...Still more innovative is David Neiman’s Beacon Green town-house project on Beacon Hill, a beneficiary of that code revision.
Like a lot of local architects, Neiman had steamed for years over Seattle’s dreary “four-pack” and “six-pack” design convention for infill town houses, which typically feature two flanks of craftsmanoid units with a dark and dreary concrete “autocourt” between for driveway and parking. In 2006 Neiman hatched an idea for a three-unit commission he had: Why not put a lid on the autocourt, preserving ground-level parking, and turn its topsides into a second-floor outdoor commons?
“It violated about 15 different parts of the code,” Neiman says. “We had to submit to a very high level of scrutiny, and it was a two-year process just to get from idea to permit. By then it was 2008, and the bottom fell out of the capital market, so the project never saw the light of day.”
Neiman didn’t have much work for the next few years, so along with a number of underemployed architects in other small firms, he spent considerable time working with the city toward liberalized multifamily housing rules. The efforts bore fruit, and Beacon Green, an improved version of the lid/deck idea, is now nearing completion. Six modest-sized (885 to 1,350 square feet), three-story town houses will share a second-floor deck of 1,240 square feet with parking underneath. Each unit will have a semiprivate area on the deck delineated by planters. An idealist, Neiman expects that sharing the rest of the deck will energize a sense of community within the development.
“People who buy here will self-select,” Neiman predicts. “If you want a yard with a 6-foot fence and want to be left alone, you won’t be coming here. If you want a certain level of interaction with your neighbors, you will. My intuition is that the world is probably divided 50-50 this way.”...