Controversy Continues with New Changes to the Pending PCC Project

By Brandon Macz

The East Design Review Board on Wednesday praised changes made to plans for a future mixed-use development that will include a PCC Market on East Madison. A majority of Madison Valley residents in attendance at the recommendation meeting said it will destroy the neighborhood.

This was the fourth time Studio Meng Strazzara came before the EDRB to pitch its design for a six-story mixed-use development that will replace City People’s Garden Store at 2925 E. Madison St. The total project will include 82 residential units, a 24,500-square-foot PCC Market and a 1,500-square-foot corner retail space.

Studio Meng Strazzara principal Charles Strazzara was quick to point out Wednesday night that zoning allowed for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store.

Strazzara highlighted widened sidewalks along the East Madison side of the development — 19.6 feet wide at the PCC entryway — and changes to the design of six townhomes added to the back of the project, facing residences on Dewey Place East. The board had asked the design team to simplify the design and articulation. Strazzara said the main floor was elevated, the setbacks aligned and the pitched roofs were ditched.

The design team received support from SDOT for a departure for dual vehicular access, putting retail parking and commercial loading on East Madison and residential parking on Dewey Place East.

EDRB chair Curtis Bigelow said he felt the dual access parking would provide a better pedestrian experience on Madison and Dewey, eliciting grumbles from the audience.

“I second the hope that we will all presumably be getting out of our cars soon,” said EDRB member Barbara Busetti, drawing more criticism from the crowd.

The neighborhood will change soon with the addition of the Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

The EDRB also supported a departure to go beyond the allowable 30-foot curb cut to 40 feet, in order for delivery trucks to have an easier time turning into the loading entrance. Busetti said she’d like the portion between the customer and loading entrances on East Madison reduced, while EDRB member Andrew Haas said he’d like developers to explore whether the full additional 10 feet of curb cut is necessary. The board agreed to request further study on the matter.

The design board also lauded the inclusion of a pedestrian stair linking the East Madison and Dewey Place East sides of the project. The pedestrian stair was required by the city.

Many residents at the Sept. 13 EDRB recommendation meeting remained opposed to the project, saying the height, bulk and scale is still out of place in the neighborhood and will result in the removal of a mature tree canopy.

Neighborhood group Save Madison Valley formed last year to oppose the project for those reasons.

“Through three EDGs (Early Design Guidance meetings) the east facade of Dewey has remained pretty consistent in mass and height,” said Melissa Stoker with Save Madison Valley, adding it does not fit in well with the narrow length of that street at the proposed setbacks.

She said she does not believe the pedestrian experience will be positive, particularly with a massive project on a 30-foot slope, overlooking the neighborhood.

Shannon Underwood said the project doesn’t adequately address the board’s request for public space.

“The widened sidewalk and supermarket entrance is commercial space,” she said. “It’s not inclusive, it’s not for everyone; it’s for the supermarket to sell to people, and for shoppers. Just because customers greet each other doesn’t make it a public community space.”

Underwood said the project’s design has been compared to the Madison Lofts across the street, but that structure also doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.

“This building will be a community destroyer on all three sides because of its unbroken mass, its height and its oversized garage, which draws more traffic than we can accommodate,” Underwood said.

Proposed commercial and residential parking stalls are set at 70 each.

Cherie Sato provided a physical model of the design to the EDRB, asking them to consider whether it fits with the height, bulk and scale of the neighborhood. She said a 12-foot-wide planting strip in front of the townhomes does not provide an adequate buffer for the neighborhood, and bemoaned the loss of the mature canopy.

“This proposed building is an antithesis of the design guidelines — the Seattle Design Guidelines,” Sato said. “The design review board, which you serve, was created specifically to prevent a project like this from destroying our neighborhoods.”

Resident Mark McDermott suggested neighbors ban together and file a lawsuit if the city were to allow the project to move forward. He said municipal code calls for reducing the impact of removing trees and vegetation from a steep slope area.

“The proposal of these developers is to come in and mow the entire canopy down,” McDermott said, with the city looking to replace that canopy elsewhere. “… And I say to you, my fellow neighbors, if the city tries to cram this project down our throats, we need to open up our wallets and load up and file a lawsuit and fight this sucker until they comply with the spirit and letter of the law…”

Resident Andrew Engelson said he supports the project because Seattle needs more housing, and it will mean having a nearby grocery store.

“Save Madison Valley does not speak for every resident of Madison Valley,” he said.

Cynthia Ford also voiced support for the project, but said she wanted to see more bike parking. She said she believes PCC will be a good steward of the neighborhood.

The EDRB did ask the design team to consider more bike parking, possibly adding that in the garage, and also set a condition that bike parking along the sidewalk be set between tree plantings as to not inhibit pedestrian traffic.

Responding to public comments, the board also requested that the design team address privacy concerns between the retail portion of the project and neighboring residences.

Syndicated from MadisonParkTimes.com

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