The West Seattle Triangle neighborhood is a rapidly developing area on the precipice of major change with the future promise of a light-rail station. At the end of last week, a project was introduced that will build on that change. Ankrom Moisan Architects, Berger Partnership and the Sweeney Family proposed a project for a 7-story apartment building with floor-level retail during an early design guidance meeting to the Southwest Design Review Board. The project is designed with goals to provide the neighborhood access to modern amenities, while also emphasizing the historic presence of the lumber industry through the architecture and design of the new building. In response, the Board recommended the project move forward to the recommendation phase.
The site, located at 4440 Fauntleroy Way SW, is currently part of the Alki Lumber Yard, which has been family owned and located in West Seattle since 1921. The site is at the intersection of Fauntleroy Way SW and SW Avalon Way, which both act as main entry points to the West Seattle Junction Area. The site is bordered by major arterial routes Avalon Way SW, 35th Ave SW, Fauntleroy Way SW and Alaska, and the neighborhood itself is bordered by several roads that provide transportation to and from West Seattle. It is a junction for the blended residential and institutional communities that call West Seattle Triangle home.
The Sweeney Family’s future vision for the site is to preserve a heritage retail presence for Alki Lumber, as well as providing modern retail and residential spaces for the surrounding community. The project has three goals, one of which summarizes the Sweeney Family’s vision to “honor the past, plan for the future,” alongside activating the streetscape along the 80-foot right of way. The third and final project goal is to act as a neighborhood anchor. West Seattle will be home to a new light-rail station in 2030, which will determine much of the neighborhood’s unique and evolving character, and the team hopes this project will provide a semblance of continuity for the area in an upcoming decade of change.
“In designing these buildings, we’re looking for a way to create that thread of continuity while still providing an incredibly rich palate of materials and set of spaces that are interactive,” said Jenny Chapman, senior designer at Ankrom Moisan Architects, during the early design guidance meeting.
According to project documents, the 34,701 square foot site will house a 7-story apartment building over one floor of retail space. Existing buildings will be demolished. The 217 residential units will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom spaces, with 161 parking spaces proposed. The commercial space spans 16,300 square feet at street level along 36th, with activated streetspace and connectivity to additional retail amenities along Fauntleroy and Avalon. The team intends to create a welcoming experience for pedestrians along the ample 80 foot right of way, which also lends the team another opportunity to be creative with sidewalk use and retail engagement.
“When we think about the right of way, we do so recognizing the commercial heritage of the Triangle, where streetscapes and commercial operations have really been inextricably linked both in terms of their functionality but also their spatial relationship,” said David Cutler, the project’s urban design consultant and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) liaison, and partner at northwest studio.
Ankrom Moisan Architects explained the inspiration behind their massing concept, stacked lumber, as not only a reference to Alki Lumber but also a resource for organizing the space and form of the site. According to the proposal, lumber stacks are organized yet irregular, with two distinct faces along the linear and stacked end sides. The preferred massing option places the rough face of the stack toward Avalon, Fauntleroy and Oregon, with upper-level massing modulation in the North/South direction. A street-level setback along the retail promenade of 36th allows space for patrons and pedestrians, with plazas to break up the street wall and upper-level massing designed to shift to outward facing courtyards further along the North/South direction. A through-block connection runs East/West through the site to provide mobility, and upper level bays along 36th will add more depth and texture to the facade while reinforcing the stacked lumber concept.
The team pointed out the importance of oblique modulation along Fauntleroy in the preferred massing option to the future of the neighborhood.
“We want to design this for any potential scenario, and one possibility with the light rail is that there be an elevated track at about 50 feet,” Chapman said. “Having the upper level modulation oblique to Fauntleroy will help mitigate noise and give a little privacy.”
The Board appreciated the team’s dedication to maintaining continuity through the use of materials and spaces. They unanimously supported the preferred massing option, but also requested more details of the street frontages. The Board also requested more details on the development of the walls around the plazas, along with more activation of the plazas because of the roles they play in the through-block connection. The Board said they would like to see additional studies on the composition of the alley facade, as well as more development of all ground-level units and the landscape at the intersection of Fauntleroy and 36th.
The project team requested support from the Board in four main areas requiring approval from SDOT: new and improved public spaces which will enhance pedestrian safety, public boardwalks between the buildings and sidewalk, a midblock speed table to help slow traffic and a narrow yield, two-way travel lane for pedestrian safety. The Board was inclined to provide their support, with the caveat that the team conduct more accessibility studies for the boardwalk, and that they provide details for options if these four design requests are not approved.
Finally, the project team requested a departure regarding an eight foot average setback above 65 feet from the front property line, which was supported by the Board.
At the conclusion of the early design guidance meeting, the Board recommended the project move forward to the recommendation phase, encouraging the team to continue emphasizing the material development of the project to preserve the history of the site and to use the suggestions provided by the Board during the meeting to achieve the project goals. 4440 Fauntleroy Way SW moves one step closer toward achieving the Sweeney Family’s vision for the space and maintaining the hybrid quality of the West Seattle Triangle, preserving the past while providing modern amenities for the future.