May 21/June 4, 2001



Project Number: 2002354

Address: 4500 25th Ave. NE

Applicant Representative: Ed Weinstein

Board members present: Jane Johnson

Sally Knodell

James Rymsza

Shauna Spencer

Board member absent: Tom Bartholomew

DCLU Staff Present: Bruce P. Rips, AICP


Project Description:

The applicant proposes to construct approximately 70,000 square feet of commercial space and an 840-stall parking garage east of the Office Depot. The commercial uses face south onto University Village and occupy two stories; the remaining portion of the structure comprises the parking garage, adjacent to University of Washington property to the north and east. Vehicular access will be located at the east end of the structure.

The project site is located at the northeast corner of the University Village complex, immediately east of the Office Depot, which is not part of the Village. The new building will displace approximately 160 parking stalls. Demolition of a one-story retail structure, containing Storables, Mailboxes and several other retailers, will be necessary. The Village is zoned Commercial 1 with a 65-foot height limit. The QFC site is zoned Commercial-2 with a 65-foot height limit. Property immediately north and to the east, University of Washington married student housing, is zoned Major Institution Overlay (MIO) with a 50-foot height limit and an underlying zoning of Commercial-1 with a 40-foot height limit. The entire Village site lies bounded on the west by 25th Avenue NE, on the south by NE 45th Street, and University property on the north and east. The University of Washington’s athletic fields and surface parking are located south of NE 45th Street. An easement provides vehicular access to 30th Avenue NE/NE Blakeley Street, east of the project site. The site gently slopes from north to south. University housing, located directly north and east, is approximately twelve feet higher in elevation.

Uses in the general University Village area include retail, office, motel and institutional uses on the west side of 25th Avenue NE. University of Washington housing and the Silver Cloud Motel are located directly north of the site. Retail and single-family residences are located north of the Burke-Gilman Trail and NE Blakeley Street. Retail/commercial uses are located east of the project site and NE Blakeley Street.

Although an overall part of the project proposal, expansion of the Bartell’s building and the Ram’s building do not require design review because these phases are considered additions to an existing structure and not new structures.



At the two preliminary meetings, Early Design Guidance held on April 17 and June 5, 2000 and the initial recommendation meeting on February 26, 2001 and after visiting the site, considering the analysis of the site and context provided by the proponents, the Design Review Board members provided the following siting and design guidance and identified by letter and number those siting and design guidelines found in the City of Seattle’s "Design Review: Guidelines for Multifamily and Commercial Buildings" of highest priority to this project:

A-4 Human Activity.

A-5 Respect for Adjacent Sites.

A-8 Parking and Vehicle Access.

A-9 Location of Parking on Commercial Street Fronts.

B-1 Height, Bulk and Scale

D-2 Enhance the Building with Landscaping.

D-5 Visual Impacts of Parking Structures.

Summary: The Board allowed for extended presentations by the development team and the public. Without much time for discussion, the Board members commented upon alternatives to siting, blank walls and mass.



On May 21 and June 4 2001, the Northeast Design Review Board convened for an extended public meeting. Elevation renderings as well as detailed concrete masonry unit (CMU) details were presented for the members’ consideration. The applicant did not request departures from the City’s Land Use Code.

Public Comment (May 21): Sixteen members of the community signed-in to the meeting. The following summarizes their comments.

More Public Comment (June 4): Seventeen members of the community attended the meeting. The following summarizes their comments.

Summary of Recommendation: After considering the proposed design and the project context, hearing public comment and reconsidering the previously stated design priorities the Design Review Board members came to the following conclusions on how the applicant met the identified design objectives.

A-4 Human Activity. New development should be sited and designed to encourage human activity on the street.

Although the project faces a private street, the structure’s retail component fronts the rest of the shopping complex and terminates a north-south pedestrian axis that will be enhanced as part of the development. The Board did not provide a recommendation.

A-5 Respect for Adjacent Sites. Buildings should respect adjacent properties by being located on their sites to minimize disruption of the privacy and outdoor activities of residents in adjacent buildings.

The applicant has set back the garage walls from the property line on three sides. At the north and east adjacencies with the University of Washington student housing, the proposal has setback the façade ten feet on the north and terraced the set backs on the east beginning with five feet at the base and 28 feet at the drum. See B-1.

A-8 Parking and Vehicle Access. Siting should minimize the impact of automobile parking and driveways on the pedestrian environment, adjacent properties, and pedestrian safety.

The parking garage access is located as close to the Blakeley exit as possible, minimizing the amount of vehicular traffic into the University Village complex. The Board did not comment on the location of the garage entrance.

A-9 Location of Parking on Commercial Street Fronts. Parking on a commercial street front should be minimized and where possible, located behind a building.

The garage is located behind the proposed retail shops facing into the Village. The applicant’s strategy is in keeping with existing development patterns in the complex and begins to knit together the northern portion of the Village with the more developed southern area. The Board did not provide a recommendation.

