Design: Is the Prometheus Development Compatible with the Neighborhood?

by Alex Lew

If your perspective of Old Mountain View consists primarily of the early 20th century storefronts and cottages, then I’d say the answer is an easy no. The proposed high-density apartment project is composed of two buildings, each of which fills up the equivalent of one city block. The 2- to 4-story buildings are larger than both the low-density old cottages as well as the more recent medium-density Classic Communities and Wild Orchid projects.

However, the downtown district does include a wide diversity of buildings, including high-density housing.  The developer’s previous Park Place project (between Castro Street, Church Street, and High School Way) serves as useful benchmark. That project is primarily 3-½ stories, but the mixed-use buildings on Castro are 4-5 stories.  Not too far from downtown, the largest building at The Crossings (Showers Drive and San Antonio Circle) and Domizile (550 Ortega) are also comparable precedents. Both of these 4-story projects have about same site area as just one of the Prometheus buildings.

The proposed project includes some improvements to these precedents.  The buildings are mostly 4 stories:  along Evelyn Street, along a new street parallel to Bush Street, along a new pedestrian paseo, and around the courtyards.  The buildings do step-down in height to 3 stories along Bush Street and 2 stories along Villa Street.  Many of the first floor units have individual entry stairs and porches so that the buildings are more interesting to a passing pedestrian and appear more like the neighboring houses. In addition, the developer’s illustrative sketch perspectives of the Bush Street and Villa Street indicate more architectural variety of materials and colors than the uniform designs of The Crossings, Domizile, and The Crossings.

In my opinion, there is a world of difference between the typical 3-story housing infill developments that have been build downtown recently and the proposed, predominantly 4-story, project.  The shade that tall, continuous walls create, the reduced sightlines to the sky and hills, and the proportions of the trees and landscape to the facades all contribute to a design that is unmistakably urban.

I encourage everyone to look at the massing model of the project, which is currently in the lobby of the planning and building department, walk around the site, and then judge for yourself.

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