Shorewood to increase number of units by 20 percent

Design commission approves 124 condo units to be built on property

By J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter

Over 100 new apartments and town homes planned to be converted into condos were approved for development at the Shorewood Heights Apartments two weeks ago.

There are presently 646 apartments within the Shorewood property.

The Design Commission narrowly approved the final design of 124 new residential units at the Island’s North end apartment complex on Dec. 12. The approval, 3-2, was supported by Commissioner Chair Bryan Caditz, Commissioners Emmett Maloof and Scott Kuznicki. Commissioners Lucia Pirizio-Biroli and George Wittman opposed. Vice Commissioner Carla Weinheimer was absent. Another commissioner seat remains vacant.

Three conditions were attached to the approval of the five new buildings. Two conditions suggested by city staff require the replacement of parking spots and trees that will be lost as part of the development. Four new trees will be required for every one lost by the re-development, according to the condition. The 131 lost parking spaces will also be replaced and spread out over 12 various sites along Shorewood Drive.

The third condition, suggested by Wittman and approved by the rest of the Commission, requires the new structures to vary the modulations of the siding and building elevations.

Wittman stated he had concerns the siding of the large structures would be bland and monolithic.

“There’s a clear distinction between your preliminary presentations and what we’ve got here,” Wittman said during the meeting. “You’ve run amok with some of siding. [Panels and elevation variations] seem to be value engineered out but in the previous submittals we saw great vignettes and drawings. I think the buildings are losing their character.”

In the presentation, the architects showed slides and stated there was a mix of features to break up the buildings. However, Wittman said he was concerned some of the elevation drawings did not show as much variation as previous submitted depictions.

City staff will decide if the three conditions are met during building permit approval.

During their presentation, the architects explained the new development will feature distinguished building entrances with indicative awnings, landscapes and open spaces.

“The entrances are tied to the basic design features, the open spaces between buildings and the trail network connecting buildings,” said Ted Panton, an architect with the firm GGLO. “We wanted to avoid elements of gratuitous detailing. They will be really visible from vehicles and pedestrian routes of travel. We wanted to create visual cues that support design.”

Other features highlighted by the architects include indoor and enclosed garbage and recycling facilities. The applicants stated those facilities would be contained within the parking garages of the new buildings, except for the town homes. The town homes will have an enclosed facility at one end and be set into a hillside to provide a natural screen from neighboring buildings. It will also be landscaped.

One resident and Island business owner spoke at the public hearing in support of the project. At the previous hearing, a woman and her mother told Commissioners they were concerned about the traffic impacts new units would have on the neighborhood. Commissioner Kuznicki, who was concerned the dumpster for the town homes was too close to the corner unit, later mentioned he felt confident the architects would hear out his comments and he would support the construction.

“The goal is to fit this into the existing community,” Commissioner Kuznicki said. “And I think that as long as you keep that in mind you’ll do just fine.”

There are 39 present buildings and the five recently approved will bring it to 44. The new flats and town homes will also add 248 underground parking spaces and garages, or two per unit.

According to the staff report given by city planner Matt Torpey, the 131 existing parking stalls to be displaced and relocated will be moved so they are closer to the units.

There will be a new parking lot on south end of property, which staff found met the requirements, Torpey said.

The new development is planned to become condos and the town homes sold after the property is subdivided. The company that owns the Shorewood apartments, Security Properties, has filed for permits with the city to divide the property into four parcels. The subdivision, however, must be approved by the City Council.

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