Department of Planning meetings are not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon or evening.
But they are often filled with interesting tidbits about upcoming projects and issues that surround them. This project is quite interesting partly due to the fierce opposition to it by a number of parties.
The building is located on the northwest corner of 2nd and Pike. It's an old brick building that has a teriyaki shop on the corner of the main floor and the upstairs seems to be mostly boarded up. It recently has been granted “historical landmark status”, which means there are severe restrictions on what can be done with it. Nevertheless, the owner would like to put 92 condo units ABOVE the existing structure for a total of 22 floors! I was perplexed on how he intended to accomplish this until I heard he intends to completely gut out the building, leaving only the facade as a reminder of the building's former self. If you are familiar with the 1521 project in mid-construction next door, you're probably quite aware of this proposed project. If approved, all of the lower south-facing units in the 1521 will have their views almost completely blocked by a concrete wall just a few feet outside their windows. Most of the comments at the meeting were from future property owners of the 1521. While they wanted to emphasis the impact on the view, I'm not sure the Planning Department can take this on as “an environmental issue”. Views get blocked all the time in Seattle and are not protected in most cases. There were a few comments concerning the “wind-tunneling effect”, but I didn't hear or see any supporting data being offered up.
I brought up an issue raised back at the design review stage about service access. I remember them talking about having only one service elevator that accesses from under the pedestrian sidewalk in front of the building. It seems that would be logistically difficult and inadequate given the high traffic patterns and needs of all the tenants, residents, and businesses of the proposed building. I remember them saying that all construction, garbage, deliveries, and supplies would have to be serviced through this. When it rises to the sidewalk it virtually blocks all pedestrian traffic. No other access from the side or ally is planned.
This will be interesting to see how it plays out. My guess is this project may be denied. No doubt there is a great deal of political pressure from the influential people involved with the 1521. And it seems hard to justify such a radical departure from historical landmark restoration guidelines.
I was at the previous meeting on this project a year or so ago, when the architect was late and everyone was waiting. The owner called him in the meeting and found he was stuck in traffic. I remember the owner, who was trying to sway over the Planning Department to his proposal, saying to him on his cell phone, “Just leave the car in traffic and let it be towed and get in here! I'll pay forth the tickets and towing charges!” Sometimes these meetings can be fun after all!