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