A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods


New Fred Meyer designs online for public review

September 25th, 2009 · Comments

Fred Meyer will present its revamped plans for a new store on 85th St. at the Design Review Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Ballard High School library. You can view the entire proposal online here.

I sat down with Ted Panton of GGLO Architects this morning to go over those new designs and find out how the designers incorporated all the community input they’ve received over the last few months.

When Fred Meyer presented its three options at the last Design Review Board meeting in July, the DRB sent them back to the drawing board after seeing that two of the three options were basically throw-aways.

Panton said Design Review Boards typically know they’re going to get two options that no one really wants, and the third, best, option. But in this case the DRB wanted three viable designs. “They felt they needed to see a broader variety of site design options,” he said.

That’s something Panton said was actually a good thing, because he thinks the newer designs are a great improvement over the past designs after incorporating neighbors’ concerns. “It’s helped us coalesce a plan that really works for everyone,” he said.

Fred Meyer leases the site from Greenwood Shopping Center, which is owned by descendents of one of the area’s original families, the Morrows. Fred Meyer has a 20-year lease, with eight additional five-year renewals.

Complicating the design is the fact that the 7.31-acre site drops more than 16 feet from the southwest corner of the site to the northeast corner. About 75 percent of the Fred Meyer store will be underground, with other retail, residential and public spaces on top. The new design calls for about 680 parking spaces, as opposed to the original plan of 800.

While Fred Meyer will present three real options to the DRB, they still have their preferred option, Option A. Option B is very similar to Option A, but with some changes to the “lid” and housing. Option C is essentially a big, two-story building fronting on 85th Street with only 100 units of housing, a parking garage and large parking lots. Below is Option A.

Fred Meyer insists that a two-story building is not financially feasible for them, because studies show the second story of a large store gets 50% less revenue. Because groceries would have to be located on the first floor, that means furniture, clothing, electronics and other bigger-ticket items would be on the second floor, but wouldn’t be as profitable. Two-story stores also need more employees, increasing their labor costs.

After past community meetings where neighbors said they wanted to establish the old right-of-ways of through streets through the area, designers came up with a design that re-establishes 2nd Avenue NW and NW 86th Street to some degree.

NW 86th St. is now a wide walking and biking lane. The north and south residential buildings along 3rd Avenue NW will be connected by a two-level enclosed walkway that goes over the NW 86th St. pathway. This is the view to the east if standing on 3rd Avenue.

2nd Avenue NW will allow cars to drive from 85th St. into the parking garage, and will also have sidewalks for pedestrians. It will have a very slow speed limit, and will have a low rise street that goes up and over the Fred Meyer store.

What that does, Panton says, is subdivide the massive project into smaller regions or zones.

After residents along 87th Street expressed concerns about the town homes above and in front of the parking garage on the northeast corner, the designs have drastically cut back the number of proposed housing units from about 280 to just over 200. And all of the housing has been removed from that northeast corner and will be concentrated along 85th Street and 3rd Avenue NW, presenting a more residential “face” to those busy streets.

Those residential areas would have 10-foot sidewalks plus 10 feet for the housing’s yard/stoop areas.

The parking garage will be three stories, but the top story will not be covered. The conifers along 87th Street will be preserved, and will provide a visual buffer to the parking garage. There’ll be a new sidewalk, then a six-foot wide swath of landscaping, then a parallel parking lane next to the street.

Truck access has been moved from 87th Street to 3rd Avenue NW. The loading docks are now below grade. Trucks will move one-way through that route, and exit onto 1st Avenue.

“Once the trucks are on site, all the backing motion and the noise are all below grade,” Panton said. “This is the best low-impact solution.”

The Garden Center, which was originally proposed to be on the “lid” of the project next to a small parking area, has been moved down to the ground level next to the community plaza, now called Piper Commons, on 1st Avenue. The lid will now have two small parking lots dedicated to residential parking, plus a third lot that is open to all. Below is the Commons area.

A parcel on the north side, referred to as Parcel 3 in the designs, currently houses the Fred Meyer loading dock, but is not incorporated into the current designs. Fred Meyer leases it from a different owner (not Greenwood Shopping Center). Panton says that lease runs until about 2020, but Fred Meyer has determined it doesn’t need that parcel.

At Monday night’s DRB meeting, Fred Meyer will present its plans, then the public will have ample time for input before the board discusses the project. We’ll have a full report after the meeting.

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  1. Matt says:

    Interesting changes. I’m actually sad to see that the townhomes along 87th have gone away, since that’s the street I walk to get to downtown Greenwood, and having a bit more residential there (rather than the back of a parking garage) would’ve made for a much nicer walk.

    I saw there was some objection (to the previous design) to the conifers coming out, but it seems like they’re really only there to hide the parking garage anyway.

  2. Kieran Dunne says:

    Sounds like an increasingly cozy relationship for this “blog” and Fred Meyer Corporation. While you seemed to have gathered some data – where is the research of any balanced view of community preference?

  3. Rob Fellows says:

    Oh come on. The blog reporter was reporting on what was heard from Fred Meyer. If you have another point of view, let’s hear it, but don’t start maligning the reporter for going and getting a story.

    I am sick of blog comments that substitute a whack at other people’s motivations for any real argument of one’s own.

  4. Whopper says:

    “any balanced view of community preference?”

    Which community yours or the ones who are happy to see this block finally get turned around and improved?

  5. Jon says:

    I think a lot of these plans are really a great and welcome improvement to the neighborhood. The one thing that gets me are the Fred Meyer plans.

    1. The current store is an absolute mess. It is totally understaffed and disheveled; overall, a bad shopping experience. Who’s to say this will change with the new store?

    2. What about grocery competition from companies that aren’t owned by Kroger? Why is Town & Country being removed, if Fred Meyer is still concerned about space?

  6. Austin King says:

    @Matt – I agree. The “brownstone” houses really seemed like a step forward with a dense, urban feel. It’s now a parking lot. The north side of Piper Village is sad, without so much as sidewalks.

    @Kieran – So do something, instead of sitting on your duff. Pick up the phone, do some research, write a blog post and link to it in your next comment.

    Overall, I really like the 86th st bike like and Grid improvements. I can directly see several changes in the plans from the community and design review board feedback.

    The re-zoning seems to have shrunk back to it’s original area, staying off the blocks West of 3rd, which is good.

    It’s still a tricky and ambitious project. I think the design has come a long way. I don’t want to end up with a Stoneyway crater, but we have no guarantees or oversight here, since it’s a private development.

    I’m sad I will miss the Monday meeting. Big ups to phinneywood.com for linking to the Design Review Proposal and interviewing GGLO. Thanks!

  7. Jason says:

    Shame to see they scrapped the housing on the north side of the lot that hid the parking and added density.

    Town homes/condos vs exposed parking lot. If I lived adjacent (I live a couple blocks away) I would prefer dwellings. But at both meetings people complained specifically of that housing. Rambling about everything from scale to worrying about too much density.

    Well there you have it. Parking lot. Enjoy it.

  8. Kate Martin says:

    People complained about the housing above the garage, not the housing facing 87th that hide the garage. They didn’t want the 65′ there. I would definitely advocate for housing fronting 87th. It would actually be great to have the Doug Firs and the set back being the “frontyards” of those town houses.

  9. R says:

    Thank you for the summary.
    Please be aware that use of simple future tense
    “The parking garage WILL be three stories…”
    rather than, for example, a conditional tense
    “The parking garage WOULD be three stories…”
    makes this sound like an inevitability rather than a proposal.