A united crowd of commercial and residential neighbors packed Design Review last week pleading for mitigation of conjoined 500’ and 160’ luxury condo towers [#3033162-LU] proposed for an infill site in the thick of the Pike Pine corridor between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
Located on a split-zone block dominated by historic buildings and preservation landmarks, the project’s sole vehicle and significant pedestrian access come through an alley that narrows to 16’ at both ends. The project block is surrounded on all sides by transit and bike lanes. Proudly dubbed Mama and Baby by the developer, one block resident called it "a callous attempt to humanize a design that robs neighbors of light, privacy and shared use of the public alley."
In a grassroots effort, the community presented the DRB with multiple studies and images showing that unmitigated for transportation, massing and transition in bulk and scale, the towers will undermine the entire block.
The historic Melbourne Tower (home of Walgreens) produced a survey showing reliance on the alley by six existing buildings without internal space for loading and waste. Melbourne’s manager plainly asked: "with trucks parked throughout the day for 30-60 minutes or more to offload, how will the alley function with 1,000+ daily car trips going to and from Mama and Baby’s private parking garage and its separate Uber drive-up?"
Located across the alley from the towers, residents of the landmark Fischer Studio Building said Mama and Baby formed a 500’ wall that blocked both historic light and air corridors between Pike Place and Westlake Park that would leave their building in permanent shadow. One neighbor submitted a study showing Fischer would lose 95% of direct sunlight in winter months and average a loss of 50-60% throughout the year. One young woman pointed out the towers’ windows are just 16’ away from her and others’ bedroom windows. “I implore you to request further design review of this project,” she said, adding, “Privacy is a human right and necessary to feel safe!”
Noted architect and former Seattle City Councilman, Peter Steinbrueck, summed it up best when he said "This project is one of the most egregious examples of insensitivity to neighborhood context that I've seen downtown." (p. 4 of his letter).
Fortunately, the Board listened and asked the applicant to return for a second Recommendation Meeting. Before the next meeting it specifically wants to see more information from SDOT and SDCI about the transportation impacts as well as historic adjacency reviews from SDCI’s Department of Neighborhoods. These reviews have yet to be requested yet the Design Guidelines say they must be completed before the project leaves Design Review. In the week since this meeting the public has written to both SDOT and SDCI asking representatives of both agencies to walk the alley with them to find solutions. They’ve repeated the request to see historic reviews before the next meeting.
The community’s goal is not to stop new development but to see it shaped with respect for buildings around it, particularly landmarks the City has sought to preserve.We hope the Mama and Baby team will take this as direction to fit into the block’s family of buildings instead of displacing them.
If you have additional thoughts on how the developer can make this a functional project that doesn’t rob its neighbors of light, air, and privacy, send your comments on project #3033162-LU to: