Fred Meyer will present its revamped plans for a new store on 85th St. at the Design Review Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Ballard High School library. You can view the entire proposal online here.
I sat down with Ted Panton of GGLO Architects this morning to go over those new designs and find out how the designers incorporated all the community input they’ve received over the last few months.
When Fred Meyer presented its three options at the last Design Review Board meeting in July, the DRB sent them back to the drawing board after seeing that two of the three options were basically throw-aways.
Panton said Design Review Boards typically know they’re going to get two options that no one really wants, and the third, best, option. But in this case the DRB wanted three viable designs. “They felt they needed to see a broader variety of site design options,” he said.
That’s something Panton said was actually a good thing, because he thinks the newer designs are a great improvement over the past designs after incorporating neighbors’ concerns. “It’s helped us coalesce a plan that really works for everyone,” he said.
Fred Meyer leases the site from Greenwood Shopping Center, which is owned by descendents of one of the area’s original families, the Morrows. Fred Meyer has a 20-year lease, with eight additional five-year renewals.
Complicating the design is the fact that the 7.31-acre site drops more than 16 feet from the southwest corner of the site to the northeast corner. About 75 percent of the Fred Meyer store will be underground, with other retail, residential and public spaces on top. The new design calls for about 680 parking spaces, as opposed to the original plan of 800.
While Fred Meyer will present three real options to the DRB, they still have their preferred option, Option A. Option B is very similar to Option A, but with some changes to the “lid” and housing. Option C is essentially a big, two-story building fronting on 85th Street with only 100 units of housing, a parking garage and large parking lots. Below is Option A.
Fred Meyer insists that a two-story building is not financially feasible for them, because studies show the second story of a large store gets 50% less revenue. Because groceries would have to be located on the first floor, that means furniture, clothing, electronics and other bigger-ticket items would be on the second floor, but wouldn’t be as profitable. Two-story stores also need more employees, increasing their labor costs.
After past community meetings where neighbors said they wanted to establish the old right-of-ways of through streets through the area, designers came up with a design that re-establishes 2nd Avenue NW and NW 86th Street to some degree.
NW 86th St. is now a wide walking and biking lane. The north and south residential buildings along 3rd Avenue NW will be connected by a two-level enclosed walkway that goes over the NW 86th St. pathway. This is the view to the east if standing on 3rd Avenue.
2nd Avenue NW will allow cars to drive from 85th St. into the parking garage, and will also have sidewalks for pedestrians. It will have a very slow speed limit, and will have a low rise street that goes up and over the Fred Meyer store.
What that does, Panton says, is subdivide the massive project into smaller regions or zones.
After residents along 87th Street expressed concerns about the town homes above and in front of the parking garage on the northeast corner, the designs have drastically cut back the number of proposed housing units from about 280 to just over 200. And all of the housing has been removed from that northeast corner and will be concentrated along 85th Street and 3rd Avenue NW, presenting a more residential “face” to those busy streets.
Those residential areas would have 10-foot sidewalks plus 10 feet for the housing’s yard/stoop areas.
The parking garage will be three stories, but the top story will not be covered. The conifers along 87th Street will be preserved, and will provide a visual buffer to the parking garage. There’ll be a new sidewalk, then a six-foot wide swath of landscaping, then a parallel parking lane next to the street.
Truck access has been moved from 87th Street to 3rd Avenue NW. The loading docks are now below grade. Trucks will move one-way through that route, and exit onto 1st Avenue.
“Once the trucks are on site, all the backing motion and the noise are all below grade,” Panton said. “This is the best low-impact solution.”
The Garden Center, which was originally proposed to be on the “lid” of the project next to a small parking area, has been moved down to the ground level next to the community plaza, now called Piper Commons, on 1st Avenue. The lid will now have two small parking lots dedicated to residential parking, plus a third lot that is open to all. Below is the Commons area.
A parcel on the north side, referred to as Parcel 3 in the designs, currently houses the Fred Meyer loading dock, but is not incorporated into the current designs. Fred Meyer leases it from a different owner (not Greenwood Shopping Center). Panton says that lease runs until about 2020, but Fred Meyer has determined it doesn’t need that parcel.
At Monday night’s DRB meeting, Fred Meyer will present its plans, then the public will have ample time for input before the board discusses the project. We’ll have a full report after the meeting.