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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brown Outs, Yellow Jackets, and Growth Spurts

posted by on March 19 at 14:40 PM

Here are the design proposals going before the city’s review boards tonight for guidance and evaluations.

Brown Out

It would be difficult to intentionally design something as ugly or unhealthy for sidewalk activity as “The Marion” apartments on Bellevue Avenue and East Pine Street. The shit-colored building is, in essence, a homage to the carport. The units turn their back on an interesting intersection, stacked three stories above a windy, foreboding parking lot. So, it is without remorse or nostalgia that we bid the fair maiden Marion farewell.

The Stratford Company, developers and owner of the site, wants to build a six-story residential building. “The plan is to ‘condominiumize’ the development,” says Stratford’s director of asset management Mark Isner. The proposed building would contain 103 condos and use the ground floor for retail and office space. Parking for 123 cars would, thankfully, be underground.


Ankrom Moisan Architects

The firm recently hung a banner from the Marion’s façade asking would-be tenants and neighbors to complete an online survey about what sorts of qualities they seek in the new building. “We’re trying to make them affordable as we can possible make them,” Isner says. Stratford hopes to break ground this summer.

At tonight’s meeting, open to the public, architects and developers will respond to design guidance provided by the city’s volunteer design-review board in October. If you want to go, it’s at 8 p.m. in room of 3211 of Seattle Central Community College, 1701 Broadway.

Meaning Well

Good intentions can get in the way of good design. For example, an impressive proposal for condos at E Thomas Street and Melrose Avenue E may not mesh the city’s milquetoast plans for the site. Developer Masto Properties has proposed replacing a squat apartment building with a six-story building, containing 30 condominiums and parking for 32 vehicles below grade. One point of friction: It’s bright yellow.


Copyright 2008, Group Architect Inc.

“They said it might be too bold,” Steve Gawronski of Group Architect Inc. says about the design-review board’s take on the design at a previous meeting. But the color works with the building and is spectacularly refreshing. Thousands of cans of taupe paint already threw up all over pre-fab boxes around the city—we don’t need another one.

In addition to maintaining a 15-foot clearance from the building to the north, the building’s other spatial challenge is related to I-5. Melrose abuts the freeway, parallel. Seattle’s Department of Transportation maintains a right-of-way 20 feet back from the street on Melrose and asks developers to keep that space level with the sidewalk. The problem: complying at this site, on a steep grade, would require transitioning from the sidewalk-level to the bottom floor of the building with this hideous concrete wall.

Copyright 2008, Group Architect Inc.

Group Architect’s proposal to terrace the sidewalk (as shown in the first rendering) is a vast improvement and should be permitted. If SDoT needs the space in 50 years, which it may, then it can ask the building’s owners to tear out the terrace. At tonight’s meeting, architects address will those issues and respond to previous design guidance. It’s at 6:30 p.m.
in room 3211 of Seattle Central Community College, 1701 Broadway.

More about this gargantuan devlopment on Westlake…


MulvannyG2 Architecture

…after the jump.

West Lake Union Grows Up

It is huge. Developer CarrAmerica has submitted two proposals for office and biotech facilities on Westlake Avenue North, which further contributes to the rapid devlopment around West Lake Union. “We’re reviewing them as two projects, but considering the project cumulatively,” says project planner Scott Ringold at the city’s Department of Planning and Development. “It’s a way for us to comprehensively review as much of project as they can envisions at this point.”

The first phase would be to construct a six-story building with 149,564 square feet of office space and parking for 292 vehicles inside the structure, at and below grade. Developers initiated the design review process in 2006, and are now returning to the design board with a fleshed out proposal.


The second phase would be to construct two additional six-story office and laboratory buildings with four levels of parking, two of which would be below grade.


Between the two, Ringold says, the developers are asking replace to 13,000 square feet of Highland Street with a hill climb and pedestrian plaza.


MulvannyG2 Architecture

The meeting for the newer proposal is tonight at 6:30 p.m. in room #1 of the Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 1st Avenue West. The second meeting, for the more developed proposal, is at the same place at 8:00 p.m.

RSS icon Comments


taupe is just another shade of yellow.

Posted by max solomon | March 19, 2008 3:14 PM

Bellevue Ave E? Wrong.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 19, 2008 3:14 PM

@ 2. Fixed--you would be the expert...

Posted by Dominic Holden | March 19, 2008 3:17 PM

I remember getting into a 15-20 minute fight with Qwest as to where my actual address was. They claimed they had installed DSL at my apartment but I insisted that they went to Bellevue Ave E.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 19, 2008 3:20 PM

The yellow looks like the insulating board on unfinished condos.

I.e., how they look right before they're covered with taupe stucco.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 3:30 PM

Instead of a hideous concrete wall, or a semi-palatable terrace, they could make an overhang and provide rain-free shelter for 6 homeless campers.

Posted by treacle | March 19, 2008 3:31 PM

I really love brightly colored buildings. The problem is when the bright colors are mixed with drab, hideous colors. If you're going for bold, why not paint the whole thing? Yellow and bright red would be awesome.

Right now, it looks absolutely terrible.

Posted by exelizabeth | March 19, 2008 3:33 PM

The yellow building's concrete wall problem can be solved by graffiti.

Posted by tabletop_joe | March 19, 2008 3:33 PM

Hideous concrete wall = TAGGERS' DELIGHT.

Might as well rent the space to 14-year-olds with their daddies' Home Depot charge cards.

Posted by frederick r | March 19, 2008 3:33 PM

These buildings have balconies that you can actually fit a potted plant upon while closing the door, and are therefore impossible to build in Seattle.

