By Meghan Hall
A development proposal submitted by Caron Architecture and Capelouto Development Company for a seven story, 75-unit apartment building at 4508 California Ave. SW was given the go-ahead by the Southwest Seattle Design Review Board to apply for a Master Use Permit at the end of November 2018. The development, which went through its second design review meeting, received support from the board and community members alike for supporting both retail and residential uses on-site.
The Junction District has a strong retail core and is becoming an increasingly dense neighborhood as more mixed-use projects filter through the construction pipeline. California Ave. SW and SW Oregon St., where the future development will rise, are major arterials through the neighborhood with high levels of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, making ground floor retail a viable solution for the development’s first floor. Currently, the project site is occupied by three one-story retail shops: the West Seattle Cyclery, Lee’s Asian and Kamei Japanese Restaurant. The existing buildings will be demolished to make way for the new mixed-use development.
The project team presented four options to the board and community, which also included 11,933 square feet of retail and lodging, 4,674 square feet of outdoor amenity space — comprised of a green roof, “growies,” a designated spot for dogs and a fire pit — as well as 17 underground parking stalls. The residences on the property will be a mix of studio and one bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 443 to 522 square feet. While the number of parking spaces is less than the number of presented units, no minimum amount of parking is required, since the site is within a designated Parking Flexibility Area, which permits residential developments to forgo parking.
The development team presented several options to the board, but the meeting primarily focused on the team’s fourth option, which the project team said aimed to “further activate the Junction streetscape.” In response to comments received at its previous Early Design Guidance meeting, the design team sought to integrate the upper and lower levels of the development. The two base levels of the building will be clad in brick, while the upper levels of the building step back from California Ave. SW to reduce the bulk and scale of the building. Metal and glass will be used as infill between brick columns incorporated into the building’s design. No departures were requested by the development team at the meeting.
The board found that the project team’s updated design was responsive to its previous guidance and appreciated the two-story brick base that was reflective of the historic character of the street. The board recommended to further refine the building’s design by articulating the upper levels of its massing to break up what it called “blank walls,” through the application of materials.
At the first early design review, the community expressed that the character of the seven story building did not align with the current context of the neighborhood, which is composed of properties that are smaller in bulk and scale. While similar concerns were expressed at the latest review meeting, approximately 20 local businesses expressed support for the development, arguing that projects of this size and scale — now and in the future — would continue to allow for community growth and what the city called the “development of vibrant and active places.” Now granted permission to move forward with a Master Use Permit application, the 4508 California Ave. SW project will contribute to the evolution and expansion of the Junction District.