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:  https://www.seattlechannel.org/videos?videoid=x75776

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.

http://www.sightline.org/2017/03/20/how-seattle-killed-micro-housing-again/

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
Type
Unit Count
Parking Count
Parking Ratio
21
Apartment
562
18
0.03
5
Townhouse
31
44
1.42

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.