Two new apartment buildings join changing Capitol Hill rental market

A neighborhood view from the Citizen (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Capitol Hill apartment hunters have two new buildings to choose from this spring — with more on the way. The new options come just as neighborhood landlords have been getting back to pre-global economic meltdown habits regarding move-in incentives and rent increases, according to a study shared with CHS by analysts Dupre + Scott. More on the state of the Capitol Hill apartment market and a visit to two buildings where Hill residents new and Hill residents upgrading are moving in, below.


It’s the “geeky way” to pick an apartment, this new citizen of E Madison writes of her and her partner’s method of selecting a new place to live in Seattle. “I’m a fan of quantitative decision-making,” she writes about her gridded white board with rows for rent, distance, square feet, usability, professionalism, neighborhood, and, yes, an in-unit washer/dryer. She ended up selecting Capitol Hill’s new Citizen Apartments at 13th and Madison.

The Citizen Apartments used to be this auto garage (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Almost home (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Home — inside a Citizen model (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Perfect Seattle bbq weather (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

The 107-unit building developed by Wallace Properties opened this month and, of course, the marketing has begun. We told you some news from their retail tenant end of things here — welcome Banner Bank. Here’s how they’re positioning the building for potential residents:

“We’re excited to unveil Citizen of the Pike Pine,” said Kevin Wallace, President of Wallace Properties. “Citizen exemplifies what we are trying to achieve with the mixed-use development program – a LEED Silver, condo-quality apartment project built for long-term ownership and with retail that adds value.” 

Each of the Citizen’s 107 individual units boasts modern design and an attention to detail that fits the busy city lifestyle of Seattleites. The complex offers accommodations for those seeking studios, open one-bedrooms, one-bedrooms and loft apartments. Each unit includes large windows, low-VOC sealants, stainless kitchen appliances, and a full-sized washer and dryer. Bike racks and EV car charging stations are installed in the parking garage to encourage eco-friendly transportation.

Built to achieve LEED Silver certification, the Citizen promotes green, healthy living. Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, the apartmentsare within one mile of downtown Seattle’s business district and half a mile away from the light rail station scheduled for completion in 2015. Walkscore.com gives the project a rare perfect score for walkability.

You can also sift through Seattle Craigslist for the nitty gritty — the studio penthouse will run you $1,475, by the way, and you can, indeed, see Rainier.

With more units coming into the market, some analysts have been ringing the alarm bell that Seattle soon will face an apartment market “glut” as supply will exceed demand. If that’s true, then the glut couldn’t come at a better time for renters. Seattle rental market analysts Dupre + Scott supplied CHS with this table featuring the results of their latest survey of Capitol Hill, First Hill and Eastlake apartment property managers. According to the survey, the highest percentage of Capitol Hill-area managers since the fall of 2006 is planning to increase rents in the next six months. And while their planned average increase of 3.9% is down slightly from last fall’s survey, the number of managers planning to offer rent incentives and the size of those incentives continue to shrink:

Incent $: average rent incentive; Incent %: percent of properties offering rent incentives; Proj incr %: average rent increase in the next six months projected by participants; Plan incr %: percent of participants planning to increase rents; Park O/C/G: parking charges for open, covered, and garage spaces.

Dupre + Scott says Seattle apartment managers better get while the getting is good:

Developers opened fewer than 1,800 units last year. That’s one of the lowest production years in the past forty years. They are about to make up for lost time though. Our preliminary research of new construction activity for our spring Apartment Development Report shows developers will open more than 5,000 units this year, and as many as 8,000 units a year for the next two years.

Remember the cows

Another Capitol Hill building that has already joined this growing pool is 19th and Madison’s Lawrence Lofts. The building is a CHS advertiser (thanks building!) and started moving in its new residents last week:

Lawrence Lofts is now complete and started moving people in last Thursday. We’ve leased 55 units so far (out of 131). Alex Garcia was one of the first move-ins and quotes, “I love the space, it’s a great price, location and I’m excited to get to know my neighbors and neighborhood.”

 One thing that we haven’t mentioned before is that Lawrence Lofts is a Built Smart building that shares some of the sustainable features found in LEED certified projects including a good portion of green roof along with a bio-swale in the West courtyard. The bio-swale filters all rooftop drainage through extensive landscaping before going into the storm drains. The bio-swale is expected to clear 80% of pollutants from the water.

 Cameo, Ritchie and Steven are on-site 7 days/week showing apartments. The number is 206.860.6818 and email is hello@lawrence-lofts.com.

 Last but not least, on Saturday, June 16th from 11am-4pm, Lawrence Lofts will host depARTure, a special community event featuring art, music and refreshments that will help raise funds to support Building Changes [501(c)3]. The depARTure event will highlight some of the artists, restaurants, shops and amenities that make Capitol Hill such a vibrant neighborhood. On June 16th, the public is invited to stop by, support Building Changes and enjoy refreshments by local vendors and food trucks.

For those of you keeping track at home, that Alex Garcia quoted in the Lawrence statement is they guy behind Emerson Salon, another CHS advertiser. It’s a small Capitol Hill.

My name is Lawrence and this is my loft (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Good place for a Capitol Hill new apartment dweller to read CHS (Image: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Playing the let’s shop Craigslist game with Lawrence includes some bigger-space, higher-rent results:

Not enough space? You could always buy.

47 thoughts on “Two new apartment buildings join changing Capitol Hill rental market

  1. These new complex’s aren’t going to improve the renters market. They are setting up all the other landlords with 100 year old apartments, to be able to charge enormous amounts for them. I went and looked at a place on Monday and was quoted $845 for a tiny studio apartment, but saw it advertised 4 days before at $745. Landlords have already started jacking up their prices making capitol Hill unaffordable for the average renter. People like Alex Garcia are not average renters. These new buildings aren’t intended for us but will definitely inhibit our ability to obtain affordable housing. Landlords and leasing agencies are greedy. These high priced condos will only increase rents throughout the area.

  2. Citizen was cute but rather small for the money. I’m going to Lawrence Lofts next week and leaving a big complex on Broadway that many people do not like. LL offered better amenities and finishes for the money plus it’s a quieter spot.

  3. The landlords aren’t necessarily greedy. They have mortgages to pay on their properties which reflect what they charge for rent in most cases. Another reason why rental prices have increased are because the market for buying homes is down, thus rental housing is in high demand. It’s the ebb and flows of real estate my man.

  4. This is Jessica, the blogger quoted in the second paragraph. Thanks for including our lovely experience finding a new home in Capitol Hill–I want to double-down on how important having bike storage and being in a bikable neighborhood was to us. We don’t plan on using a car in Seattle, and some of the places we looked had no provision for cyclists. The other amenities are great, but I think one of the strongest selling points of Citizen is that it’s in a neighborhood which is bikable and is a building which is bike-friendly.

  5. Agreed! My building is raising rents because “current rents are below market.” Now that all these new buildings are coming online at premium rents, it’s bumping up the going market price for apartments and all the other landlords are jumping on the bandwagon.

    I feel the same way about the “apodments” (which are still being built). They are charging $600-700 a month for 90 square foot units with shared kitchens and living rooms, for which, up until recently, you could get a small studio (350-400 square foot). Rather than help out the rental price crunch, they only make it worse. Now it’s hard to find a studio for under $900 or a one-bedroom for under $1000. I really don’t think the income of the average Capitol Hill/First Hill resident has kept up with the increase in rents, and all these new building are only making it worse.

    In previous apartment “gluts” I’ve seen buildings offer incentives (free storage, free month’s rent, no deposit, even free parking), but I’ve never seen an apartment glut lower monthly rents.

  6. I feel like landlords are making a big grab while they can because the rental market is so tight right now, despite the continuing softness in job growth and salaries. I suppose this is not very big picture but I’m looking forward to this “glut” if it ever actually arrives. And Motab, free months of rent as a concession can lower your rent overall, because typically the landlord subtracts the amount over the course of your lease, rather than actually give you a free month. Actually, two years ago my landlord actually did lower my rent in exchange for a lease renew ($25 whole dollars a month!) but then raised it last year.

  7. I am someone who’s being squeezed out of living on the hill. Admittedly, if I really just had to stay, I could take a roommate, but I prefer living alone. This is still something I can contemplate in other neighborhoods in the city, so I have more or less decided to reject my 10% rent increase and move out. I think it’s great that there are nice, new lofts going up that start at $500 more than I can afford, but I have to wonder what is happening to the folks like myself who weren’t fortunate enough to get a job in the IT or medical field… and whether the neighborhood can maintain its eclectic mix of people if it becomes completely unaffordable for those who are not paid as generously.

  8. More and more of what made Capitol Hill great is being squeezed out by the ridiculous cost of housing. I loved the hill, but who can afford 900-1200 dollars for a studio apartment?

    I do miss the hill, but at this point, it is simply to expensive to live there.

  9. Its all supply and demand right? So these new building are expensive because they have the amenities (w/d, parking, roof deck, etc) people want so their in high demand. Once we have a whole bunch of building competing they will need to differentiate themselves with incentives like lower rents. Demand is high/Supply low = high rents.

    Also I don’t see the supply of old building being squeezed out anytime soon as they still make up 95% of the hill.

  10. The thing is, people aren’t just “fortunate” to get a job in the IT field. They made a conscious decision to pursue it, put in the work, and they earn the money for the jobs they do. It does suck that the job market has changed so fast, and obsoleted so many of us without the skills to “keep up”. But let’s not minimize the real effort people have made to acquire these IT skills. Nobody handed it to them.

    A few years ago when I was first laid off, I investigated Seattle Central and got signed up for classes in wireless networking and wireless technology. With both T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless having huge presences here, you would think there’d be lots of opportunity to acquire new skills to get you employed by these major tech companies. But SCCC cancelled 2 of the 3 classes I wanted, which would’ve provided highly marketable skills, due to lack of demand. They couldn’t even find 10 or 12 students per class for these tech classes that would’ve been totally marketable scoring high-paying jobs. CapHill has a bumper crop of Culinary Institute and Cornish students training for jobs that probably will never pay sh*t, meanwhile nobody’s interested in the technical skills that will actually get them a decent-paying job. What someone wants to do with their lives is of course their call, but let’s not begrudge people the high-paying jobs they worked hard to get, that enables them to afford these expensive apartments. If we let ourselves get obsoleted job-wise, we only have ourselves to blaim. (and I don’t let myself off easy on that count, either).

  11. Hope he likes crackheads to the north on 19th and the drunks chainsmoking in front of AA across the street. Adventures in urban sophistication, indeed.

  12. Wait until summer when the crackheads and their kids start playing outside making noise until 2am. There is nothing sophisticated about this neighborhood except a now we have a overpriced yuppie/guppie building in the middle of the ghetto.

  13. You *can* still find affordable living on the Hill, but you have to shop smarter and work harder than the folks with a lot of money to spend and no time to do the research. Think about what you really *need* apartment-wise, and don’t look at any place that advertises its public amenities, like exercise equipment and party rooms that you’ll never use. Check Craigslist every day (and look under ‘Capital [sic] Hill’, too…) and jump on anything that seems to match all your must-haves — the happy spot where price/square footage/location converges.

  14. As a renter, with all these new buildings popping up I am afraid that my rent is going to sky rocket. I live in a house from 1903 and needs some love but it’s definitely not deserving of an increase.

    I just really hope all of these new developments don’t make it harder for others living on the hill to actually live.

  15. The landlords will only be able to get these high rents if people are willing to pay for them. And if people are willing to pay, why shouldn’t they charge that much? There are other areas in and outside Seattle where one can live instead. Time will tell whether the market will support these high rents.

  16. I miss living in 50-dollar-bill hill every day, but the Central District isn’t as awful as everyone makes it out to be. It beats living in a crusty old roach infested building and paying $900+ for a closet sized flat.

  17. Amen to that. And the more people realize there is real honest-to-god life off The Hill too, and spread out to discover the wider neighborhoods around CapHill, the better for everyone.

