Design Review Board gets first look at Greenwood Fred Meyer proposal

by | Jul 14, 2009

Editor’s Note: We couldn’t attend last night’s Early Design Guidance meeting for the proposed Greenwood Fred Meyer development, but neighborhood residents Austin King and Patty O’Hara were kind enough to cover it for us and take pictures. Below is their report. Thanks, Austin and Patty!
Last night at Ballard High School was the Design Review Board’s Early Design Guidance meeting. Originally scheduled to be held in the library, it ended up in a classroom and was so well attended that it spilled out into the hallway. The presentation, board Q&A, public Q&A, and lastly board deliberation lasted much longer than the planned 1 hour and 25 minutes.

First Tom Gibbons of Fred Meyer described the project history. He noted that the project goes back to 1997. The current attempt goes back 7 months where they worked with the City Council’s Greenwood Planning Commission as well as community members to arrive at their current plan.
Next GGLO Principal Chris Libby showed the three plans which had been iterated on with input by the community. Options A and B being large big box stores taking up much of the ground level. Lastly he presented Option C, which was the only option to include the residential component and input from the community. This option C was covered exclusively in the community review meeting last Thursday – see PhinneyWood’s recent post.

Option A

Option B

Option C
Lastly GGLO Project Manager Ted Panton walked through some of the design priorities of the project:

  • Retail and housing; added density
  • Village feel
  • Pedestrian friendly
  • Private and public open spaces
  • Sustainability via LEED certification (This would be the second LEED certified building for Fred Meyer – one was recently built in Portland)
  • Peat bog considerations
  • Incorporating 1st Ave, which is a designated “Green Street

An interesting note is that the NW corner of the property is not owned by Greenwood Shopping Center Inc, but the rest of the 8 acre parcel is.
The group then outlined deviations from design guidelines and city rules and gave justifications for the design decisions including:

  • Rezoning to allow for the residential on top of the parking garage
  • Increase residential on 3rd Ave above the 20% limit for arterial lanes

Design Board Q&A
The northwest design review board, led by Mark Brands, is made up of architects and landscape architects who live in Ballard, Wallingford, Phinney and Greenwood – Bill Singer, Guy Peckhan, Joe Giampietro, and Jean Morgan. Along with Scott Kemp of the Department of Planning, they asked questions to the developers and architects.

Joe’s questions captured much of the design questioning between the board and GGLO / Bruce / Fred Meyer. The first question was if they had considered re-development of the existing store, to which Developer Bruce Lorig answered that the existing building was too old. Next Joe asked if they had considered multiple points of entries. Lastly he mentioned that there was a lot of community interest around connecting intersections and making interesting public spaces. He asked “how does this project respond to this requirement”? Ted responded that the “knuckle” (where ‘morrow lane and 1st street meet) on the Green street was an open space
Public Design Questions/Comments
There were many comments and questions from the audience, the board gave everyone who wanted to the opportunity to speak. Issues were raised about the fundamentals of the project – “Why does the footprint have to be so big?” “Is this compatible with our community?” The scale of the store raised some questions about longterm viability “Where will this put us in 10, 20 or 30 years?” Will it still make sense to have a big box store in the town center?
A key issue raised was the peat bog and Safeway / Tully’s past developments having causing damage to nearby residential structures. Initially the board and the developers presented this as a technical issue to be dealt with by specialists, but it was brought up several times with community member’s afraid for the environment of the bog, as well as “3 football fields” of store further disrupting the already fragile and uneven neighborhood streets and lots.
A common refrain from the audience was around the removal of Greenwood Market. Several people commented that this development does not promote walking but promotes them driving to another grocery store where they can get locally produced goods. Many of these comments overlapped, but included:

  • The community values Greenwood Market
  • Greenwood Market doesn’t compete directly with Safeway
  • Fred Meyer will have to compete with Safeway which is two blocks away
  • Fred Meyer, nor other Kroger stores carry specialtiy items and local foods
  • Commentors who consider themselves long time, loyal Fred Meyer customers for household items will probably stop shopping there because they will already be leaving the neighborhood to shop for groceries.

Others were excited about the density, and the opportunity this brings to develop the Greenwood core.
As we drilled into the design, issues were raised about access, for both vehicles and pedestrians both to and through the site. The current design has several shifts in elevation, making it difficult to imagine traversing the site in a wheelchair or with a stroller. Pedestrian access into the site is also nebulous especially from the west side of the lot from 85th where the bus stop is and along 3rd. Vehicular access raises similar issues. The primary access points to the parking garage are on 87th which is a narrow, residential street. Another access point for cars is from 85th which seems like it might cause congestion on an already crowded street. Where to direct the delivery trucks is another big question.
Design Board Deliberation
After the public comments, the board met to give the applicants direction on where to go next. For this part, anyone who wanted to could stay with the caviat that they had to be quiet. This is a group of professional architects, who live in the general area. Some of whom were more familiar with the current state of the area than others. All had listened to the community and offered their own insights as well.
They quickly came to a unanimous decision that the project team needs to come back with 3 real, viable options. While GGLO presented 3 options, it was clear that A and B were throwaways and the only viable option was C. The parameters of the design review require 3 and we were really only presented with 1. The board continued to layout what they wanted to see in the options:

  • Explore options for the massing of height and scale. Currently the largest portion of the design – the 3 story parking lot with 3 stories of housing on top – exists on the 87th st side, where the existing development is single family residential. Considerations should include looking at the light patterns and matching the scale to the existing houses across the street.
  • Explore a two-layer store – Fred Meyer has put forth that this is not viable as 2 level stores do not bring in as much revenue, but the board agreed that they would like them to explore the option anyways to possibly address some of the other design challenges.
  • Look at providing more entrances into the store, especially on the 85th St side. The current design shows one primary entrance.
  • Review the vehicle entrances into the space. The board agreed that there is no one great place to direct the traffic so the best option is to filter the traffic through multiple entrances – they should explore that a little more.
  • Look at how the space aligns with the existing neighborhood – how can the vehicle throughways match up with the existing grid to bring more continuity to the surrounding areas – like 2nd Ave to Sandel Park and Morrow lane to Greenwood Ave.

What’s next?
We can assume another Early Design Guidance meeting will be scheduled to review a full “3 option design”.
The city of Seattle, represented by Scott Kemp was collecting names and addresses of anyone interested to keep them informed. If you want to be put on the mailing list, send your US mailing address to Scott Kemp ([email protected]).
Also the Greater Greenwood Design & Development Advocacy Group was collecting names and addresses for their mailing list. Contact [email protected] get on their mailing list.

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