Home AEC Design Review Board Recommends Magnolia Safeway Project Return for Second EDG Meeting

Design Review Board Recommends Magnolia Safeway Project Return for Second EDG Meeting

Magnolia Safeway, The Village, Living Building Pilot Program, Seattle, Security Properties, Bumgardner, Communita Atelier
Image Courtesy of Bumgardner

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

Magnolia Village, located on a peninsula in Puget Sound, is one of seven hills around which the city of Seattle was once constructed. Now, it’s occupied with a variety of amenities and activities for locals to enjoy, and reaps some of the benefits created by the exclusivity of geographic seclusion. Seasonal festivals ranging from the Fall Wine and Art Walk to Winter-fest, the Farmer’s Market and family-owned retailers and restaurants are just some of the attractions people can enjoy at “The Village,” which is characterized by single-family homes featuring gabled roofs and green setbacks. New developments currently under construction are helping bring more diversity to the residences on the peninsula, while preserving the wooded areas and coastal region of Discovery Park and the remainder of northwest Puget Sound. 

As part of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program and in an effort to continue adding to the diversity, Security Properties, Bumgardner and Comunita Atelier presented a proposal during a first early design guidance meeting to the West Design Review Board for a seven-story apartment building with a ground-floor Safeway grocery store. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board made several comments for guidance and recommended the project return for a second early design guidance meeting.

The site, which is addressed at 2550 32nd Avenue West, is currently developed with an Albertsons grocery store built in 1955 and a surface parking lot. The Albertsons will be demolished to make space for the new project. The avenue is an arterial road that travels south to the Magnolia Village commercial area. Multifamily residential buildings are located to the north and south of the site, with single-family homes across the alley to the east and Lowery C. “Pop” Mounger Pool to the west of the area. The neighborhood is also home to Magnolia Playfield, Magnolia Community Center, Blaine Jr. High School and Catharine Blaine K-8 School.

According to project documents, the 41,200 square foot site will be developed with a seven-story apartment building with approximately 155,000 square feet of residential space and 29,500 square feet of retail space for a Safeway grocery store on the bottom floor. The building will be comprised of 138 units, with 224 parking stalls proposed both at surface level and below grade. The project will also feature a 3,168 square foot public plaza. Amenities of the plaza will include covered bike parking, new sidewalks and curbside plantings and an edible display garden. The plaza will also feature a spring to demonstrate how water is being used sustainably both in the building and the landscape.

This project marks the first mixed-use building residential building in the Living Building Pilot Program (LBPP), a land use incentive program launched by the city of Seattle to encourage building design with regenerative, sustainable efforts in mind. According to the project documents, the goals of this particular project are multifold: emphasize Magnolia Village’s historical context of human connection with natural elements, conserve resources and create a biophilic design while using healthy materials. To be compliant with LBPP’s “Petal Certification,” buildings must meet at least three of seven sustainability categories, which include Energy, Water, Materials, Place, Health & Happiness, Equity and Beauty. The Magnolia Safeway project meets the Materials, Beauty and Health & Happiness requirements, according to the project documents. 

During the first early design guidance meeting, the Board voiced several concerns about the lack of details in the massing options and how the options lacked any specific sort of design concept. Option 3, which was the preferred option, features a 10 foot residential setback, but the Board said it lacked details on both the retail and plaza design. The Board also mentioned that Options 1 and 2 seemed to be duplicates of Option 3, and that Option 3 shouldn’t be the preferred option simply because it was the only option available. Ultimately, the Board requested more details on the height, bulk and scaling in the next early design guidance meeting, along with more details on the retail and plaza design. 

During the meeting, the Board also mentioned concerns about the design concept of the project and that it lacked any sort of recognizable design. Their comments primarily dealt with surface parking and how it detracted from the plaza, as well as a lack of understanding of how the grading worked with the location of the plaza. Along with their comments about the design concept, the Board also requested more information during the next meeting on parking access off 32nd Avenue West and how the design will work without a midblock pedestrian crossing, which is not currently supported by the Seattle Department of Transportation. 

Other comments made by the Board during the meeting included discussions on articulation and the project’s impact on LBPP. The Board mentioned they would prefer additional articulation on the massing volumes, and additional studies that would show how the building would look from the west and east sides. They also requested more information on how LBPP elements would be used in the design, along with more details on how the design met the sustainability goals of the project.

The Board requested no development standard departures during the first early design guidance meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board recommended the project return for a second early design guidance meeting in response to the suggestions made.