Design Review Board provides U-Village with design guidance for new garage

Concerned with University Village’s initial design proposal for a new garage along 25th Avenue NE, the RBCA board provided comments to the Seattle Design Review Board in December.

uvillagegarage

In a follow-up memo, the Design Review Board provided the following guidance to University Village.

1. Theme: Enlivening and Enhancing 25th Avenue NE

a. Ground level retail uses and enhancement of the pedestrian experience along 25th Avenue NE are the primary issues concerning the proposal.

b. UVillage has a proven track record in creating pedestrian experiences within the village and should be able to successfully create a viable pedestrian edge experience along 25th Avenue NE as well.

c. Traditional retail along the entire length of the west façade would likely not be viable, but some kinds of micro-retail could be — and the Board would be supportive of granting departures (e.g. shortened required depth) to help make it work.

d. Landscaping alone does not seem to be enough to overcome a less than enlivening pedestrian experience along this stretch of sidewalk.

e. One, two or three strategically designed retail spaces (connected to the bus stop and pedestrian entry/exit, for instance) might do the job; landscaping would not appear to be enough to enliven this long stretch of sidewalk.

f. Although, if the ground level is amazing, a boring upper can be forgiven, the design team was encouraged to explore further architectural expression of the upper levels as they related to the modern form of the building.

2. Theme: An Inviting Pedestrian Walkway through the Garage

a. This was a critical element for a successful overall design.

b. As shown, the elevators at the end of the pedestrian entry from 25th appeared to provide a wall rather than an invitation through the space. There needs to be something more exciting (and maybe more light and transparency) at the end of the walkway.

c. Provide clear wayfaring directions at the end of the passage.

3. Theme: Don’t Ignore Treatments of the North and South Faces of Garage

a. The cantilever along the north face a “missed opportunity” as shown.

b. The northwest corner needs more attention due to its visibility.

c. The “terracing” of the south face, as an acknowledgement to the new RH building, needs to be more explicit and convincing.

RBCA will continue to monitor the project and provide additional feedback, if needed. A pedestrian-friendly and safe neighborhood is important especially as our community continues to grow.

Chris

The design as shown is horrendous. It would further isolate the “village” from the neighborhood and make 25th even more automobile focused. The Village should be planning new developments that flow out and into surrounding areas – rather than continuing to create stark, strong borders. This is one more reason why I detest this place – it long ago stopped being an amenity and has become this abhorrent, enormous blot on our neighborhood.

William Wilcock

I agree the design looks horrendous (a square box design will form an odd conjunction with the ostentatious ugliness of the new Restoration Hardware) but I am confused by the isolated the desire of RBCA to improve the pedestrian experience down 25th. Where are these pedestrians going? The only reason to walk down 25th is access U Village – anybody going to the UW campus is likely to be on the Burke Gilman unless they are lost and there cannot be much foot traffic to the UW golf range. U village doesn’t seem to be very welcoming of pedestrians as evidenced by their increasing emphasis on more and more parking and the failure even to make a token effort to improve access under the NE 45th Ave viaduct (a trash filled swamp where one half expects to see a floating body leads to a diversion along a narrow path around the 50ft high concrete wall of the south parking garage. How are small storefronts on NE 25th Ave going to be viable? In addition to the dearth of pedestrians or efforts by U Village to attract them, there is no easy bike access and no parking on the street.

Maybe the RBCA can atone for its misguided past efforts to block the redesign of NE65th St and lobby to have the repaving of NE 25th St combined with a traffic calming redesign that might actually make the microstores that it proposes for U villages viable.

Inga Manskopf

Thanks for your comments, William. While indeed there are few reasons to walk on 25th Avenue NE by U-Village at this time, this likely will not be the case in 10 years. First, there are many plans being made to build housing (apartments, condos) all around U-Village, including on 25th. UW is planning additional student housing north of U-Village and is planning to develop the parking lot north of Husky Stadium. While many people who access UW from Ravenna-Bryant do use the Burke-Gilman Trail, many also use 25th right now and, if there are UW buildings where the parking lot is now, will do so even more in the future. We’ve also heard of neighbors walking to light rail along 25th because it’s shorter than walking on the trail. While there may not be many right now, we are keeping in mind that the entire area around and south of U-Village is going to change rather quickly and current uses will be different from future uses.

Thank you also for your suggestion to advocate for traffic calming along 25th as part of the re-paving project. We are partnering with other safe streets advocates to do just that. Anyone who wants to advocate for traffic calming along 25th can find contact information here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_ne25.htm.

William Wilcock

@Inga Manskopf, I am sorry but U Village cannot be expected to build microstores in anticipation of foot traffic that may exist in 10 years time. All the apartments/condos will be on the opposite side of the street so would be better served by ground level retail on that side of the street and the timeline for substantial development of the UW Montlake parking lot is, to say the least, rather uncertain.

Looking forward to reading the RBCA blog article on a community push to calm traffic and promote pedestrians all along NE 25th Ave. So far it seems like a very low level effort, which is a pity given that it could be merged into the NE 65th St revamp which finally seems to be proceeding in some form.

Inga Manskopf

William, it is the Design Review Board that says that University Village should build micro-retail along 25th (as is written in the above blog post.) They even stated that they would grant departures for University Village to be able to do so. As you noted, the proposed garage is horrendous and both the Design Review Board and RBCA agree. Shrubbery and other landscaping alone wouldn’t make it better.

While 25th is certainly a street that requires traffic calming in addition to a better pedestrian environment, the RBCA board chose to prioritize NE 65th Street in 2017. We have limited human (all volunteer) capacity to advocate for safety changes on all of our arterial roads, and chose 65th based on community input and collision data. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t advocating for changes to 25th, it just means it’s a low level effort, as you pointed out. The RBCA board welcomes anyone to join our advocacy efforts so that we don’t have to focus on just one arterial road per year.

Unfortunately, the RBCA board does not currently have the human capacity to write about everything we are doing. All RBCA activities are conducted by volunteers, most of whom work full time jobs. We are always looking for volunteers who can write content for this blog. Not to mention more volunteers to do the many hours of advocacy work on projects such as creating a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

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