Two Ravenna-Bryant Community Association board members attended the December 19 Seattle Design Review Board meeting to provide comments about University Village’s plan to build 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 915 parking spaces in a new garage. Comments were also shared with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections through the following letter.
December 19, 2016
Dear Mr. Dorcy,
The letter provides feedback on University Village’s western garage and retail expansion project on behalf of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (RBCA). Our primary concern is the size and scale of proposed western parking garage along 25th Avenue, and its potential impacts on street character and transportation. We are concerned about the impact of an approximately 350’ long garage along 25th with no retail frontage or any activation of any type along the street. The garage is also proposed to be seven (7) stories tall, which will shadow the street in the mornings, but with enough façade treatments (similar to the south garage), the visual impacts can hopefully be mitigated to some extent. We are also concerned that the elimination of the private drive (“47th Street”) will have traffic impacts that need to be mitigated and that the garage will further contribute to the light pollution. Our comments are summarized below, by category.
25th Avenue Streetscape
The western garage is the third large scale-parking garage proposed to be constructed on the property. The prior two have earned mixed reviews that are worth noting for context.
- The northern garage turns its back (a 70-foot tall, 400-foot long CMU wall) to the neighborhood to the north, with only a modicum of attempt to screen the facility. There is no access through the garage for pedestrians arriving from 27th avenue to the north, so pedestrians must detour around this visually unappealing barrier to the mall.
- The southern garage is visually appealing from the mall and the façade treatment when viewed from Montlake Boulevard from the south is fairly attractive for a giant parking garage. However, once again, there is little consideration for pedestrians arriving from the south (and from bus routes along Montlake). There should be a pedestrian entrance from the south the connects to the parking garage lobby, but instead there is only a small path around the structure to the west and no connecting pedestrian facilities connecting to the mall around the east side.
For this third garage, we hope that University Village will do more to provide physical connections to engage the neighborhood, but, at present, we believe that the structure will add a third barrier to the surrounding neighborhood. We appreciate that there is at least a pedestrian walkway planned through the building at the ground floor (across several lanes of ingress/egress traffic, however), but the overall plan once again focuses all the creative design inward and almost none outward. We hope that the Design Review Board will guide the design towards neighborhood engagement and creating a more vibrant 25th Avenue corridor. While this portion of 25th is not designated as a “Pedestrian” zone, we believe is seems reasonable for a major retail center adjacent to the state’s flagship university, and within biking distance of light rail, and located in a city purporting to seek carbon neutrality, to do more to encourage walking and biking. We believe that a thoughtful ground level design could create at least some retail and a generous pedestrian connection through the structure.
The Preferred Option eliminates the private street access know as 47th Street, which is replaced with an entrance to the parking garage. In concept, this takes cars directly from the arterial to the parking. This simplifies the internal circulation and could, theoretically reduce traffic internal to U-Village. However, drivers seeking to drop off or pick up shoppers, or access the QFC lot for easier access to the both QFC and U Village, will have only 49th Street as an option. This may create both a left hand turning queue from the north and a right-hand turn queue from the south. This will: 1) aggravate the dangerous situation that already exists with the adjacent curb cuts (49th and the Office Max access drive) and 2) combine with the planned monolithic western garage in further discouraging pedestrians from using 25th and taking some cars off the road. We would like for the project to study ways to improve the safety of turning movements to and from 25th to mitigate impact to pedestrians in support City goals for pedestrian safety. Second, we request that transportation mitigation funds from this expansion project be used to support pedestrian and bike access from adjacent neighborhoods that should be well within a walkshed for a major retail center but are not well utilized due to poor connections:
- No sidewalks along streets like 50th and interrupted sidewalks along Blakely
- Marginal pedestrian connections along Union Bay Place
- No pedestrian connection to cross new main through access point at 49th.
- Poor bike connection between the Burke Gilman trail and University Village from approximately Pend Oreille Road
- No bike connection from the Burke Gilman east of the mall to along approximately 47th Street
We appreciate the Design Review Board’s Consideration. The RBCA Board would be happy to meet and discuss this matter further with the City of Seattle and the applicant, as possible.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Chair, Land Use Committee
Ravenna-Bryant Community Association