Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Roost Gets Discussed at City Council Hearing

We got a nice complement from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture last week when our work came up in the context of a city council meeting about creating and preserving cultural space. The project they are discussing is The Roost at 901 Hiawatha PL S, where we are offering the building commercial space to an arts non-profit at below-market rent. In doing so we hope to both make a contribution to strengthening the arts in our city, but also to secure an arts identity for our building and provide our tenants with goods and services that are enriching for the folks living upstairs. As they allude to in the discussion, we think we are very close to announcing a deal with a tenant for the space.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Introducing The Roost - A New Affordable Urban Co-Living Community

Introducing The Roost - 901 Hiawatha Pl S (See here to apply)
The Roost is an innovative new micro housing development designed from the ground up as affordable market rate housing aimed at supporting and strengthening Seattle's arts community.  As part of our launch, we are doing extensive outreach to artists and arts organizations. We hope that you will assist us in spreading the word about this project via your own social network.

Affordable Urban Co-Living
The Roost is a unique project, unlike anything we have ever designed before. Most of the units are double height spaces with a small bed loft, freeing up room on the main level for work space or living room furnishings. They function more like one-bedroom apartments than micro-units. Nine of the units are set aside as income and rent restricted units, available to qualified applicants at rents significantly below market rate. The building also has a large commercial space on the first floor . We have reserved this space for an arts non-profit, furnishing the non-profit with a long-term home while also providing our tenants with services and/or cultural resources for artists and people in creative fields.

The rents listed below are averages. Individual unit prices may vary slightly based on unit size and location.  Wi-Fi service and utilities are included for all units (at no additional charge). MFTE units are available to individuals with annual incomes of less than $28,100.

Unit Type
Avg Unit Size
Avg Monthly Rent
Small Units
Small Units - MFTE
Large Units
Units with Outdoor Patios
Loft Units
Loft Units - MFTE

Unit Features:
Most of our units are double height lofts, with the bed space lifted up to provide a clear space at the main level for a work area or living room furnishings. The loft units feature thoughtful built-in amenities, unique custom finishes, and generous natural light and ventilation. Each unit has a private bathroom, a built-in wardrobe, and a kitchenette with a compact refrigerator, sink, and microwave. The cabinets were built out of fir plywood by a local cabinetmaker on Vashon Island. The flooring was custom-made using photographs of cedar fronds that we collected from Al Larkins Park in Madrona.

Typical loft space fits a queen sized bed

Custom fir plywood cabinets and cedar frond photo-print flooring

Common Amenities:
Just off the main building entry is a large common area containing a kitchen, dining table, laundry, mail room, TV lounge and a meeting space. The common room is a public counterpoint to the smaller, private units. It provides a community center for gatherings, casual meetups, movie nights, weekend dinners, and more.

Smaller common kitchens on both the 2nd and 3rd floors provide tenants with some additional food preparation areas convenient to their rooms. These features create more opportunities for chance encounters among neighbors as part of the day-to-day living experience.

A secure room for 26 bikes is located in the lower level and is accessed directly from the alley. Small rental storage areas are available as well. Building-wide Wi-Fi is provided free of charge for all tenants

The project is targeting Built Green Five Star certification, a comprehensive third-party verified green building program. Built Green requires performance above and beyond conventional building standards in a number of categories, including site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and resource efficiency. Based on our modeling, we expect energy usage to be about 1/3 that of a conventional apartment building. A rooftop solar array will provide 85-90% of the domestic hot water for the building.

Support for the Arts
We are currently looking for an arts-oriented nonprofit organization to become our primary commercial tenant. We aim to provide a long-term home for an arts organization while also providing our tenants with services and/or cultural resources that would be useful to artists and people in creative fields.

To inquire about renting a unit at the Roost or to schedule a tour, contact Revel Property Management at:
To apply for a unit:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Hiawatha Artworks in Search for Commercial Tenant and Artists

Street View from S Charles St

Construction is rapidly progressing on our latest project at 901 Hiawatha Pl S, the latest evolution of our work in micro-housing model, aims to create a new live-work community for working artists. With a June 2018 completion date just around the corner, we are stepping up our outreach efforts to the artist community.

Commercial Storefront Space
One key component to our arts-based building is finding an arts-based tenant that can provide a facility, services, or cultural resources that would help secure an arts identity for the building and provide services useful to the working artists living in and around the building.  By offering a below market rate rent for the space we hope to attract a tenant that can fulfil this mission.

