Memo to Planning Board from Assistant Community Development Director regarding Architectural and Landscape Design for Alameda Point Site A Blocks 9 and 10, April 11, 2016
1. History of Planning for Site A
2. Block 10 Architectural Design Plans
3. Block 9 Architectural Design Plans
File #: 2016-2776
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 4/11/2016
Title: Planning Board Workshop: Architectural and Landscape Design for Alameda Point Site A Blocks 9 and 10.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - History of Planning for Site A, 2. Exhibit 2 - Block 10 Architectural Design Plans, 3. Exhibit 3 - Block 9 Architectural Design Plans
Planning Board Workshop: Architectural and Landscape Design for Alameda Point Site A Blocks 9 and 10.
To: President and Members of the Planning Board
From: Andrew Thomas, Assistant Community Development Director
In June 2015, the City Council unanimously approved the Site A Development Plan for a 68-acre area within Alameda Point that extends generally from the Main Street entrance to Alameda Point to the Seaplane Lagoon and the eastern edge of the Naval Air Station Alameda Historic District (Historic District). For those residents and interested parties that are new to the 20-year community planning process that has proceeded these design review discussions, a summary of the Alameda Point planning process is attached as Exhibit 1.
On January 25, 2016, the Planning Board held an initial public hearing to provide direction and suggestions for improvements to APP/BCV’s initial plans for Block 10. The attached plans (Exhibit 2) represent the revised plans for Block 10. On March 14, 2016, the Planning Board approved the Design Review applications for Blocks 11 and 8 and the Phase 1 waterfront park.
At this time, staff would like to invite the Alameda community and Planning Board to review and comment on the revised architectural designs for four individual buildings on Block 10 and the initial architectural design for Block 9. No final action is recommended on the designs at this time.
Block 10 Retail and Open Space Plans (Exhibit 2)
Block 10 is often referred to as the “urban park” block because it will include approximately three acres of public open space surrounded by three re-purposed former Navy buildings and one new building to be used for retail commercial uses. The block does not include any residential uses. The block is located between the higher density residential Block 11 (approved in March 2016) and Block 9 (discussed below). The Phase 1 waterfront park (approved in March 2016) is located across the street from Block 10.
Block 10 is designed to take advantage of the history of the site and the existing buildings and landscape features to embrace and highlight the history of Alameda Point. Block 10 provides a pleasant contrast to, and public space in between, the taller, larger residential mixed use buildings on the adjacent Blocks 11 and 9. The physical and visual contrast help to create a more interesting urban design for the entire district by avoiding a monotonous uniformity in scale and building height in this area of Site A and reinforcing the mixed use land pattern that is integral to the Site A Development Plan and the City’s General Plan and Town Center Plan objectives for Alameda Point.
To address the need for visitor automobile parking, the Site A Development Plan provides for a public parking lot immediately adjacent to Block 10, behind Block 11. In the initial phases of the development, the site will be utilized as a surface parking lot. As demand for parking increases with the development of each block at Site A, the surface lot can be expanded to a parking structure.
Since the January meeting, the design team has continued to refine the design in response to the Planning Board and public comments. The refinements include changes to the landscape and open space plan details, trellis and building façade enhancements, and “C-3” storm water treatment area improvements.
At this stage in the design process, staff is focusing on three major design questions:
1. Central Open Space Features. Staff is considering a number of alternative treatments for the central open space. Staff believes that the central open space should be an attractive and safe place for children to play while their parents are seated nearby at one of the outdoor seating areas. The original design included a rail car with trees planted in boxes on the rail car. Staff is encouraging the design team to investigate alternative concepts for the central feature that would meet the following objectives: it should be fun and safe for young children to climb on (the rail car met this objective, but the trees in planters on top, did not), it should reflect the history of the site, (Mr. Dick Rutter suggested a Navy “whale boat” on a dune of sand), and it should provide an open space experience for young and old that is different than the experience that might be found at the nearby waterfront park.
2. Street Facing Building Facades. The site plan provides a pleasing arrangement of smaller buildings around a central open space. This site plan encourages the retail spaces to orient their front doors and outside seating towards the central open space. Although the site plan is attractive, it creates a challenge for the design of the street facing facades. The street facing facades in this type of site plan are often the “rear”, less interesting facades of the buildings. These street facing rear facades should be simple but attractive.
