Point/Counterpoint | Parkplace Rebuttal by Ken Davidson

Editor's note:

In December, 2008 the Kirkland City Council followed the recommendation of the Planning Commission and approved Touchstone’s Private Amendment Request for an eight story mixed-use redevelopment of Kirkland Parkplace. In the months leading up to that decision, Kirkland Views ran a series of Point/Counterpoint opinion pieces.

On September 21, the City Council will consider readopting the ordinances it approved in December 2008. We present two opposing Point/Counterpoint opinion pieces for your consideration: "A Chance to Reconsider Parkplace" by Ken Davidson of Davidson, Czeisler & Kilpatric, P.S. and in rebuttal, "Time to Move Forward on Parkplace" by Douglas Howe, President of Touchstone Corporation.

The following rebuttal has been submitted by Ken Davidson and is posted here for your consideration:

By Ken Davidson

Touchstone has done a good job of packaging a product the community does not need—an extremely large office park.  It now criticizes opponents for not having the latest packaging.  The computer-generated models we presented were prepared by architects using the dimensions and designs of buildings Touchstone had submitted to the Design Review Board.  Apparently, Touchstone has recently changed the window treatment on Building A, but that change in window treatment has not altered the bulk and mass of this 7-story building which stretches 300 feet down Central Way.  You be the judge.

Here is the computer-generated model we presented which shows three buildings submitted to the DRB as they would be seen from the perspective of a pedestrian on the northeast corner of 6th Streeet and Central Way.  Building A is on the corner and the view down 6th shows the 8-story Buildings B and C.  Touchstone does not deny that Building B and C are accurately presented.

Here is the artist’s rendering of Building A presented in Doug Howe’s counterpoint article on this blog.  Note the addition of a 5-story glass element protruding from the façade in two places.  While this element may appeal to some, it does not change the height or length of the building, nor its proximity to Central Way.

This artist’s rendering employs techniques, which make the project look better than it will in real life.  A tall jogger in the crosswalk makes the building appear smaller.  While Touchstone has always  presented the adjoining 8-story Building B with a reddish-brown façade, it is drawn here in white, like a friendly ghost disappearing down the street.  The 7-story hotel  west of Building A would continue the 7-story wall down Central Way, but the artist has omitted the hotel and shows trees to the west.

Touchstone refers to the many meetings it has attended, but its primary function in those meetings was to sell the rezoning of its property, not listen to citizens.  Under the zoning in place when it bought the property, City staff estimated that Touchstone could have built a  846,000 square foot project at Parkplace, which would have more than tripled the existing Parkplace.  It would have been about as large as Lincoln Square in Bellevue.  But Touchstone proposed to build a project of 1.8 million square feet—a project 20% larger than the 42-story Columbia Tower in Seattle. Citizens for Responsible Development asked whether something in between 1.8 million square feet and existing zoning could be built which would be more in scale with the rest of Kirkland and would have less impacts on traffic and parking.   This citizen group supported the redevelopment of Parkplace and a rezone, but at a more reasonable scale.  Touchstone declined to meet with citizens to even discuss a compromise of any sort.

Nor has Touchstone been willing to listen to City Council members.  At its December 2 study session, Council asked Planning Commissioner Matt Gregory why he voted against the proposed rezone.  Mr. Gregory, the only architect on the Planning Commission, explained that he felt that zoning for Building E located next to Peter Kirk Park should remain at 5- stories and expressed his concern that an 8-story building would wall off the Park from the office and residential buildings to the east.  Council Member Asher proposed addressing the concerns raised by Mr. Gregory and neighbors about Building E by requiring that the building have lower heights on its south end and large stepbacks to break-up the wall-like effect.  He joked that he wanted to write into the zoning regulations that there be “bodacious” setbacks so that the intent was clear.  Other Council members concurred in Mr. Asher’s approach.  Touchstone representatives were present and heard this dialogue.  The regulation offered by Mr. Asher and adopted by the Council required that buildings in this southwest part of the site “provide generous and substantial modulation in response to their proximity to neighboring buildings.”  The following view of Building E as presented to the DRB and currently proposed has the most minimal modulation on its southern façade.

This computer-generated view prepared by Freiheit and Ho Architects shows the proposed Parkplace project in an arial view from the west.  In the foreground is Peter Kirk Park and the Teen Union and Senior Center.  Building E is the largest office building in the complex and the closest to the Park.  It forms the 325 foot long, 8-story wall that Mr. Gregory and neighbors feared at this location.  Above the fourth floor it steps back slightly, but then steps out again above the fifth floor, putting floors 6 through 8 in the same plane as floors 1 through 4.  So much for bodacious step-backs.

By comparison, here is a proposed compromise on Building E which carries out the intent of the City Council to avoid the wall-like effect of Building E.

The south façade of the building begins at two stories, steps up to four stories and then steps up to 8 stories.  It has only 78,000 fewer square feet, but it relates much better to neighboring buildings to the east, south and west and to the Park.  So far, Touchstone has declined to discuss this compromise or any reasonable proposal to carry out the intent of the Council and avoid the wall-like effect of  Building E.