B-1 Height, Bulk and Scale. Projects should be compatible with the scale of development anticipated by the applicable Land Use Policies for the surrounding area and should be sited and designed to provide a sensitive transition to nearby, less-intensive zones. Projects on zone edges should be developed in a manner that creates a step in perceived height, bulk and scale between the anticipated development potential of the adjacent zones.

Although the site is not adjacent to a less intensive zone, the Board recommends further setbacks on the upper levels of the north and west facades The Board recommends that the north elevation be terraced on the upper two floors closest to the property line in order to mitigate the building bulk. In addition, the members advise that the setback should extend as far back as the depth of one row of vehicles. The two end bays on the west façade should also step back leaving the middle bay with the staircase intact. Above the vertical circulation spine on the south façade, the garage should step back on the upper two floors. No further setbacks were requested for the east elevation. The Board members voted in favor of these recommendations by a margin of 3-0.

D-2 Blank walls. Enhance the Building with Landscaping. Buildings should avoid large blank walls facing the street, especially near sidewalks. Where blank walls are unavoidable, they should receive design treatment to increase pedestrian comfort and interest.

Due to the insular quality of the garage (no apertures facing University property) based on agreements with the University of Washington, three exterior walls are entirely blank. The Board recommends that the architect continue the alternating panel configuration from the north elevation onto the upper levels of the east and west facades. This will provide relief and interest to the walls as well as create more architectural continuity. The upper setback on the south façade should visually break up the garage wall above the stores. However, the same upper wall should remain a consistent material and color(s) in order to serve as a field for the more active store facades. Board members advised the architect to use a sepia-colored concrete masonry unit (CMU) and a dark repeating pattern of interrupted CMU courses. A course of the same darker color will cap each of the panels. The Board voted 3-0 to support this recommendation.

D-5 Visual Impacts of Parking Structures. The visibility of all at-grade parking structures or accessory parking garages should be minimized. The parking portion of a structure should be architecturally compatible with the rest of the structure and streetscape. Open parking spaces and carports should be screened from the street and adjacent properties.

Most of the parking structure will be screened by the retail structures on the south façade. The upper levels of the garage will be mostly obscured from a ground level perspective. No open parking spaces will be seen anywhere as the garage will be completed enclosed. As described in D-2, the upper levels act as a background for the more visually active storefronts. Copious amounts of vegetation will obscure much of the north façade. Climbing and hanging vines will eventually cover the panels. A layer of shrubs and two layers of trees (one existing layer) will separate University housing from the garage. The design intention is to link the south façade to the southern portion of University Village while the north and east facades attempt to relate to the residential qualities of the surrounding student housing. The Board voted 3-0 to support this recommendation.


Recommendations: The recommendations summarized below were based on the plans submitted at the May 21st and June 4th meetings. Design, siting or architectural details not specifically identified or altered in these recommendations are expected to remain as presented in the plans and other drawings available at the June 4th, 2001 public meeting. After considering the site and context, hearing public comment, reconsidering the previously identified design priorities, and reviewing the plans and renderings, the Design Review Board members recommended by a 3-0 vote for approval of the subject design with conditions. No departures were requested. The Board recommended the following CONDITIONS (authority referred in the letter and number in parenthesis):

  1. The upper two floors of the north elevation should be terraced, eliminating no more than the depth of one row of cars from these levels. Plantings will cascade down from the terraces partially covering the walls. The effect of the terracing is to reduce the building bulk. (A-5,B-1)
  2. The upper floor of the west elevation will be terraced at the corners to reduce the building bulk. The middle bay may remain five feet from the property in order to preserve the interior staircase. No more than the depth of one row of cars will be eliminated from the upper level. (A-5,B-1)
  3. Directly above the vertical circulation spine on the south elevation, the upper two levels will be terraced to reduce the building bulk. This will visually serve to enhance the separation or distinct qualities suggested by the two facades of the retail storefronts. The step back will be one full car length of the upper most level of the garage and a half a car length on the lower of the two levels. (A-5,B-1)
  4. The CMU panels with separating two foot reveals as shown on the north façade will wrap around on to the west and east elevations in order to maintain the continuity of the design and reduce the structure’s scale. Only the upper portion of the east façade requires the panels. (D-2, D-5)
  5. The Board recommends a pattern of an interrupted CMU course to set-off visually the sepia toned CMU field. The pattern is shown on earlier (date?) computer renderings of the north façade. The patterning will bring a sense of scale to the windowless elevations. (D-2, D-5)
  6. Areas of plantings shown on the parking garage drawings must be kept in perpetuity. (A-5)
  7. Between the concrete ramp and the CMU wall on the east elevation the design will incorporate a notch extending from the lid at elevation 17 feet to the top of the wall to provide better visual definition. (D-5)
  8. Installation of public art and niches in the hedge along the pedestrian path at the perimeter of the north and east elevations will create points of interest and a sense of scale for the pedestrians using the path. One example suggested by the Board is the use of topiary figures. The art and the landscaping could be community projects developed by the neighborhood, the University of Washington and University Village. The Board asked that a sense of whimsy and interest be created along the pathway. (D-5)
  9. The color of the CMU will be a sepia tone much closer to red than the gray hue the renderings suggest. (D-2)









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