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July 23, 2014

Proposal for an Uptown drug store grows into 3-story mixed-use project

By NAT LEVY
Journal Staff Reporter

Image courtesy Schemata Workshop [enlarge]
Neighbors pushed Velmeir Cos. to do a bigger, bolder project for the corner of Mercer and Queen Anne Avenue.

A one-story CVS Pharmacy proposed for a high profile corner in Uptown has now evolved into a three-story, mixed-use building, and The Velmeir Cos. is hoping to start construction in January.

The structure at 531 Queen Anne Ave. N. will have 16,000 square feet of retail space, mostly for the pharmacy, with 32 apartments above and 62 parking spaces underground. A small retail space along Mercer Street could be a food court.

Construction is expected to take between 13 and 15 months.

A design review board is expected to make a recommendation on the project at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 30 at Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 First Ave. W.

Geza de Gall, vice president of Pacific Northwest real estate for Velmeir, said the community played a big role in the design.

When the one-story building was first proposed, Queen Anne Community Council and other neighborhood groups wanted to see a bigger mixed-use project on that corner.

Velmeir, which is based in West Bloomfield, Michigan, responded with a new design that had a second-story office space.

Three stories is the maximum height allowed without a contract rezone, de Gall said.

Apartments made the most sense financially for Velmeir, while still meshing with the neighborhood's desire for mixed-use.

“It was pretty natural for (the project) to evolve to its present state,” de Gall said. “The community played a large part in helping guide us down that path.”

Neighborhood representatives also pushed Velmeir for a bolder design. The new look is a modern take on the mid-century architecture of the 1962 World's Fair at Seattle Center, which influenced other structures in the neighborhood.

The building will have an “Uptown” sign at the corner of Queen Anne and Mercer to mark the spot as the heart of Uptown, de Gall said.

Marty Kaplan, an architect and chair of Queen Anne Community Council's Land Use Review Committee, said this project shows dedicated neighborhood groups can play a positive role. Too often, groups oppose a project but don't give feedback on how to make it better.

This project started as a generic drug store you could find anywhere in the country, but after months of collaboration it now reflects the architectural style of the neighborhood and uses the maximum density allowed on a site that is just steps from a busy RapidRide stop.

Kaplan said he thinks Velmeir is excited to build a project that fits the community's goals.

“I think this is a testament to how a community and developer can work together over time to help produce a much better project in the end,” Kaplan said.

Schemata Workshop designed the massing and exterior, and DDG Architects of Redmond is doing the core and shell. Velmeir has not selected a general contractor, but Sierra Construction Co. is doing pre-construction services.

Velmeir is working on several CVS stores in the Pacific Northwest and has shown willingness to work with neighborhood groups in the past. Velmeir and CVS planned to tear down a building for a new store at 2100 N. 45th St. in Wallingford, but after hearing local objections, they decided to renovate and expand the building.

Construction on that project is expected to begin in the fourth quarter. Schemata Workshop and Norr are designing the project.

(Editor’s note: This story has been changed to clarify the roles of the architects.)


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