Commercial Space

The commercial storefront is a double-height, 1,236 SF space ideal for  exhibition space, open work area or light hazard maker-space.  Large windows along Hiawatha Place South and South Charles Street flood the space with natural light….. Overlooking the storefront is 600 SF of mezzanine suitable for additional workspace, private offices, conference rooms or storage.  The space could be leased to a single tenant or shared among multiple smaller organizations.

Commercial Space

Artist Live-Work Units
There are 33 units over 4 floors, containing 4 daylight basement units and 2 ground floor ADA units. 29 of the units are double-height spaces allowing a sleeping loft, and providing a small work-space below. Each unit contains over-sized windows, a kitchenette, small bathroom and built-in storage.

The daylight basement units are the smallest in the project at 160 SF.  The remaining 29 units sizes range from 241 SF including loft to 359 SF (including the loft). Because the project is enrolled in the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program, we will be able to offer nine of these units at a rate of $672/month. The remainder of the project will be market rate with monthly rents likely in the $900-$1100 range.

Typical Loft Unit

Building Amenities
Just off the main building entry is the Commons, a communal space containing a large kitchen, dining area, laundry, mailroom, a flat screen TV and rentable cabinets.   This space is a public counterpoint to the smaller, private units and is designed to create community for the artists for gatherings, causal meetups, movie nights and weekend dinners.

Smaller common kitchens on both the 2nd and 3rd floors provide tenants with some additional cook-space closer to their rooms and create more opportunity for chance encounters as part of day-to-day living.   

A secure room for 26 bikes is located in the daylight basement and is accessed directly off the alley. Small rental storage areas are available as well.

Building Location
The building is located less than 1 ½ miles from downtown Seattle and the International District and in close proximity to two new development hubs at Yesler Terrace and Promenade 23.  Frequent transit bus service is currently available less than a block away on Rainier Avenue. In 2023, Sound Transit Phase 2 will open a light rail station two blocks south of the project.

Nearby Cultural Resources
In addition to Art Space Hiawatha Lofts across the street, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Inscape Cultural Center and Rainier Oven Building are all within a mile walk.

Nearby Arts Organizations

If you know of an organization or working artist that may be interested in our project, please pass our blog along. For additional information or to schedule a tour of the building, please contact David Taber at

See below for project plans and sections

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nazarene Townhomes City Council Hearing

The rezone application to allow development of six new townhouses on the church green of the West Seattle Church of the Nazarene (WSCN) will go before the City Council PLUZ committee on Monday, November 27th.  The project is an interesting test case for the city's new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. The general idea behind MHA is that a re-zone is supposed to confer value to the property owner, and in exchange the city asks the owner to contribute that value back to the city. In the case of WSCN's project, the proposed project includes a Property Use and Development agreement (PUDA) that will dedicate much of the land to a public open space, constraining the use of the site to such an extent that it will actually have less development potential after the re-zone than it does today.

The church pursued the re-zone in the first place to change the zoning from SF5000 to LR1 so that the flexible use standards of lowrise zoning could be employed to cluster the development toward the back of the lot, preserving the front half of the land as open space. We spent over four years working with their community to get support for the project, modify the Morgan Junction neighborhood plan, get a comprehensive plan change passed, get through design review, and pass through the SEPA review process. Now that they have arrived at the finish line, they are facing the prospect of having to pay a $200,000 MHA fee in order to get the re-zone that would enable their project to move forward.

The fee represents a significant chunk of the money that the project will raise to pay for repairs of the WSCN sanctuary building. The Morgan Junction Community Association has been loud and clear in their support for the project and their objection to the MHA fees as punitive and redundant.

The diagrams below show the development proposal - six units and 9,900sf of housing, compared to a development scenario under today's SF5000 zoning with three large homes, three backyard cottages and over 16,500sf of housing.

What will the City Council do when faced with a project that voluntarily provides community benefits that prevent it from using the development potential conferred by a re-zone? Does the property owner have to pay anyway even though they receive no value in return? Is MHA really about a fair exchange of value creation and value capture, or is it just a fine levied on all new development?  We'll find out next week.

