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Neighbors want better pedestrian access, storm water protections at expanded Fred Meyer

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development hosted a public meeting last Monday night (Oct. 17) on Fred Meyer’s proposed expansion of its Greenwood store.

Dozens of people came to the open house meeting, viewing drawings and schematics of Fred Meyer’s plan to add 55,000 square feet to its current store. They pored over schematics of groundwater level contours, peat elevations and subsurface profiles. And they grilled Fred Meyer’s architects, engineers and consultants on storm water detention plans, pedestrian access across the site, and traffic.

Joel Howitt of Barghausen Consulting Engineers, which did the civil engineering and site planning, explained that trees and bushes will be planted in 53 locations throughout the site, most in the parking lot. And the existing fir trees along the back of the building on NW 87th Street will remain.

The pipe from the new underground storm water detention vault will connect to the current storm water pipe that goes off site. The water will be treated with a “storm filter” – essentially cans of compost material that naturally filters out pollutants. Those cans are replaced several times a year.

New sidewalks will be built along 1st Avenue NW and Northwest 87th Street, and a pedestrian walkway will run east-west across the length of the site, with a slight jog in the middle.

“We’re improving the site tremendously, adding landscaping and walkways,” Tom Gibbons, Fred Meyer’s Director of Real Estate, said. “The building as it exists today is a big sterile box and we’re adding some nice architectural elements to it.”

Terry A. Krause, architect with Group Mackenzie in Portland, said, “We’re trying to clean it up at street level…and creating green screens. It will have a much more natural look to it. Much more modern than what’s there now.”

Staff offices will be in the back of the building, along 87th Street, at ground level. That ground floor will be mostly for employees and the stockroom. Groceries will be on the west side on the upper floor.

The new entrance will be about where it is now, but will have a much larger vestibule, including an area for shopping carts.

“We’re just trying to keep it simple,” Krause said. “The main purpose of this is to add services to the building.”

Several neighbors said the plan doesn’t do enough to make the building fit into the neighborhood, that it’s still essentially a plain big box in the middle of a huge parking lot.

One neighbor wanted to see the “flexible programming space” discussed in prior development plans reinstated. In that scenario, a portion of the parking lot could be temporarily blocked off to cars and turned into a space for a farmers market, small carnival or other public use.

Evan Bourquard, an architect and co-chair of the volunteer group Greenwood Deserves Better, said bluntly, “Big picture, I think it’s a travesty that it’s going to be a parking lot for the next 60 years.”

He also felt the storm water detention vault was “pretty run of the mill” and wanted to see something more aggressive. He also wants better pedestrian access across the site, to bring people from the west side of Greenwood to the downtown core.

“We feel like they could do more to strengthen that,” he said. “We’re not real happy with it, but it is what it is. I do think it’s going to be better than it is now. But I think it’s a lost opportunity.”

One neighbor complained that the old DPD sign proclaiming the massive mixed-use development – which was shelved more than a year ago – still sits on 3rd Avenue NW. Several neighbors told me they believe some people are under the impression that the former development plan is still in the works since the sign is still there. City Planner Scott Kemp asked Fred Meyer representatives if they would take it down, and they agreed. (As of one week after the meeting, the sign was still there.)

The graffiti-covered land use sign on 3rd Avenue NW refers to mixed-use development plans that were shelved more than a year ago. A more current land use sign is placed on 87th Street, behind Fred Meyer’s underground parking.

Neighbors also were worried about pedestrian access along the west side, since there are no sidewalks on the west side of 3rd Avenue NW, except for the block between 85th and 86th streets.

They’d like the city to put in sidewalks along that stretch, as well as a crosswalk on the corner of 87th and 3rd. Otherwise, shoppers who are walking would have to walk up to 85th and 3rd, cross, then walk back to their houses without a sidewalk.

The west side of 3rd Avenue NW has just one block of sidewalk, then it disappears.

Fred Meyer’s loading docks will be in about the middle of the west side, facing 85th Street. Gibbons said they don’t like having the loading docks facing forward, but that the grading of the site demanded it, otherwise trucks backing up from the side could tip over. But those docks will be screened with some kind of greenery.

Fred Meyer expects to have about 50-60 trucks a week using the loading docks, with two or three a day being the larger semi- trucks.

There’s still time to submit your comments on the project. Send written comments to: Scott Kemp, Senior Land Use Planner, City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, 700 5th Ave., Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98124; or by email to scott.kemp@seattle.gov.

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