The Seattle City Council on April 9 unanimously approved new Central Area design guidelines, finalizing a decades-long community effort to establish building standards unique to a quickly changing part of the city.
“Right now, the Central Area is divided into two different review boards,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson ahead of the council’s vote, “which creates a lot confusion about different projects that may be subjected to different reviews based on which design review board they go to.”
Previously, some Central Area projects would fall under the guidance of the East Design Review Board, while others were overseen by the South Design Review Board.
The new Central Area Neighborhood Design Guidelines sets a boundary at South Bayview Street to the south, and all the way north to East Lee Street, just south of Madison Park. The border covers a large portion of East Madison Street, minus a small portion between Pike/Pine, then south on Broadway to Boren Avenue and then Rainier Avenue South. The east border runs the length of Lake Washington Boulevard South, from East Highland Drive to South Irving Street.
Developers in Madison Valley, Washington Park, Harrison/Denny-Blaine, Madrona, the Central District and Leschi will now need to meet these Central Area Neighborhood Design Guidelines and have their commercial and residential projects vetted by a new design review board.
The Central Area Design Guidelines address race and social equity in a part of Seattle that is quickly gentrifying and had historically been excluded from the early planning process and impacted by redlining.
“The inequalities endured by Seattle’s Black residents during these times makes preserving African American culture and community a high priority in the Central Area, wherein much of this history, culture, and community are contained,” according to the guidelines. “These guidelines are both in response to this historic inequity and aligned with other Seattle programs which seek to facilitate public and private investments in neighborhoods that support those most in need.”
The guidelines call for maintaining neighborhood character in the design of new construction, and also encourages preservation and adaptive reuse when possible. Commercial ground floors are encouraged to be at least 15 feet high with clerestory windows, in order to maintain consistency with existing character structures.
Larger projects should provide corner plazas and “more usable open space adjoining the streets,” according to the newly adopted guidelines, and larger projects should include community meeting spaces at the ground level. The open spaces should also address a cultural and place-specific context.
The City of Seattle is taking applications for volunteers to serve on the new Central Area Design Review Board through Wednesday, April 25, with those five positions slated to start on July 1. The guidelines are expected to take effect no later than mid-May.
To be considered, people are asked to send in an application, cover letter and resume to Design Review Program manager Lisa Rutzick at email@example.com. The city is looking for two residential representatives, a development professional, business/landscape design professional and design professional. Board terms are for two years. Click here to download an application.
Central Area Neighborhood Design Guidelines 2017 v2 by branax2000 on Scribd