WSCN Rezone Site Plan Showing the 6 new townhomes and 9900 sf of new development

Alternate Site Plan of what is legal to develop today without a re-zone. 16,400 sf of new development

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hamilton Apartments Opens - 2305 E Madison St

Hamilton Apartments at 2305 E Madison St is finally open, renting out its units and finding tenants to fill its retail storefronts. When we first proposed the design solution for the project back in 2012, it was a radical departure from conventional development, providing housing units and retail spaces about half the typical size, with about 1/4 of the parking one would normally expect.  In the intervening five years between the first sketch and opening the front door, everyone's original hesitancy seems almost quaint.  Since that time, we have designed over 20 apartment buildings, many with units half the size of those at Hamilton and with only a handful of parking spaces between all of them.

The triangular site geometry creates a unique floor plan, with a footprint less than 40' wide wrapping around the perimeter, creating a V shaped building with an interior courtyard that captures natural light and views for the rear units.

We used an exterior material palette of Oko skin and Swiss Pearl siding to create a distinctive exterior cladding system. The commercial facade along Madison has staggers and offsets in the panel composition, while the residential face of the building along Denny Way is a quieter and more orderly composition. The prows of the building resolve as a sharp point to give expression to the triangular geometry of the site.

The narrow floorplate creates units that are wider than they are deep, allowing for over-sized windows and generous natural light into all of the homes. With the building situated at the top of the 23rd Avenue ridge, the roof deck at the top level enjoys expansive views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier.

The project provides a mix of small studios, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments. The project is also participating in the MFTE program, reserving 20% if its units for rental at affordable prices. In this building it works out to about $400-$500 per month less than market price.

The owners are currently looking for a restaurant tenant for the large corner space, and are talking with a number of local businesses for the small incubator (300-450sf) retail spaces along Madison, including a hair salon, a tutoring classroom, and an exercise studio.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Building a Better Boom: Designing a Thriving City

I was recently invited to speak at Building a Better Boom: Designing a Thriving City, a community workshop aimed at helping participants to create a feasible vision for how their neighborhoods can be made more affordable, inclusive and sustainable. My presentation focused on the key elements of our zoning code, with an emphasis on understanding the key factors that decide what kind of projects get built where in neighborhood scale development.

The presentation can be seen on the Seattle Channel here:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Microhousing: More News From the Trenches

Last year I collaborated with Sightline to write “How Seattle Killed Micro-housing” about a series of legislative actions and administrative decisions that have gradually eroded our ability to produce micro-housing, turning Seattle from a national leader into a cautionary tale. While most of the issues detailed in that article remain unaddressed, the Mayor’s office did catch wind of one small aspect of the problem and asked the Construction Code Advisory Board (CCAB) to review some of their recent building code interpretations regarding minimum unit size with affordability in mind.
I served on the CCAB subcommittee that studied the issue, which just wrapped up a minor re-write of the directors rule that governs the design of SEDUs. While the new directors rule will add a little bit of design flexibility, the committee was unable to agree on changes that would allow SEDU's to be as small as they are intended. I've written about the process in a new post on Sightline that explains in detail the issues reviewed by the committee and where we got stuck.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More Housing and Less Parking

2016 was a busy year for us, with a slew of new projects breaking ground and an even larger number starting the design process. I did a quick look back at our work from this year to see what we have been up to.
All together we worked on 31 projects, creating new homes for 599 people. Five of the projects were townhouses, five were single family homes, and 21 were apartment buildings.
Increasingly we find that our clients are trending away from single family and townhouse projects towards apartment buildings. Inside of this shift toward apartments is another trend regarding parking, the extent of which I hadn’t fully appreciated until I did this look-back exercise: Our townhouse projects have a lot of parking, but our apartment projects have hardly any parking at all.

# of Projects
Unit Count
Parking Count
Parking Ratio

Our townhouse and apartment projects are getting built in fairly similar locations, namely close-in neighborhoods on small infill lots of 5000-10000sf. When this land is developed at townhouse density (1 unit per 1000sf of land) these projects can hold a parking ratio that is fairly typical for a car-based city. But at apartment densities (1 unit per 100-200sf of land) providing parking in any meaningful quantity becomes untenable. Put another way, if the code still required parking, very few of those apartment projects would have ever gotten built. Instead, they would likely have been townhouse developments, and in place of 560 apartments we would have built about 75 townhomes (and 100 parking spaces).

