Developers for the proposed Magnolia grocery and condominium project can begin the next phase of the development after the neighborhood Design Review Board recommended the city issue the master use permit, last week.
The development plans call for the demolition of the existing Albertsons, 2550 32nd Ave. N., and the construction of a seven-story development with a Safeway grocery below and 133 living units above, parking for 221 cars, a public square and a building design that incorporates aspects of the natural geography of the neighborhood, as well as features that allow for interaction with nature.
After some discussion, the DRB decided to accept the plan to not include a second entrance to the Safeway. Architects explained that they felt a second entrance would detract from the interactive experience by having shoppers bypass the center plaza and alcoves by having them enter one way and exit at the other end of the building.
In describing the project to the virtual Design Review Board, Bumgardner Architects Principal Mark Simpson said a combined grocery store and housing complex is not unique for the company, as it has completed similar projects in Fremont, Ballard and Columbia City, but the Magnolia development differs from those.
“With Magnolia, we raised the bar with the living building challenge,” Simpson said.
To become Living Building Challenge certified, the final development must be made of materials that are not toxic; it must demonstrate it is 25 percent more energy efficient than code requirements; and it must demonstrate water savings by using nonpotable water uses, which includes irrigation, toilet flushing, etc., where possible.
John Marasco, project sponsor for developer Security Properties, said the building will use approximately 33 percent less, or 1.1 million gallons, of water that would come from the city if it weren’t a living building.
Since the project’s start, some residents have been concerned about the building’s size and the uncertainty of whether it would meet the Living Building Challenge requirements. Opposing comments during last week’s meeting largely reflected those concerns, while others supported the building because it will be environmentally friendly and bring more housing to Magnolia.
For the DRB’s part, members debated whether the grocery store should have a second entrance and whether the proposed “discovery alcoves” as presented in the public plaza accomplished their purpose as an interactive element to educate the public about the building and the Living Building Challenge.
Board member John Morefield stated he did not believe project designers gave enough consideration to the addition of a second grocery store entrance on 32nd Avenue North.
Nicholas Simpson from Bumgardner Architects stated that they felt a second entrance would detract from the interactive experience they were trying to create with the public plaza and its “discovery alcoves” and instead would drive shoppers to bypass the center plaza by having them enter and exit at the far sides of the building.
“We want to encourage pedestrian traffic along the building,” he said, adding a second entrance would “short-circuit the value” of the plaza and discovery alcoves.
Marasco said after the meeting that Safeway is shifting away from stores with two entrances.
“Their new models concentrate the access to really a single location, and a lot of that has to do with security and being able to monitor who’s coming and going from the store,” he said.
Other DRB members, however, were not so concerned with the addition of a second entrance but wanted further refinement of the seven “discovery alcoves,” which are intended to provide people with shaded places to stand or sit and to learn about the building and the Living Building Challenge.
“I think the conversation was muddled, but I think the bottom line on the discovery alcoves was they wanted them to be more developed, and the development would include the actual elements, so the art elements, the story of the building, the story of Magnolia, and also what they talked about was maybe incorporating some landscaping because they could also potentially have planter elements,” Marasco said. “So, I think what we’re going to do is explore the actual option for what we build there.”
Before the final vote, the DRB agreed a second entrance was not needed but provided loose guidelines to what the discovery alcoves should entail. Members also stated all efforts must be taken to prevent light pollution and discouraged the use of “up lighting.”
With the DRB signing off on the project, the next step will be for the city to finish its review, after which the project will enter the building permit phase. As of now, Marasco estimates construction to begin in the second quarter of 2022.
To see the latest design packets and information on the project, go to https://cosaccela.seattle.gov/portal/welcome.aspx and type in the project number, 3034353-LU.