By Meghan Hall
The Greenwood neighborhood north of downtown Seattle has seen an explosion of growth in both commercial and multifamily development has the regional economy continues to thrive. Local developer Washington Holdings is looking to capitalize on that growth, and has proposed plans along with architecture and design firm GGLO to transform the neighborhood’s existing Safeway into a 280-unit mixed-use project that will also include a small grocery store, restaurant and other services. After a preliminary early design guidance meeting in March of this year, the two firms returned to present updated designs for the development to the Northwest Design Review Board.
Located at 8704 Greenwood Ave. N., the proposed project would include roughly 12,000 square feet of retail and service uses, as well as 230 parking spaces. Design documents state that the redevelopment proposes housing above the retail in an effort to activate and take advantage of the project site’s walkable location and access to public transit.
While the Board generally supported these goals, it had several questions about the project’s proposed massing at the end of the prior early design guidance meeting, which led them to ask the project team for additional review. Washington Holdings and GGLO presented their revisions at the beginning of June, with the updated massing schemes reflecting the Board’s feedback. The original proposed massing was comprised of three separate buildings of varying sizes with a middle “bar,” shifted to create a wedge to the south. The buildings would also step-up in an effort to respond to the project site’s changing topography.
However, the Board recommended that this middle “bar” reflect its own individual geometry as opposed to flushing up against the property line to make the differentiation between buildings more perceptible. The Board also expressed concerns about the monolithic massing expressed along Phinney Ave. N. In response, the design team increased lower- and upper-level setbacks along Phinney to debulk the scale of the building and provide a stronger connection to the pedestrian realm, while additional vertical articulation was added to break down the building’s scale. The massing of the middle bar was also shifted to define its presence, while the southwest “connector” stair was extended down to sidewalk level to emphasize the three-bar massing from the pedestrian’s point of view.
However, despite these changes, and despite allowing the project to move forward to apply for a Master Use Permit, the Board was unenthusiastic about the changes to the design. In its deliberations, the Board stated that there was a lack of meaningful change to the design and recommended the creation of a secondary concept to continue to refine the façade along Phinney. The Board also commented that the increased modulation and setbacks failed to beak down the scale and bulk of the building. The Board did appreciate the changes GGLO and Washington Holdings made to the western stair and the shifting of the center bar.
The Board also made several suggestions as to the layout of the project’s ground floor retail, commenting that placing the leasing office at the corner of 87th and Greenwood was not an active use that would foster pedestrian interaction with the property. The Board also suggested the design team explore the use of cladding, bay composition and other materials to provide further architectural interest and character on the upper, residential levels of the project.
GGLO and Washington Holdings will return in the coming months for a formal Design Review Meeting. Washington Holdings initially purchased the property in May of 2018 for $16.52 million from Safeway, according to King County public records. Currently, the site is developed with a single-story grocery story built in 2003. If approved, Washington Holding’s proposed project will be a sizeable addition, setting the pace of change in the neighborhood.