Northwest NEWS

September 13, 1999

Local News

City Hall public comment meeting sparsely attended

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--One resident of the Brittany Park complex, adjacent to the new City Hall site, was the only citizen to attend a public forum about placement alternatives for the new building during the Planning Commission meeting of Sept. 1.

   Ross Jamieson and Laroy Gant of Lewis Architects presented several issues raised by their design team regarding placement of the building on the three-acre site.

   "This building wants three fronts," said Gant. "The natural walk-in entry on 133rd NE, an entry on the west side that accesses the parking lot, and an entry on the north side to accommodate traffic from a potential community center established on the Sorenson property. Depending on what the City decides to do with the Sorenson building, another parking area (for City Hall) might be built (replacing part of Sorenson school). That would give the new building better visibility from 175th."

   The main parking area, on the southwest sector of the property, will provide some 100 spaces, including about 20 shared with Brittany Park residents. The overflow parking lot between Sorenson and the ballfields would provide more.

   The 8,000-square-foot second floor of the new City Hall will house the Executive and Finance departments and the Fire Marshal's office. All other City departments would be on the 16,000-square-foot main floor. Current plans call for long, gabled window views on the west and east sides of the building.

   Positioning of the Council Chambers has provoked the most discussion. Three of the five design alternatives presented by Lewis put it at the northwest corner of City Hall, with an unobstructed view of Wilmot Park. The other two drawings place it at the east end of City Hall or the north side, abutting the Sorenson parking lot.

   Councilmember Barbara Solberg argued strongly for the northwest position at the City Council meeting of Aug. 23. She said the room should be easily accessible to the parking lot, especially for the elderly, handicapped, and those whose vision might be challenged in the dark, when most Council meetings take place.

   Four of the five drawings have a round design for the Chambers, with one somewhat square. Four of the drawings show the Chambers accessible by a door on the parking lot side and by a door connected to the main building by a lobby "spine." That lobby would be a wide corridor giving citizens direct access to counters for the permit, public works, and community development departments. The lobby spine would have two public entries: the main pedestrian entry at the northeast corner of the site, and the main parking lot entry at the west end of the building.

   Jamieson and Gant said they expect the police will be stationed in the southeast corner of the building, to provide easy access for emergency response. They would share a small, private parking lot with public works staff "who sometimes come from the field with muddy shoes," said Jamieson. That would give those workers a secluded area to clean up and change before entering their offices. It would also allow police a private entry by which to bring suspects into their interview rooms.

   One challenge facing designers involves the eight-foot drop in elevation from the east end to the west end of the property. One proposal would lower 133rd NE a few feet, which could allow businesses across the street, which currently sit below street grade, to access 133rd. Large trees they hope to save on the site, along 133rd, would probably not be affected by grading, said Jamieson.

   The pros and cons of straightening 133rd to NE 175th versus retaining the present curve revealed the expense of having to buy property along 175th would not justify the cost. The consensus among the Planning Commission, city staff, and Lewis was that routing traffic along the windowless, back sides of the buildings in the "175th Street Station" mall would create a walled corridor effect.

   Lewis and City planning committee meetings have emphasized the importance of grassy open space areas on the east, north, and west sides of the site. They also plan to incorporate walking paths through the property, including one that will tie into a planned path along the south end of the ballfields, for easy access to Wilmot Park. That path will also give Brittany Park residents easier access to Wilmot. Brittany Park residents wondered how the new City Hall will visually impact their quality of life.

   "Actually, we plan to add a lot of attractive landscaping on their north side, compared to what's there now," said Jamieson. That view currently features old, condemned houses, wild grass, and blackberries.