By Meghan Hall
One of the original “seven hills” of Seattle, the Queen Anne neighborhood didn’t see the bulk of its development occur until the early twentieth century, when the neighborhood’s first street car connecting the top of Queen Anne Hill to the rest of Seattle was built. Now, a site located at the top of Queen Anne at a pivotal intersection, is gearing up for redevelopment. At an Early Design Guidance meeting on Wednesday night, developers Cahill Equities and barrientosRYAN, as well as property owner Safeway, presented their plans to construct a 310-unit development and Safeway at 2100 Queen Anne Ave. N. The plans were well received by the Downtown Design Review Board, who gave the go-ahead for the project to move on to subsequent phases of the design review process.
The project team also includes Hewitt and Runberg Architecture Group.
“Taking a look at this…those of that live here know the great pedestrian experience,” said Kris Snider, director of design and landscape architecture at Hewitt. “There is tons of variety made even better by this great civic center that we’re standing in the middle of right now, which contributes to the excitement and vitality of the corridor. Our site doesn’t really do that right now. So, our hope is… that this is going to lock in and reinforce the pedestrian environment, reinforce the intersection and really make a strong urban [addition] to that intersection.”
According to project documents, a 50,000 square foot Albertsons/Safeway grocery story will occupy the ground level, while the residential units will be a mix of unit types, particularly two-bedrooms for roommates, couples and small families. In an effort to increase the walkability of the neighborhood, project plans also indicate that a new public plaza will be built at the corner of Queen Anne Ave. N. and Crockett. Plans will feature an array of outdoor seating, public art and landscaping improvements.
2100 Queen Ave. N. has sat at the center of the neighborhood since the 1920s, and the property in question is bounded by Queen Anne Ave. N., Boston Street, First Ave. N. and Crockett Street. Due to the site’s proximity to Boston Street, a major east/est arterial through Queen Anne, the property has long been home to community grocery stores, drugstores, doctor’s offices and even a movie theater. The site was last redeveloped in 1962 and currently has an operational Safeway store and parking lot.
The project team’s preferred massing option would rise between six and seven stories in height for a total of 487,000 square feet. The massing and modulation would mimic four different street characters and be comprised of several different buildings with open space and walkable paths throughout. Buildings A and B, located along First Ave., would be smaller, while Building C, which is expected to house the grocery store, will be the largest. The upper floors of the buildings would be divided into bays and will be dressed in metal cladding. Corner bays could be clad in brick or masonry to provide contrast. Extended roof planes at the top and breaking down the scale of the development with massing reveals are also two of the techniques the project team plans to use to provide architectural interest.
Project documents also note that with these current massing, the project would not be developed to capacity. With limited modulation, the site could accommodate 410 residential units and just over 581,000 square feet.
The Board unanimously voted to move the project forward to the next stage of the design review process. However, there was much debate around the size and scale of the development, and whether or not a Safeway of this scale was truly needed in the neighborhood. One community member pointed out that there were as many as seven other grocers in the mile radius around the site. Other community members were open to the idea of a larger store, but questioned how the developers and property owner could provide an ample pedestrian experience. The Review Board echoed these concerns, stating that as presented, the current layout of the building had several issues. Ultimately, the Board wanted to ensure the resiliency of the development as it pertained to its layout and design, particularly in a time when retail centers across the country are experiencing mixed success.