From Steve's e-mail:
I think the developer and the architect showed they're taking a relatively responsible approach to the development and trying to be as respectful to the neighbors as possible while still creating a project that'll be profitable and makes sense them (the developer). I mean, they're not proposing a green roof (yet) or anything with low-income housing, but it looks like a pretty good project for what the zoning code allows. The project looks very familiar--much like what you'll see if you drive around Ballard, Wallingford, the U-District, and any other of the higher density neighborhoods in the city that are years ahead of Beacon Hill in terms of densifying and gentrifying old rundown "business centers." In some ways that's a bit disappointing, but I think there's not a whole lot they can do to make it unique--later in the design process we'll have a chance to suggest specific exterior design finishes that might create something that is more of a departure from some of the other recent developments around the city. The area where they're proposing the development is zoned for slightly higher density and higher allowable bldg heights, and I think it's reasonable to expect that both sides of the street in the higher density zone will be redeveloped in the next several years, and this project should help build some much-needed momentum. My experience with progress on Beacon Hill tells me it'll be a long time, but maybe things will take off, who knows.
The members of the design review board asked some good questions, and some that seemed ridiculous, such as asking the architect about other massing configurations. I think it's clear that the configuration they've chosen is the one that's most respectful to the neighbors and shields them as much as possible from the development, while providing nice open space for the new building's residents that will have decent views and won't overlook a busy neighborhood street.
The public included maybe 25-30 residents, many from within a block of the bldg. I live 4 blocks away and I think I was the most distant of anyone there. Some had some good questions about the design, many of which concerned the traffic impacts, which the DRB put off as not relevant for this meeting. It's an SDOT issue that will have to be covered later.
I'm glad I went to the meeting, but you didn't miss much if you looked over the info on that website you forwarded yesterday. Probably the most noteworthy thing design-wise that came up was the fact that there are two separate parking entrances, including one off Oregon that will provide 5(!) parking stalls for the retail space and also parking for residents. The arch justified having separate parking entrances by noting that if a ramp configuration were used it would cut into the retail space quite a bit, leading to most likely less desirable retail. Everyone there was united in saying we want some decent retail and I think if the city pushes too hard on things that are going to affect the quality of the retail space, the residents will push back.