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Monday, October 20, 2008

Interstate's New Gateway: The (Pretty Boring) Prescott Project

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Oct 20, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Big changes are planned for the corner of what's now known as Interstate's "liquor store block": 155 apartment units and six storefronts are moving in as part of a development called The Prescott. This project is a big deal because it's the first large mixed-use project on North Interstate, plus it's the first development occurring after the area overhauled its design review guidelines so take a look at The Prescott and you're seeing what all of Interstate might look like in 20 years.

So given that precedent-setting potential, the building itself is pretty conventional. 155 market-rate apartments, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, a gated courtyard, a rooftop pickleball court... nothing exciting there (except the surprisingly high demand for rooftop pickleball). That's actually neighbors' main problem with the project: it's boring. "It would be nice if the building made more of a statement, if it could do more of a place-making thing," says Overlook Neighborhood Association land use chair David Chott, who says one comment he's heard from neighbors is that the building's white facade and repetitive balconies make them think of a big, unimaginative hotel. Eight neighbors wrote letters to the city commenting on the design, several of them mentioning they'd like the building to be more bold. That stretch of Interstate is seen as a gateway to the neighborhood, the first spot people see when driving up the hill from downtown, and it could be the perfect place for a building that says something unique.

But the architecture firm is sticking to what's safe and noncontroversial. "What we're shooting for is a warm color palette that's respectful of the buildings already there," explains architect Nathan Cox.

This is the building from corner of Interstate and Skidmore - the most interesting part of the design is the fin running down the SW side:

prescott_interstate.jpg

And the view from Skidmore:
prescott_southeast.jpg

No neighbors are raising an uproar about the design, it just seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. How often are architects invited to be big, bold and daring? Chott and neighborhood co-chair Eric Gale tossed around the idea that the Prescott could incorporate some neon (since Interstate is now officially the Neon Sign District) - maybe the old Crown Motel sign or some swanky "Prescott" lettering down the fin?

And while some people are upset about parking -- the transit-oriented project has only 110 parking spots for 155 units, banking on people moving there for the MAX (a move all new projects should take along Interstate to make owning a car even less attractive!) -- the general shoulder-shrugging consensus seems to be that even a dull apartment building is a much better gateway than what currently exists:
prescott_now.jpg

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