and some kind of statistics, but the SECOND LINK that pertains to this definition (after one to a review of Lost Chicago) is to your comment above -- TWENTY MINUTES AGO.

I think they're following me.

Posted by Fnarf | May 21, 2008 5:41 PM

A pretty, fun, and nice Slog commenter lives in that last building. I won't out her, lest she aquire stalkers.

Posted by Aislinn | May 21, 2008 6:07 PM

Madrona NIMBY's - they can dress their complaint up all they want, but this proves all that it was ever about was street parking. That's usually all it's ever about.

Posted by Dougsf | May 21, 2008 6:08 PM

Pooh. So that's what's replacing my building. I hate having to move...

Posted by Abby | May 21, 2008 6:12 PM

All these projects have public meetings tonight. The reason you waited until 4:12 p.m. to post this is....?

Posted by Commentator | May 21, 2008 9:36 PM

@ 13) Design proposals for most of the projects up for design review aren't released until the day of the meeting. Believe it or not, calling developers, folks from the neighborhood, and city officials to comment on those designs (even though many of them don't make it into the final post) takes a long-ass time. I also have to review the design proposals, and grab and modify the images for your viewing pleasure. Making it take even longer today, my computer froze halfway through and I lost a bunch of work. So I'm sorry I couldn't get it up for you sooner. I'll try harder next time.

Posted by Dominic Holden | May 21, 2008 10:26 PM

"I don’t know if [only] Class A luxury office buildings are a public benefit"


Posted by Cale | May 21, 2008 11:44 PM

But all that yellow will be covered by trees and greenery so what's the big deal? Much improved from what's going on now.

And the Madrona proposal has nice big windows. It'll fit in well.

Posted by Catman | May 22, 2008 12:23 AM

As someone who worked at amazon way back in the day and still has lots of friends there let me tell you that it's in Amazon's DNA to be cheap bastards.

They would call it "frugal", or "customer focused" but basically it amounts to "we see no reason to spend money making things nice for our people or the community around us because that money's better spent on making things cheap for customers".

Not the worst corporate rationale or behavior, but not the best either.

Posted by jcricket | May 22, 2008 10:21 AM

@17 is spot on...

@7 is also on the mark.

Bezo's and by extension his company, are cheap. Plain and simple.

The city made a huge mistake(go figure) by offering them any type of zoning break, without mandating the cost savings be made up for with (subject to SLU citizen's board approval) architectural reviews that ensured something of cutting edge architecture be placed there.

Just another example of how the current board is ruining the city for decades to come.

Posted by Reality Check | May 22, 2008 1:03 PM

Contrary to the comment that “not much is going into public benefits” from Vulcan in conjunction with the Amazon headquarters project, I would like to highlight the following which represent extensive public benefits associated with both the text amendment (allowing greater height on certain blocks) and two partial alley vacations between Terry and Boren Avenues (one between Republican and Mercer Streets as part of Phase III and another between Thomas and Harrison Streets as part of Phase IV) as well as a full alley vacation between Harrison and Republican Streets as part of Phase Ia:

• $6.4 million contribution by Vulcan for affordable housing and other benefits
• A combined total of 1.3 acres of publicly accessible open plaza space in the first 4 phases of development
• Phase Ia has a 24,000 square foot 24/7 public plaza, artwork and a historic preservation element
• On May 12th the Seattle City Council approved the partial alley vacation for Phase III; such vacations are only approved by City Council when it determines that the vacation is in the public interest and provides a long-term, public benefit
• Phase III includes a 17,000 square foot public courtyard, open 24/7, with extensive planted areas, benches, wayfinding signage and public art
• On May 15th, the Design Commission made a recommendation in favor of the alley vacation on the Phase IV project
• Phase IV incorporates many public benefits including a 16,000+ square foot public courtyard, open 24/7, which cuts through the middle of the block and connects to the streetcar on Terry Avenue; the courtyard has a "hillclimb assist," stairs and an elevator to help people climb the steep site from Terry to Boren Avenue; lower (Terry Avenue) courtyard also features a mature tree with a large canopy and extensive landscaping with tree well planting areas 25% larger than what is required by SDOT
• Preservation of the 320 Terry Building, built in 1915, as an integral part of the Phase IV courtyard
• For Phases III and IV, Terry Avenue North will feature a 31-foot wide sidewalk (20 feet wider than the 11-foot standard, making pedestrian use rather than automobile use, the priority), benches, street trees, bicycle racks, ornamental street lights, undergrounding utilities.

Posted by Lori Mason Curran Vulcan Real Estate | May 27, 2008 1:29 PM

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