Posted by JC | March 19, 2008 3:33 PM

uh, that replacement building for the Marion is fucking AWFUL; it looks like the Ministry of Information building from a road company of 1984: The Musical!

The yellow mess is only interesting because it's yellow.

One more ugly building on the shores of Lake Union won't make much of a difference.

Posted by michael strangeways | March 19, 2008 3:34 PM

By the way, Max @ 1. Taupe is nothing like that shade of yellow.

taupe /toʊp/ – noun – a moderate to dark brownish gray, sometimes slightly tinged with purple, yellow, or green.

Posted by Dominic Holden | March 19, 2008 3:37 PM

All large concrete walls need to be covered by some invasive, non-native creeping thing.

Like English Ivy, or Kudzu.

Or that thing that ate Stephen King in Creepshow.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 3:41 PM

I will not miss the street-side troll cave that is on the south side of The Marion at all. Just yesterday afternoon traffic was blocked by EMS responding to aid a pantless drunk in a wheelchair there. Everyone needs a place to get out of the elements but waiting for a bus there is always unpleasant and at times dangerous.

Posted by inkweary | March 19, 2008 3:48 PM


Maybe blackberries or some other bramble-y, thorny thing. The building will look like some steampunk version of Rapunzel's tower.

Posted by tabletop_joe | March 19, 2008 3:50 PM

Poison Oak perhaps? That's a native species, isn't it?

Posted by COMTE | March 19, 2008 4:00 PM

My eyes!

Oh, sorry, I'm just so used to all the grey and drab buildings around here that make people want to commit suicide ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 19, 2008 4:10 PM

Yay for bright yellow. Now will one of you architect types come up with something in electric blue? I thought this city was Supposed to be eccentric. Let's see some of that come out.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 19, 2008 4:15 PM

Now that's what I call balconies! (East Thomas and Melrose)

And here's my Bellevue Avenue/Bellevue Avenue East story: Back in the 1840's I lived in the "New McDermott" apartments on Bellevue between Pike and Pine.

One night at 4am, there was all this buzzing on my front door intercom. I ignored it, because I thought it was a drunk. But then I heard the elevator, and all of the sudden there was this pounding on my door and a voice called "SEATTLE POLICE - OPEN UP!"

So I let them in (bad idea - I know, but I was still waking up) and they came crashing into my little studio, wanting to know where "Ephram" was. I knew no Ephram, and told them that, and they asked if they could look around. I told them sure, and they did.

Then they said "We got a call that someone named Ephram was trying to kill himself at 1516 Bellevue Avenue East". I said "This is 1516 Bellevue Avenue. Bellevue Avenue East starts at Denny"

They looked at each other, excused themselves, and left quickly, after appologizing for the disturbance.

I often wondered what happened to poor Ephram.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | March 19, 2008 4:15 PM

I love these posts! Thanks!!

Posted by poppy | March 19, 2008 4:40 PM

Dominic wrote:

Seattle’s Department of Transportation maintains a right-of-way 20 feet back from the street on Melrose and asks developers to keep that space level with the sidewalk. The problem: complying at this site, on a steep grade, would require transitioning from the sidewalk-level to the bottom floor of the building with this hideous concrete wall.

I don't buy it. How about a transition to absolutely anything besides a hideous concrete wall? Like, say, a wall covered with the same materials that will be used on the surface of the building directly above it?

The terracing in the rendering is hideous.

Posted by Phil M | March 19, 2008 5:29 PM

E Thomas Street and Melrose Avenue E:

LOL, wtf are those fins for?

-Is this a yellow submarine?

-Is it a yellow shoebox-zeppelin that's landed on Capitol Hill?

-Or is it a giant, passively-cooled electrical substation to replace the boring one on Bellevue Ave? (They will need to make the "Danger: High Voltage" markings a bit larger; I can't see them in the rendering.)

Posted by Hey wait! | March 19, 2008 5:51 PM

All things being equal (relative) nothing too terribly awful about any of these buildings.

Posted by umvue | March 19, 2008 6:33 PM

One time an HR person tried to enter my address like so:

XXX Bellevue Ave
East Apt X
Seattle, WA 98102

I had to kindly explain to them why this was a Bad Idea(tm) and they informed me that their HR software could only hold 20 characters per line. I had to wonder, is this 1965? Is their HR software also susceptible to the Y2K bug?

I don't get the concrete wall thing. What is there now? I could go look but I'm Lazy.

Posted by w7ngman | March 19, 2008 6:43 PM

20 characters per line? thats fucking ridiculous.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 19, 2008 7:49 PM

More stupid balconies that no one will ever use except for putting plastic lawn chairs on or storing bikes. Why put balconies on these buildings? They are ugly and too small. If there has to be a balcony then put something bigger that people will actually use.

Posted by -B- | March 19, 2008 11:32 PM

So instead of drab, hideous architecture, you have drab, hideous architecture splashed in yellow paint. Paint doesn't cover up shitty form and structure.

Posted by Gloria | March 20, 2008 6:36 AM

I used to make fun of the Pearl District in Portland for having too many uninspired condo projects. That was before I moved back up to Washington.

I take everything back. Seattle has some truly terrible architecture with only a few minor exceptions.

Posted by sirlearnsalot | March 20, 2008 7:47 AM

for all you archiecture critics, why aren't you putting in design proposals and running developer companies. put up or shut up.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 20, 2008 8:44 AM

I do work for a developer!

Posted by Hey wait! | March 20, 2008 4:58 PM

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