The East Design Review Board tentatively approved of the latest proposal by architects for a Madison Valley PCC market with three stories of apartments on top, following a lengthy comment period from residents still concerned about the project’s impact to the neighborhood.

Opponents to the design for 2925 E. Madison echoed many of the arguments provided by the Save Madison Valley group, such as the height, bulk and scale, as well as a proposal for residential vehicle access on Dewey Place East and the loss of a mature tree canopy on the site.

The EDRB last reviewed the project — set to replace City People’s Garden Store — in late October, providing mostly critiques for the Dewey Place side of the four-story mixed-use building, which faces single-family homes.

Studio Meng Strazzara’s biggest change to its design is the inclusion of two-story townhomes on Dewey, with a complement of public space and new vegetation. Principal Charles Strazzara said the board had requested the backside of the project match more with the residential neighborhood there, and townhomes would reduce the blank facade of the parking garage and fit better with single-family homes across Dewey. It would also cut down on the levels of sound and light spilling into the neighborhood, he said. This changed involved pushing the parking garage setback to 26 feet, losing 10 parking stalls.

Save Madison Valley representatives said the townhomes and other changes to the backside of the project are an inadequate replacement to the loss of a mature canopy, including three exceptional trees. Strazzara later said the city arborist corrected a report, determining no exceptional trees actually exist on the site.

Save Madison Valley member and transportation planner Ross Tilghman said East Madison should be the only access point for vehicles. There are 70 parking stalls each for residential and commercial users, with resident access planned from Dewey.

Tilghman said while a traffic study estimates residential traffic will be about 16 percent of all traffic generated, that’s still more than 300 daily trips, and that will cause conflicts with pedestrians and bicyclists.

Madison Park resident Maurice Cooper told the design board he wants a condition placed on the project, stating no delivery trucks can reverse in or out of the site.

Mark McDermott said he’s spent 25 years staring at a wall of trees on Dewey, and he doesn’t see the changes as an improvement, nor does he like the size of the project. He compared it to a “70-foot Godzilla coming over the hill.”

“They’re better than a garage, but they don’t look like a home,” said resident Diane Spellman, adding of the total project, “This building is too big. It does not fit in with the neighborhood.”

Dave O’Hern said he likes the townhomes and decision to separate residential and commercial parking access, adding he can’t wait to shop at PCC.
Whitney Rearick believes the project will be an asset to the community, saying she likes the way Seattle is growing and changing. She said project most opponents the board has heard from are homeowners.

“It’s not all just about them,” she said. “There are other people, as well.”

After much criticism during public comments, Strazzara had five minutes to respond. He understands change is hard, he said, but he feels the development team, himself, particularly, have been “demonized” by residents.

The PCC portion of the project is proposed at 26,250 square feet, and zoning would allow for 50,000 square feet, Strazzara said.

“We’re just trying to be a very good neighbor,” he said.

Review board member Natalie Gualy said the project is zoning compliant, but the challenge is making sure neighbors feel their concerns are being valued.

“I agree it needs a little more work, but it’s definitely going in the right direction,” said EDRB member Curtis Bigelow.

The board did clear developers to begin the city’s master use permit process, which will provide more study, including on traffic and accessibility, which members said they wanted more information on.

Review board member Barbara Busetti said she doesn’t like seeing tree canopies removed, but deferred to the opinion of the city arborist.
“I’m afraid we have to listen to what the arborist said,” said board member Christina Orr-Cahall.

Busetti said she likes the increased setback on East Madison, but doesn’t think the wider sidewalk in front of the building will be a gathering space, as intended by developers.

“This is going to be along a very busy street with lots of buses,” she said.

The project will go back before the design review board for a recommendation later this year, at which point Gualy said she’s looking forward to seeing more options.