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It's all about the retail.

That and the lack of any solutions during the Viaduct rebuild or Surface Plus Transit build that will make life in monorail-less West Seattle sheer hell.

Even the bus rides will take longer.

So having ground retail nearby becomes more critical, unless you want to drive south and go on I-5.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 29, 2008 4:21 PM

"And there's Uncle Joe, he's a movin' kinda slow at the Junction..."

Man, I'm old.

Posted by Bigyaz | May 29, 2008 4:29 PM

That's the Easy Street corner, right? I'll betcha a million bucks that new building doesn't have deep retail space like that, or an upstairs for vinyl. I'll betcha two that Easy Street won't be able to afford the rent in the new building, either.

Say hello to your new tanning salon.

It IS all about retail, and NO ONE in Seattle is designing usable retail spaces on the proven 1920s streetscape model. The retail spaces in this building will be shallow and excessively wide. Another street will start to die.

Posted by Fnarf | May 29, 2008 4:43 PM

@2 - Yeah me too. Guess I'm movin' kinda slow myself these days.

But I also wanted to add, isn't funny that every post of architectural design for some upcoming project looks just like the ones above. Do we even have architects in Seattle or is this all that we are left to, constant recycling and no new ideas? Are we doomed to become the most boring place on earth? Unfortunately, I can guess the answer.

Posted by sad comment | May 29, 2008 4:43 PM

beautiful, needs monorail.

Posted by Cale | May 29, 2008 4:57 PM

The corridor between the West Seattle Bridge and the Junction is several blocks of parking, car dealerships, and fast food. It would benefit enormously from more density and would not be displacing anything that will be too badly missed.

Posted by lorax | May 29, 2008 4:58 PM

The new development is on the opposite corner of the intersection from Easy Street.

Posted by Matson | May 29, 2008 4:58 PM

Ah. Thank you, Matson. That's a relief.

What's there now? Is that the block with the sports bar? Where are they going to go? Again, if it's what I'm thinking of, those retail spaces are extraordinarily deep, and the replacement spaces will be shallow and wide, as they always are. They'll be perfect for businesses that don't have any stock, or need for back patios, or restrooms, or anything like that. Maybe an ice-cream place! Or tanning! Or sandwich assembly!

Posted by Fnarf | May 29, 2008 5:13 PM

Tofu and gelato actually, Fnarf. And coffee - we can never have too much of that ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 29, 2008 5:17 PM

Fnarf @3:

Why is shallow retail less useful than narrow and deep retail? Given a constant price per square foot, would you expect Easy Street could still work with a wider storefront? Or does it have to do wider storefronts meaning less retail diversity along a sidewalk meaning fewer people walking by?

Posted by Steve | May 29, 2008 5:18 PM

What's there now:
Super Supplements, several small storefronts on the Calif Ave side (a cell-phone store, Rubato Records, Funky Jane's consignment clothing among them); east and south, Rocksport sports bar/restaurant, city neighborhood services office, a travel agency, nail salon. Not mentioned above, the alley between the two buildings is envisioned as a pedestrian space with retail frontage.

Posted by wsb | May 29, 2008 5:56 PM

Steve, wide, shallow storefronts are bad on both counts.

For width, you surmise correctly: wide storefronts reduce the diversity of retail in a given block, and reduce the density of shopping attractants. I believe that the attractiveness of a shopping block increases as the square of the number of shops on it.

As for depth there are several advantages. Shops need back rooms; think of shoe stores, for instance. Restaurants need kitchens. And bathrooms. It's ridiculous for these back room uses to be squeezed up in the front of a shop. Also, retail space doesn't need to all be laid out in front of the windows; the windows draw customers in, but deep spaces create more space for stuff inside.

Think about all those shops on the west side of California Avenue that have back entrances. Those disappear in the new building style. A space like West 5 can't exist in a modern building. MOST of the shops along that street would fail if they had to give up their back half.

Think if it as Lego blocks. If you have ten blocks, you can lay them out end-to-end or side-by-side. Side-by-side takes up half as much street frontage, which is the only scarce commodity in a streetscape.

the answers to these questions where settled long ago. ALL of the vibrant streetscapes in Seattle -- and every other city in the country -- are made up of narrow, deep shops in buildings from the heyday of American commercial architecture -- roughly the 1870s through 1920s. Newbury Street in Boston; Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Union Street in San Francisco (and many others there), practically the whole of New York City. Here, we have miles of architecturally undistinguished but immensely valuable strip retail -- along University, 45th in Wallingford, California Ave., Broadway, Rainier in Columbia City, ad infinitum. There's a REASON for this; there's a REASON people moved into Pike-Pine a couple of decades ago and said "hey, this'd be PERFECT". The spaces ARE perfect.

It's not necessary to keep all of this space, as long as you replicate it. Losing the Bus Stop/Bimbo's block is not any kind of tragedy, UNLESS you ignore the basics of how to build usable space like it when you put up the new building. The people building in Seattle today HAVE lost that knowledge. What's worse, they don't care; they're only laying on the facades of fake retail to appease the idiots on the city design board, but they're really using all that ground-floor space behind the fake retail for parking and stuff.

Posted by Fnarf | May 29, 2008 6:17 PM

Whatever is there will be a huge improvement from Super Supplements and Rocksport. That's always been the worst corner in the Junction. Rubato's really the only thing I'll miss in that entire footprint, and they could probably find new storefront.

Posted by MacJ | May 29, 2008 6:36 PM

Good explanation Fnarf. Thanks.

But it occurs to me, why would the dumb builders be winning out over those who would build narrow retail spaces?

BTW rowhouses are somewhat similar -- in the narrow versus wide frontage aspect.

In cities that built them late 1800's-early 1900s -- on narrow lots -- so that each one faced the street and had a porch or stoop and doorways facing the street (lower/upper or just upper) (think of the shrink's office in Dressed to Kill, the Huxtables' etc.) -- and no parking provided, natch -- they are nice looking.

HEre they tend to suck. Because they are not one to a lot with narrow frontage; instead they are built in clusters on wider, larger lots. They have to have parking garages. They have some in front and some not even on the street, in back.

Those on the street often have blank fences. Ugly.

In this case, though, the code is partly to blame, not just builder ignorance.

Posted by PC | May 29, 2008 6:45 PM

Stop writing about west seattle, there is nothing to see here.

Posted by stfu slog, stay away | May 29, 2008 7:08 PM

Rowhouses are a perfect example, PC. As you say, they are great for EXACTLY the same reason. They, along with the related Boston-area "three-decker", are the perfect housing type for dense, livable cities.

Posted by Fnarf | May 29, 2008 7:51 PM

Give the developer a break here. This is an early guidance meeting and the images shown will not be the final look of the buildings. They are only massing studies.

Posted by steveo | May 29, 2008 9:55 PM

is there a rule that every new building constructed in seattle must look EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME? i am so goddamn tired of it! flat panels, 12" indents, and colors of goldenrod and oxblood and caribbean to offset the poor-man's-vancouver metal? jesus! this could be anywhere in town... and lo, it already is.

Posted by pretentious | May 29, 2008 11:00 PM

Thanks, Fnarf (& PC). That makes a lot of sense.

So what should we do about it? Should we be changing codes to discourage shallow retail spaces? Swapping height limits to move our redevelopment to non-retail areas instead?

As an anecdote about street frontage, diversity and policy, I recall reading somewhere that Amsterdam used to levy property tax on the basis of street frontage, which is part of why that city has such incredibly narrow row houses.

Posted by Steve | May 30, 2008 12:30 AM

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