Town gives thumbs up; Spring Street Landing project good to go

An artist
An artist's drawing shows the design of the Spring Street Landing Building, tentatively approved by the Friday Harbor Town Council July 17, gabled roof, and all.
— image credit: Contributed photo/Port of FH

Turns out a slight modification to the roofline – to lower its pitch – didn’t quite do the trick.

The Friday Harbor Town Council gave preliminary approval July 17 to the much-debated design of the new Spring Street Landing building, a multi-million dollar construction and replacement project destine for the site of the former two-story waterfront building (once home of Downriggers Restaurant) gutted by fire, and damaged beyond repair, nearly 11 months ago.

The Town Council, prompted by concerns of the buildings height and impact on waterfront views, requested late last month that the Port of Friday Harbor offer up a modification to the roofline, with a slightly lower pitch. The building’s design, as well as roofline, had earned an endorsement of the town Historical Preservation Review Board.

Still, council members wondered if a lower pitch might lessen the impact. The modification revealed as much would be lost as gained, Councilman Farhad Ghatan said.

“It ended up blocking other views because it actually got a bit squattier," Ghatan said of the roof alteration. “I think the council also felt it was wrong of us to second guess a public process of 6-8 months that went into the design for 16 inches here or there, and there are views and open space for the public that weren’t there before.”

The building gives Mayor Carrie Lacher concern. Although the view of the waterfront may be greater overall, with new sight-lines available because of the design, Lacher fears the height of the building might prove uncomfortable for some.

“It’s going to be very tall building,” she said. “For a pedestrian on the sidewalk it could be imposing.”

The council is expected to give final approval to the design, project and a shoreline development permit, along with “findings of facts and conclusion of law” for the waterfront project, at its Aug. 7 meeting. Port Commissioner Mike Ahrenius said that approval of the project will be a step in the right direction, but that much has yet to be done before the port can break ground, including final drawing, pricing and putting the project out to bid.

“We showed them both and I’m happy with the choice,” Ahrenius said. “What you see today was done through a long public process and with due diligence.”

The new building is intended to replace the former Spring Street Landing Building, once the home of Downriggers Restaurant and three other waterfront businesses. The top floor of the building was razed and destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of Aug. 17, 2013. All four businesses and their employees were displaced as a result of the inferno.

After an initial design for the new building met opposition earlier in the year, the most recent design, which includes a public plaza, restaurant, retail spaces and underground parking, drew the endorsement of the town Historical Review Board. That endorsement translates into an option of raising the roofline, from a maximum of 27 feet to 35 feet, and providing 50 percent fewer parking spaces than the size of the building would normally require under town building codes.

The design calls for 16 underground parking spaces and another three at the street level. The port will also be required to contain and to treat stormwater run-off on site, as opposed to requirements for the former building, in accordance with a new shoreline development permit.

The port anticipates that some portion of the construction costs will be paid for from the insurance settlement, $2.6 million, from last year’s fire.

Ahrenius said that it’s too soon to tell what the price tag will be. He noted the port will also be seeking a permit for replacement of the waterfront bulkhead at the town Aug. 7 meeting.

“It’s a big project on the waterfront,” he said of the Spring Street Landing building. “Something on the water is never simple. It would be premature to put a price on it at this stage.”


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