  18. Landlords will charge what they can get. If they are charging too much, no one will rent and they will have to lower their prices. Same goes for the places currently out there – if the rent increases and everyone moves out/no one replaces the current renters then the rents will go back down. As Capitol Hill becomes more popular to live in, the more things like this happen. Unfortunately, it’s the natural progression of any situations similar to this in any neighborhood, both in Seattle and across the country.
    It’s unfortunate for people who can’t afford it and have to relocate but it’s unrealistic to assume that a Landlord would not try to maximize their profits on a space just because people don’t ‘like’ to spend more on rent. It’s a business to them too. Supply and demand will always end up being the deciding factor.

  19. Another thing that renters seem to gloss over, as they blame “greedy” landlords for raising their rent– it’s not just supply and demand that raises rents. Property taxes are still going up, utilities such as water, sewer, and garbage have seen REALLY big increases in the past few years. You might not think about it at the ballot box when you reflexively vote “yes” on bond issues for schools, roads, libraries, transit, housing programs, etc., but it adds up, and it’s not insignificant. These things are important and if we didn’t think so, we woulnd’t live somewhere like Seattle. And should expect to pay for them. I’ve seen a lot of naive renters say things like “they should just absorb it, they already make so much”. Well guess what, kids? That’s not the way it works. With any luck you will own your own house or condo some day, and you’ll see where the money goes. It will surprise you.

  20. I’m not being critical of someone for making a decision to pursue a profitable field, the thing is, there’s a lot more to what one chooses to do with one’s life than what makes sense and is profitable. We can’t all be lawyers, doctors, bankers, IT geeks… why does American society allow people whose interests and abilities lie outside of the current free market to be so devalued, even in a “progressive” city such as Seattle?

    Again, i’m not being critical, but I haven’t met many Microsofties who work in that field for any reason other than that happens to be what they’re into. Lucky for them. Now what do the rest of us do?

    Also, do we want a neighborhood full of restaurants and businesses where none of the workers can afford to live? This is not just a Capitol Hill question either, it’s increasingly becoming a Seattle question.

  21. Yeah I really don’t understand why people give The Central District such a bad reputation… When I had my house on 20th and Union the people were amazing… A neighborhood is how you make it.

  22. I think we need to try and look at this from a bigger perspective – what are these new mega buildings adding to our neighborhood, what do the existing ones add? Is it only about affordability? I have been interested in choosing for some time. Cohousing sets the pace for affordable, green, sustainable and connected urban-living neighborhood models. At the upcoming conference in June ( http://conference.cohousing.org/2012) author John Robbins will speak about how the post industrial society-with split generational housing leads to the breakdown of traditional community ties, resulting in isolation and loneliness. Cohousing is one solution for recreating these ties and creating sustainable communities. The Cohousing neighborhood model can address many regional plans for future housing needs that point to reusing existing buildings and developments and forming safer, connected and sustainable neighborhoods. Sharing resources – meals, cars, childcare, equipment – truly makes cohousing an affordable lifestyle and decreases an individual’s carbon footprint. Anyone else been looking into this?

  23. Yeah, I know exactly what you mean incredulous. It’s just like how Dick’s raised their prices to $7 a burger just because Blue Moon, Lil’ Woody’s, 8 Oz, etc moved into the neighborhood and started charging ridiculous prices!

    These new restaurants are making it unaffordable for the average resident of Capitol Hill!

  24. I’d like to see some official numbers on this. If anything, my experience is that rents have gone slightly down in the past year. Maybe by about 10-15% over when I was looking last year. I assumed it had to do with all the new stuff coming online/about to come online.

    Maybe y’all just had abnormally low rents that are finally catching up…

  25. Also, I love how they list “Spinasse, and its sister bar, Artusi. Poco Wine Room. Marjorie. Restaurant Zoe. Pocquitos.” as nearby restaurants while leaving out El Gallito which is literally 1 block away. Guess it’s not highfalutin enough for their image. 19th & Madison is at best Capitol Hill adjacent, but the image and rents seem to imply this place thinks it’s in the middle of everything.

