By Meghan Hall
After seven months spent working through the early design review process, a new, mixed-use project in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood has received the green light from the West Design Review Board to move forward. At the end of October, residential developer Security Properties and Bumgardner Architects pitched their revised plans to replace the Magnolia Village Albertsons with state-of-the-art housing over an enlarged Safeway grocery store.
The proposed development will rise at 2550 32nd Ave. W., and project plans indicate that 138 residential units and 29,500 square feet of retail space are planned. Currently, the property is developed with an existing Albertson’s and surface parking lot. The building was originally constructed in 1955.
The latest meeting was the project’s third Early Design Guidance submittal and came in response to guidance from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection in June of 2020. The project’s first Early Design Guidance meeting took place in March of last year, and was met with a wide range of commentary from both the Board and the Magnolia community. Previous commentary focused abundantly on the lack of variability between proposed massing options and their ability to fit into the neighborhood context—feedback that the project team focused carefully on in their updated designs.
The project team presented five different massing options, but found support for its preferred option, titled “Hybrid.” Security Properties and Bumgardner proposed utilizing two primary masses combined with a third “hinge” element to connect the rectilinear north block with the more curved south block. Step backs will be introduced on the upper two levels and will wrap on three sides, which will culminate in a full façade setback and landscaped terrace along the alleyway.
“The Albertson’s redevelopment site is the gateway and portal to the recently up zoned heart of Magnolia, the Magnolia Village, and all Massing Design Options presented are intended to reflect this special location,” explained the project team in its project submittal. “We believe the building along 32nd Avenue West (“32nd”) should have a strong architectural presence and with the alley side abutting single family zoning, this elevation should have a more restrained architectural spirit.”
The massing will evoke a balance of humanity and nature, according to design documents, and will ultimately tie in with the developer’s plans to pursue the Living Building Challenge.
“This is an opportunity to deliver a project that meets the Living Building Pilot Program, that conserves resources, utilizes healthy materials and sets a precedent for deeply sustainable design in the Magnolia community,” design documents state.
As part of the Living Building Challenge, the setbacks will allow for more light and air to enter the development and for more vegetative landscaping. Biophilic planters and ground/rain water treatment systems will be applied and titanium dioxide will be added to the concrete mix to offset pollution.
Other design elements will include a depressed plaza will use the various grades on the site to provide both open areas and secluded buffered spaces. The plaza will relate specifically to the ground plane and grocery store level and will include an outdoor food court adjacent to the store. An Uber pick up and community kiosk are also part of the project’s exterior plans.
“The team feels these conclusions best respond to City guidance and community concerns, while also fulfilling Safeway’s program requirements, and integrating into the existing neighborhood,” the project team explained.
Overall, the Board and community supported the design team’s preferred massing option and updated design options. The Board noted in its deliberations that the massing provides a better transition to neighboring properties and surrounding neighborhood context. The Board also suggested utilizing façade articulation and materials to further break down the perceived massing of the norther façade, which the Board and community cautioned could be “wall-like.”
The Board did ask for additional clarification on how the southern massing elements will manifest, and requested that the transitions in design language and materiality will need to be cohesive to produce a well-designed whole building. Secondary massing moves through vertical notches and protruding balconies, may not be enough to fully minimize the perceived scale of the building in the future, which the project team will need to note as it continues to refine the design, stated the Board.
Despite the lengthy feedback and deliberations, the Board unanimously voted to move the project forward to the Master Use Permit application, allowing the development team to pursue entitlements as it finalizes its design.