By Jack Stubbs
On September 12th, the second Early Design Guidance meeting was held for the Saigon Plaza project, a 44,000 square foot commercial development in Hillman City. The meeting, held at the Rainier Arts Center in Columbia City was attended by several members of the public, as well as the Design Review Board members from Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspection. The applicant—architect Johnson+Southerland and property owner Canh Tan Ta—reviewed several elements of the project design, such as the urban form and architectural character of the project vicinity and the potential opportunities and constraints of the project.
The intention for the project—located at 6033 MLK Way Jr. S—is to construct a two-story retail and professional service building with associated parking. The current single-story commercial buildings currently occupying the space would be removed as part of the proposal. No residential units are planned for the development.
The project consists of two buildings, which will be built in two phases. Building A will have 20,700 square feet of space and Building B is planned for 24,900 square feet of space. Leaseable space will be dedicated to retail (11,300 square feet), professional offices (12,700 square feet), eating establishments (7,600 square feet) and medical services (5,600 square feet). The retail and eating spaces will be on the ground floor, while the medical services and commercial offices will be on the second floor.
The applicant emphasized the importance of the project’s neighborhood context, noting that while the two-story property is zoned for a height of sixty-five feet, the surrounding buildings currently there are small-scale retail developments. The applicant notes that a two-story development still would conform to the scale of the neighborhood.
Johnson+Southerland referred to the “enrichment of the pedestrian experience” along the sidewalk of MLK Jr. Way South in their proposal, which might include design elements like canopies, outdoor plazas, landscaping and art work. Neighborhood integration is an important element of the project, with the shopping ground-level shopping plaza “intend[ing] to reflect the residential feel of the neighborhoods while bringing modern commercial frontage” along MLK Jr. Way South. Since it is located on a street corner, the site is considered a “gateway” property in the Othello Neighborhood guidelines and will thus need to provide a strong presence on the street level.
One of the key features of the project is the development of a “gateway” feature at the north end of the property. In the public comment section of the EDG meeting, one neighbor cited concerns about the entrance to Building A, as well as the issue of the staircase between the two buildings.
After the deliberation period, the board cited one of their primary concerns as wayfinding, especially with regard to the space between the two proposed buildings. The panel proposed that the applicant consider doubling the width of the entrance to Building A. The board approved the proposed project concept and assigned guidelines, allowing the project to proceed to the next phase.