  26. Jonathan,
    I’m not sure what kind of answer you’re looking for? You are absolutely right, there is definitely “a lot more to what one chooses to do with one’s life than what makes sense and is profitable”. But that’s what life’s all about, isn’t it? A series of decisions one makes based on what’s most important to them. If you make the decision to pursue a career that you really enjoy even though it dosn’t pay well, you can’t be surprised when that’s the way it turns out.

    “Now what do the rest of us do?”. I give up- what? Offhand, I’d say you continually re-evaluate your life decisions to see if they still meet your needs, and if they don’t, you plan a new course, and put in the work to change it to meet your needs better.

    It’s pretty simple, really: jobs that are “fun” don’t pay much, and jobs that aren’t fun pay better. People do un-fun jobs so they can earn the money to afford the fun things they like to do. It’s been that way for a long time, and it always will be–only the jobs have changed, the concept remains the same. You know the old saying, “that’s why they call it ‘work’”? Well– that’s why.

  27. I recently chose to move out of Cap. Hill due to receiving notice that my rent for my tiny studio was being raised from $800 to $950 (and they decided to no longer include utilities as well). Good luck to the landlords. They’re going to have to do major improvements to the building in general if they’re expecting to attract tenants with studios in “vintage condition” being just shy of $1000. It’s a 1902 building that doesn’t exactly have the latest and greatest, but it’s enough to get by. It’s certainly nothing to write home about.

    I wanted to look at another apt in the same building before I was officially notified of my rate increase, and I almost choked when they told me a studio that was a little larger than mine was $1100. I understand that they have bills to pay as well, but it is a tad excessive at the same time. It’s kind of sad that the average renter is being squeezed out, as I saw 4 other tenants moving out for the same reason.

    It took me quite a while to find a decent place that was reasonably priced. I searched nearly every day for a while, but it took time to find a match. I’ll miss living there, but my wallet will be thanking me later.

  28. The Citizen building is way ugly and their positioning for the marketing is so corny. Who would fall for that crap. I checked out who the Landlord is and they are a Bellevue company and it shows….. sorry to say. Lawrence Lofts looks great though. Seems like they know what they are doing and are more in tune with the proper aesthetic for Capitol Hill.

  29. My “secure” bldg has bike racks inside the garage, but not too long ago somebody slipped into the bldg, cut the locks and stole the expensive bikes. So, the safest place to park your bike is in your unit or on your balcony (if you have one). Sometimes bike racks are just a concentrated area where the bike thieves can peruse which bikes they plan on stealing and it sadly ends up on craigslist in Portland by the next day.

  30. Laurence building is so ugly. citizens building looks good. hopefully they will eat at restaurants rather than eat in their community kitchens. these apartments are for people who work 18 hours a day. housing should be build for them since at least they are working.

  31. Yup, it sucks. The only way to make housing more affordable is to have more of it. Every time one of those fancy new buildings goes up, the people that move into it leave their old apartment building, which then becomes more affordable for everyone else.

    So when it comes times to elect local politicians. See if they support relaxing zoning laws and allowing more housing to be built. It’s better for us all!

  32. There’s no shadowy “they” trying to change anything. Capitol Hill is a great neighborhood and lots of people want to live there. That pushes rents up for everyone. More people get to live on the hill if more housing gets built, so the best thing we (collectively) can do is elect leaders that let as much housing as possible be built.

  33. and it’s changing, too. MedMix and the Neighbor Lady at 23rd/Union are already having a positive impact. And Central Cinema rocks.

  34. Thanks, JimS, for pointing that out. I’d keep my rental house rent lower if I could, but utility and property tax are both up quite a lot, and we need to cover the mortgage.

  35. JimS, you confuse supply and demand. Renters do not care about their landlords’ cost structures, nor should they. Either the renter is willing to pay the supplied price or not. And a landlord will always lower the rent until they get a tenant because a low-paying tenant is better than none at all.

    If the costs for utilities and taxes, etc goes up that squeezes the size of a mortgage the landlord can afford. Since any owner of the property would pay the higher prices, that means that the affordable mortgage on the property is smaller, so the overall property value is lower.