This trend in our work reflects a simple truth about the direction we are headed as a city: Over the coming years we are going to welcome a lot of new people, but we are not going to add a lot of parking spaces. Rather, we are going to build infrastructure for public transit. We are going to walk more and bike more. We will learn to make use of car sharing and delivery companies. We are going to price our street parking to use the resource more effectively, and we will eventually learn to stop thinking of the curb in front of our homes as our personal possession. 

This will not be an easy transition for many people. Seattle is going to become a very different city than the one I grew up in. Yes, we will lose some bits and places that we love. But we are also minting new treasures by the armload with many more yet to come. By allowing the city to grow and change and make room for new people, we preserve the city’s essence as the place where people come to seek opportunity. I for one am excited to help build our future, to make homes for the people moving here, and to extend to others some of the same opportunities that I have so richly enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 Wrap Up

As we prepare for another busy year, a quick look back at some of our multi-family projects from 2016:

Courtyard Townhomes: We continued our work to develop and refine the courtyard townhouse development model that we started with Marion Green, marrying high density ownership housing with an innovative courtyard concept that hides the parking and creates community open space.

Olympic View Courtyard Townhouses - Completed Fall 2016

Alki Courtyard Townhouses - Permits almost ready, Construction to begin early 2017

Mark Center in Arlington, VA. A 145 unit master planned community using our courtyard townhouse archetype.

Adaptive Re-Use: Quite a bit of our work was focused on existing buildings - fitting more units inside existing structures, adding on new stories, and re-purposing older buildings that have otherwise reached the end of their economic life.

1722 Summit Avenue.
A stem-to stern renovation and top story addition to a 100 year old rooming house, creating 49 new units. The project is the first of several projects by Anew Development emphasizing the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of old character structures, giving them new economic life while preserving existing building fabric.
423 Terry Avenue.
An un-reinforced masonry apartment building gets a total seismic retrofit while being converted into a 112 unit congregate residence, fixing a major safety hazard while preserving a significant character building.

Accessory Dwelling Units: Interest in mother-in-law apartments and backyard cottages has increased quite a bit recently as families look for opportunities to use their homes to satisfy a whole variety of needs and life transitions: Inter-generational housing for grandparents or adult children, rentals to provide extra income, downsizing in-place, or simply creating more housing for more people.

Innovative Infill: Because we focus on urban infill, much of our work is on sites with odd geometries and configurations, leading to unique solutions where each project derives its character from a response to the site's inherent limitations (and opportunities).

Hamilton Apartments - A 51 unit mixed use apartment building carefully fit into a sloping triangular site at the crossing of 23rd and Madison. The difficult site geometry generated a building with a thin floorplate, an internal light court, and small units oriented with their broad side along the window wall, creating unique apartments with generous natural light and views.

2227 Yale Avenue E
An infill apartment building carefully scaled down along the fromt residential street facade with
a back half of the project that scales up to take advantage of views toward Lake Union

2227 Yale Ave E - Axonometric View

Microhousing: We have pursued a unique approach to microhousing that emphasizes small affordable private rooms paired with generous common amenities arranged to foster social interaction among residents. 

Seattle Artworks @ 901 Hiawatha Pl S is our first micro-housing project with Neiman Taber acting as the principal developer.  Seattle Artworks is congregate micro-housing intended as a live-work artist community. The units are designed as lofts to provide enough room to accommodate a small work area in the unit. The main floor is dedicated mostly to a large shared commons and a commercial space that we will rent out to an arts-oriented non-profit

Seattle Artworks, typical unit cross section. Construction to begin February 2017.

8311 15th Ave NW - An 83 unit microhousing building stitching together affordable housing, a residential commons, incubator retail spaces, and a shared courtyard, all connected to each other and to the public way. 
8311 15th Ave NW - Ground floor spaces interconnected with each other and the sidewalk.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Crown Hill Community Microhousing

Inspirational images illustrating the community-oriented aspirations of the project.

On November 7th we will present preliminary concepts for our latest micro-housing project at 8311 15th Avenue NW in Crown Hill.  This project is part of our ongoing mission to rethink the possibilities for dense livable housing in our rapidly changing city - a pursuit that has led us to a unique approach to micro-housing that emphasizes small affordable housing paired with generous common amenities arranged to foster social interaction among residents.

