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Kirkland residents disapprove of large Lake Street development
Some residents in downtown Kirkland oppose the construction of a large building that would replace the current parking lot behind Hector’s and Milagro Cantina with roughly 189,500 square feet of parking, office, restaurant and retail space.
Several residents of the Portsmith Condominiums have expressed to city officials that the size of the building, known as the Lake Street Place development, will overwhelm the small-town look and feel of downtown Kirkland. The condominiums are located directly behind the proposed development, near Merrill Gardens and many have a view of Lake Washington.
“The proposal embraces a Costco-sized commercial building right on Lake Street,” said Brian Rohrback, a Portsmith resident, who says the project’s wall on the east would be 14 feet away from the condos.
The Lake Street Place development’s property is owned by Stuart McLeod and the proposal seeks to add restaurant space to Hector’s and the Kirkland Waterfront Market building on the ground floor, while creating retail space under four levels of 252 stalls of enclosed parking. A sixth level of office space will cap the parking garage and three levels of office space will sit atop Hector’s and the Kirkland Waterfront Market.
On some parts of the development, rooftop decks and terraces will be used to grow herbs and produce for the restaurants.
The building will reach 55 feet at its highest point.
This is the building’s third version and second developer since it was first proposed in 2007. Former architect Mark Smedley with Stock and Associates originally proposed underground parking for Lake Street Place, but after Rick Chesmore with Chesmore/Buck Architecture took over, they soon discovered it would not work and were forced to add the four-level garage.
“When we got ahold of the parking, subterranean parking was not an option,” said Chesmore. “There’d been a challenge of getting some tieback agreements with Portsmith (to dig close to their property).”
Senior Planner Jon Regala confirmed this by adding that the property owner, McLeod, pursued getting some easements from the Portsmith property but they never went through.
The Reporter attempted to contact managers at Portsmith but was unsuccessful.
Portsmith resident Sandi Hart said she is concerned about the parking garage’s switch, mostly due to its scale and because she feels there hasn’t been as much public outreach on this change.
But Chesmore said they are trying to accommodate Portsmith residents and pedestrians by working with the Design Review Board to put in lighting, landscaping, a top-story setback and are deliberating on the material and color of the walls.
“If the garage wasn’t there, it would be office space. We’ll make the building look nice but if there was office space or multi-family (residential use), it would be just as high,” Chesmore said. “There would be other spaces there with windows looking out to their windows.”
However, Hart feels the parking garage’s entrance on Main Street could impact the neighborhood.
“The location of the parking garage access will undoubtedly cause additional congestion in downtown Kirkland as well as jeopardize the safety of our senior citizens as they come and go from Merrill Gardens,” said Hart.
Rohrback has the same concern.
“As my mother lives in Merrill Gardens (retirement home) next door, I dislike the idea of having 10 times the traffic or more traversing her doorstep,” he said.
Regala said it is still too early to determine this impact and that traffic and vehicular safety will have to be addressed as a part of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.
Chesmore said the parking garage will be available for restaurant, retail and office workers during business hours on weekdays but the public can use it on nights and weekends, which could be a benefit to the parking problem downtown Kirkland drivers often face.
It is unknown at this time if it will be paid parking or not.
McLeod declined to comment about the status of the project other than the process was going well. He agreed to speak to the Reporter after the final Design Review Board (DRB) meeting on Dec. 17.
Hart and Rohrback say they would feel most comfortable with this development if parking was somehow able to return underground, buildings were kept at three stories and overall gave “the residents on the north, the east and the south some breathing room,” said Rohrback.
“I would like to see a proposal that is more in keeping with the drive along Lake Street; an office tower does not fit the locale,” said Rohrback. “A scaled-down proposal that does not wall-in existing residents can work.”
Chesmore said if the DRB gives them the okay they could work to acquire the building permit by the middle of next year or if they decide to phase the project a permit could be secured as early as March or April.
Kirklanders can expect the courtyard to stay put and Chesmore adds that the extra office tenants could actually do some good.
“This should be an exciting project. I think the scaled back version since 2007 is a much better building,” Chesmore said. “There’s not a lot of office space in Kirkland and if you put office space there, (the workers) become patrons of these smaller stores.”
The Lake Street Place development will have a Design Review Board meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 17. For more information, visit the Kirkland Design Review Board or contact senior planner Jon Regala at 425-587-3255 or JRegala@kirklandwa.gov.