3. Parking Access: The design team is proposing a one-way, narrow access road between Block 10 and Block 11 to provide access to the public parking lot at the rear of Block 11. Staff supports the concept of providing this automobile access to the public parking lot at this location (preferable to requiring parkers to travel through the shared plaza in front of Block 11 and circle around Block 11 to access the lot), but it raises some interesting design challenges at the intersection of West Atlantic and the new road and it requires careful consideration of the nature of the pedestrian experience between the two blocks along this one-way lane. (These kinds of spaces can be interesting and unique, if well designed, but they can also be uninviting and unpleasant for pedestrians, if not well designed.)
Block 9 Architectural Design (Exhibit 3)
Block 9 will include 182 housing units, 13,145 square feet of ground floor retail space facing West Atlantic Avenue, and 243 on-site parking spaces.
The 182 housing units are designed to provide a wide range of housing opportunities for a wide range of household types. For example, the building includes units as small as 510 square foot studios and units as large as 1,290 square foot three-bedroom units. The range of unit sizes is a much needed contrast to the types of units that have been constructed in recent years in Alameda and that are under construction at Marina Shores and at Alameda Landing. The Marina Shores and Alameda Landing market-rate units are all, with a few exceptions, much larger units. As a result, the larger units are also priced at a point that makes it more difficult for many Alameda households to afford.
From a design perspective, the proposed architectural design for Building 9 is both interesting and challenging. MBH Architects, describes its challenge as follows:
“One of the challenges in designing Block 9 at Alameda Point is neither to look too far back to the point of being imitative nor to look too far forward so as to feel out of place. This building draws inspiration from local and regional sources ranging from the deep vertical openings on the City Hall West building at the Alameda Naval Air Station to the porte cochere at the Bellevue-Staten Apartments in Oakland. Other key site considerations that help inform the design include traffic intensity and prevailing winds. The building elevations and proposed uses transition from vibrant and energetic along West Atlantic to calm and tranquil on G Street. The 2nd floor courtyard occurs on the leeward side of the building to facilitate the usefulness of the amenities.
Another design challenge is breaking down the massing of a 6-story building occupying an entire city block to a more pedestrian scale without denying the fact that it is a 6-story building occupying an entire city block. This is achieved through the use of modular façade forms, varied parapet lines and wall planes that add visual movement and shadows throughout the day. Together with a limited palette of accent materials and colors, the building provides enough repetition without being static and enough variety to keep the pedestrian interested as they encounter it from different vantage points.
Block 9 strives to fit within the surrounding context of the Phase I development while maintaining an identity of its own. For example, the lushly landscaped porte cochere acts as a terminus to the parklet at Block 8. The ground floor townhouses located along the northern half of the building are designed with stoops to establish a more residential quality adjacent to the park and residences to the north and east, respectively. The flex space along the south elevation wraps the west corner establishing a connection to the Block 10 retail experience across the street. A more commercial aesthetic is created through the use of canopies and full height storefront glazing.”
At this stage in the design process, staff is focusing on two major design questions:
1. The “opening” into the building mass created by the porte cochere is facing east toward Block 8. This allows the building lobby to face the Navy jet in the park on West Atlantic. Staff continues to question whether the “opening” created by the porte cochere should in fact be located on the west side of the building, facing toward the west and the Seaplane Lagoon.
2. The architectural elevations provide a great variety of surfaces, insets, and materials. As described by the architects, this variety “breaks down” the mass and apparent size of the building. Staff agrees with this design strategy, but staff is also somewhat concerned that the elevations may appear “busy” or “unorganized” and should be simplified.
On February 4, 2014, the City of Alameda certified the Alameda Point Final EIR in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Final EIR evaluated the environmental impacts of redevelopment and reuse of the lands at Alameda Point consistent with the Town Center Plan, which included Site A. No further review is required for this review of the project designs.
Hold a Planning Board study session on Alameda Point Site A Blocks 10 and 9 to provide direction and suggestions for the design of the two blocks.
Assistant Community Development Director
1. History of Planning for Site A
2. Block 10 Architectural Design Plans
3. Block 9 Architectural Design Plans