    This is, indeed, what drives properties to be “valuable.” More renters == higher rents == higher property values. Less renters == lower rents == lower property values.

  36. I’m not confusing anything. My point was simply that sometimes, landlords do not raise their rents just because of supply and demand, and because they know they can get it. That’s what everyone seemd to be suggesting. Sometimes, such as what JohnS said, they raise their rents because they have to– even though they could’ve gotten more. You’re right, renters don’t care, and that’s not the point. It still contributes to raising the average rents and eventually it catches up to everybody, because these new buildings have their taxes raised too. Yes, all contributes to supply/demand changes, but it’s not all attributable to landlord greed. It’s something to think about at the ballot box, as oppose to “who cares? I don’t own a home”. I’m not suggesting everyone should vote “no” on everything, rather just that you should not be surprised when rents trend up.

  37. I doubt it. These were likely built to apartment quality rather than condo. Apartment-quality housing only converts to condo during really boom housing markets when buyers can believe every type of housing will appreciate. No economic indicators suggest the housing market could reach such a condition again within seven years.

  38. Jonathan,

    I took a job at Microsoft (and deliberately chose the midlife “back to grad school” educational path that would lead to it) because I liked the idea of earning six-figures, and I could pursue my bigger passions outside of work.

    For school, I also looked at history, sociology and urban planning – but interviews with people in those fields made it clear I would be underemployed and in shoes that sound unfortunately familiar.

    Good luck.

  39. Jonathan,

    I’m with you. I’m sorry that this city, like most other US cities, seems to be falling to money-grubbers and sell-outs. There was time when poor struggling musical artists like Curt Cobain, Ben Gibbard, Laura Love, Neko Case (etc.) could work their craft here in the Pac NW’s beauty. Subsequently, all brought big money to the city. But, hey, if you want the guaranteed route in the USA, just go work for a megacorp after training!

    Listen, fellow posters, Chefs often work their asses off. Making art can be quite the gruel and requires tons of sacrifice. History proves that culture blossoms where art is welcome. I have zero interest in living in a place where neighbors think the only solution is working unfun jobs.

    And, I call BS on the whole “people get paid more for working “unfun” jobs. That’s ludicrous and unfounded. Why do septic tank cleaners not get rich then? Janitors? Why do some musicians, film makers and visual artists get filthy rich? So, everyone at Microsoft thinks their work is “unfun”? BS, BS, BS.

    The USA would do well to stop being so anti-culture, anti-intellectual and anti-everything that’s not wealth-driven. Otherwise, the best and brightest will wind up going to more interesting places when we’re done creating our brainwashed, monolithic culture.

    I’m sorry, Jonathan, I thought Capitol Hill’s inhabitants were much better than this petty drivel. I hope these responses to this article are the exception to the rule.

    Oh, and, of course developers and landlords GENERALLY are cleaning up. Has little or nothing to do with the cost of their mortgages at this point. Check your “facts”. Developers are building cheap junk and charging tons for it, forcing out all who can’t/don’t buy into their ripoff game. Puh-lease. It’s so damn obvious.

    And, BTW, Citizen’s units look like lame dormitories from the photos in this article.

    Continue on :-)

  40. I too got smacked with a 10% rent increase. My apartment really isn’t worth it so I’m beginning to keep an eye on the Capitol Hill Housing website and will jump as soon as something in my neck of the woods opens up. Otherwise I’ll be forced to start searching in other neighborhoods.

    I just don’t feel that a tiny, old apartment with no insulation, no sound-proofing (plus the world’s worst upstairs neighbors), no bathroom or kitchen fans, broken doors, bars over the windows, no disposal or dishwasher, seasonal pests, no pets of any sort, and a disgusting shared laundry space (prices on those machines also jacked up) is worth more than 50% of my monthly income.

  41. I don’t slander people online but in the comment above this, dude spelled KURT Cobain’s name incorrectly within the first sentence and then went on to criticize other posts. Wow. I would feel like an idiot if I put that online.. Go back and fix his name, man… It’s just embarrassing! Couldn’t take the rest of your writing seriously after that. Most people probably felt sorry and I would too but I had to correct ya. Peace.