An important part of this process is engaging with the communities where we build to let people know what we are planning. The feedback we get from stakeholders helps us to refine and improve our design and integrate it better into the broader community.  With this goal in mind, we met earlier this fall with our immediate neighbors for a conversation.  We also sat down with members of the Crown Hill Urban Village Committee for Smart Growth, who invited us to prepare this blog post to help with the outreach process.

Our projects take an approach to micro-housing that differs what people may have seen in the past, so we want to take this opportunity to explain our design and the thinking that informs it.  Our mission is to build housing that pushes forward on the following fronts:
  • Livability:  Small units with thoughtful layouts, built-in amenities, storage, etc.
  • Community: Generous common spaces designed to augment the livability of the units, purposefully arranged to promote chance interaction among residents.
  • Affordability: Affordable rental housing is rapidly disappearing in Seattle. This model allows us to increase the supply of affordable housing and to reach a level of deep affordability that is not possible with conventional market rate housing.
  • Social Mission: We look for opportunities to partner with non-profit organizations that need housing to forward their mission and serve their clients.
  • Sustainability: Our projects will participate in green building certification programs to push energy performance far beyond code requirements.

A typical loft unit in the Yobi Apartments by Neiman Taber Architects.

Each of the private rooms in the project enjoy the following features:
  • Private bathroom.
  • Built-in wardrobe.
  • Kitchenette with sink, lighted mirror, medicine cabinet, microwave, refrigerator.
  • Built in storage areas in bathroom, living area, and overhead.
  • Double bed.
  • Over-sized windows provide generous natural light.
  • Lofts at all top level units.

Community kitchens on every floor provide opportunities for interaction often absent in apartment buildings.
At each floor level there is an informal “Pajama Commons” on each floor featuring:
  • Full Kitchen for casual private and group use by residents.
  • Dining area with ample daylighting.
  • Laundry
At the main floor there is a larger shared commons for the whole building featuring:
  • Full Kitchen
  • Dining Area
  • Living room/lounge
  • Streetside terrace w/ visual connection to public way
  • Shared courtyard with commercial tenant (coffee shop or cafe)
The main floor at 8311 15th NW has been designed create a high level of interaction between the retail spaces, the residential commons and the pedestrian environment.

25% of the units will rent for $633/month.  These units are affordable for someone making 40 percent of area median income ($25,320 for a single person for 2016). The average rent for the rest of the units is projected at about $900/mo.  These units are affordable to someone making 55 percent AMI ($34,650 for a single person in 2016)

Affordability also means no surprises.  Rents are all-inclusive.  There are no extra charges for utilities (gas, power, lights, heat, water, sewer, waste pickup) and internet. This is a significant savings when comparing rents to a conventional apartment building.

We are partnering with Ryther, a non-profit based in North Seattle, helping them launch a new service through their Aspiring Youth program to provide supported community housing for young adults on the autism spectrum.  One of the great strengths of our micro-housing model is that it is ideal for housing a cohort of individuals with common interests that benefit from living together. We expect that up to 10% of our residents will be from the Aspiring Youth program.

·         The project is targeting Built Green 4 star certification. A combination of overall energy efficiency and small unit configuration will create a building with about 1/3 the energy use of a conventional apartment building.

Proposed section through courtyard and retail.  The design proposes a light footprint, allowing for a courtyard at the center of the project with visibility through the retail to the street. Apartments over the courtyard are assured light and ventilation along with a smaller-scale, quiet outdoor area to get together.  Common kitchens on upper levels will all overlook the courtyard.

Big changes are coming to Crown Hill. The city recently re-classified 15th Ave NW as a pedestrian street, triggering new standards for pedestrian friendly development. Seattle's new comprehensive plan anticipates significant upzones and expansion of the Crown Hill Urban Village boundaries. As the first project along 15th Ave NW to be designed and built using this new framework, our project can play a constructive role in the neighborhood's growth, setting a positive tone for future projects. Some of the measures we have taken in this regard are listed and illustrated below.
  • Provide small scale retail opportunities with clear sightlines and an activated street presence. 
  • Dedicate some width along the commercial front to allow space for a wider sidewalk.
  • Break up the retail spaces to creates opportunities for small local businesses.
  • Provide good daylighting/transparency to promote safety.
  • Ensure privacy of adjacent residents by providing screening/fencing and locating active areas away from the shared property line.
    • Incorporate concepts from the Greening Crown Hill Master Plan such as green walls to mitigate blank walls and wide planting beds to buffer between traffic and pedestrians