Weber Thompson architects proposed a more standard option for East Howell and then a unique paving for a shared roadway.
Weber Thompson architects proposed a more standard option for East Howell and then a unique paving for a shared roadway.

The Modera Broadway development will have to come back before the East Design Review Board after a lackluster reception to the project as proposed.

Mill Creek Residential is purchasing the Bonney-Watson Funeral Home site and adjacent surface parking lot on Broadway, where it plans to construct two buildings with a combined 8,000 square feet of Broadway retail frontage, 224 residential units and 137 below-grade parking stalls.

Weber Thompson architects provided three design options to the EDRB on Wednesday, Nov. 1, but the board found all were too similar; no one proposal stood out as a preferred option for the board.

The design for Modera Broadway is taking many cues from Cal Anderson Park to the east, including sculpted, undulating facades on both buildings along East Howell Street, which is being proposed as a prominent gateway into the park.

EDRB chair Curtis Bigelow said he didn’t make that connection until the architects explained it to the board.

Architects provided two options for the park gateway at Howell, one being a standard street configuration with widened sidewalks while the other included a thatched pavement design for a shared roadway.

“Ultimately, our goal is to slow traffic,” said Rachael Meyer, Weber Thompson principal, landscape architecture.

Both include trees and a plant palette that would copy what’s found in Cal Anderson Park.

The EDRB liked the woonerf idea, but wanted more symmetry in terms of how it relates to the project.

“It seems like it’s a third piece that’s completely different and unique from Broadway and the park,” Bigelow said.

He also said the street is used less due to there being no left turns allowed at Broadway anymore.

The review board was not receptive to an option for catenary lights — a net of luminaries — running across the gateway and between the two buildings. Busetti said it could invite people to congregate in the street.

The inclusion of residential units on East Howell was not well received.

But it was the exclusion of retail along Nagle Place, directly facing Cal Anderson Park that received the most attention during the early design guidance meeting.

The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council had requested that Mill Creek consider retail at Nagle Place to activate the narrow street as it leads to the light rail station during its Oct. 16 meeting.

Weber Thompson principal Amanda Keating did not address that feedback when Bigelow asked why retail wasn’t included at Nagle Place, but instead focused on PPUNC’s other observation that residential units along the street might end up with covered windows and a lack of activity.

Weber Thompson added a secondary lobby on the north building at Nagle, and then varied grade changes for the ground-floor units.

EDRB member Andrew Haas noted that the new Hugo House mixed-use development on the opposite side of the park has brick on all sides and a street-level cafe. The Hunters Capital building on Broadway also has a ground-floor courtyard and cafe space on Nagle, he said.

PPUNC attendees strongly supported a cafe on Nagle, and EDRB member Barbara Busetti similarly bemoaned the loss of Vivace Coffee, which moved from its 901 E. Denny Way to make way for the light rail station in 2008.

The EDRB also didn’t like the recessed residential ground-floor on Nagle, which was described as “mushrooming” the design.

“Instead of being gracious with the park, it feels like it’s attacking,” Bigelow said.

Busetti felt similarly.

“I do find it isolating,” she said. “Certainly, as it’s massed now, I don’t find it encouraging of retail.”

Review board members agreed they would support a height departure to allow retail at Nagle Place if the Modera Broadway team reconsidered, as they felt the current design treats the street more like an alley.

Haas said he would like to see a nod to the site’s history somewhere in Modera Broadway’s design, as the funeral home is being considered for a landmarks nomination. He also wanted the buildings to be designed dissimilarly, so the development didn’t feel like a big complex.

“There’s a reflecting pool,” Haas said about Cal Anderson Park’s relation to the proposed development. “It’s going to reflect in the reflecting pool.”

Weber Thompson will need to think of a creative way to address the immovable First Hill Streetcar substation on East Howell.

The review board split 3-2 in favor of approving a 26-foot-long blank facade next to the substation, which would be used for the south building’s ventilation exhaust.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s there, but it’s there, and I don’t feel like they’ve addressed it,” Bigelow said.

Busetti said she had also wanted to see more information about windows and other fenestration (openings).

Keating said the design team had wanted to wait until the review board provided feedback before adding that detail.

“We can promise you that there won’t be tiny windows on the building,” she said.

Some EDRB members waffled, but it was decided that Modera Broadway will need a second early design guidance meeting.

“I think they’re still at massing level,” Bigelow said, “they need to fix the massing.”

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination of Bonney-Watson Funeral Home as a landmark building at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, in the Boards & Commissions Room L2-80 of Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave.


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