The East Design Review Board gave a resigned go-ahead to revised plans for a Country Doctor dental facility in Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, avoiding a delay the nonprofit says could have caused it to lose federal funding.
Environmental Works architect Bill Singer came back before the EDRB on April 12 to provide an updated design for the project on 19th Avenue, in hopes that the changes would satisfy the board’s concerns expressed during a recommendation meeting in February.
The 9,000-square-foot addition will replace the Betty Lee Manor at 510 19th Ave. E., next to the Country Doctor Community Clinic that has been there since 1987. The first two floors will be for a dental clinic and administrative offices, with eight market-rate apartments on the top two floors.
Review board members in February had issues with the second floor, particularly the window alignments in relation to other floors and adjacent structures on 19th Avenue East.
Environmental Works removed a band of gray paneling on the second floor, which separated dark gray brick on the ground floor from a lighter gray paneling used for the residential floors. The top two floors changed to a lighter gray siding, that was extended to the second floor. The windows were realigned to match with the Capitol Court Apartments to the north and Country Doctor to the south, Singer said.
The review board on Wednesday still had concerns, particularly with the use of large window treatments for residences and considerably smaller windows for offices.
EDRB chairman Curtis Bigelow said the treatment made the building appear “top heavy.”
“They do rival the whole clinic with them,” he said, later adding, “I just feel like it’s two different buildings.”
Bigelow said the EDRB spent so much time critiquing the 19th Avenue facade in February, he had hoped Country Doctor and its design team would have made a stronger case for keeping the windows.
“I don’t think it’s a disaster to have big windows and have lots of light in your apartment,” said board member Christina Orr-Cahall.
City planner Carly Guillory reminded the EDRB that it had supported bay windows as a more historic element during the first recommendation meeting.
“I think, for the most part, it plays well with others,” EDRB board member Dan Foltz said of the design in relation to other buildings in the neighborhood.
The east side of the building, which faces townhomes across an alley, was changed from red and dark gray siding to a light blue on the bottom and a lighter gray on the top half of the structure. Residents had previously expressed a desire for lighter colors on the east side of the building.
Bigelow told Singer the EDRB had asked designers to simplify the “cacophony of recesses and massing,” however, the Environmental Works architect again argued there was little that could be changed due to clearance requirements for a nearby power pole.
EDRB board member Sarah Saviskas said she hadn’t expected much change because of the power pole issue.
A green screen that had stretched over a sliding trash enclosure at the back of the building was revised to only wrap around an exit door. The trash screen will be laser-cut with silhouettes of people.
“It’s definitely one of the quieter of the elevations, actually,” said EDRB board member Barbara Busetti.
Alice Quaintance, who lives with her husband across the alley, said she appreciated the lighter colors and screen figures.
“I actually like the massing, because it’s not like a solid block,” she said, “and the entire building in the back brings in light.”
She said she once lived in the Betty Lee Manor, and would feel sadder about its pending demolition if it wasn’t being done to make way for a much needed dental clinic.
The Country Doctor expansion will include a commemorative plaque on the corner of the building, with an image of Betty Lee Manor and a brief history.
Country Doctor Community Health Centers board president Morgan Dutton told the EDRB that in order for CDCHC to keep its federal funding, it would have to break ground on the 19th Avenue addition this summer. Waiting could cost millions, she said, adding access to dental is the hardest service for low-income residents to access.
Capitol Court Apartments resident told the board he didn’t want to see any more delay for Country Doctor, noting the importance of the services it provides.
“I think it’s fairly attractive,” he said. “I’ve seen much more uglier things around.”
Country Doctor executive director Linda McVeigh said the hope now is to be able to break ground on the project by mid-July. The nonprofit is still waiting for the Washington Legislature to finalize a budget that is expected to include additional project funding.