12th Ave Cohousing to break ground in April

There's one more unit up for grabs in the future 12th Ave cohousing community (Image: Schemata Workshop)

There’s one more unit up for grabs in the future 12th Ave cohousing community (Image: Schemata Workshop)

The “share economy” is cropping up everywhere in Seattle, making the organized sharing and lending of tools, cars, and office space increasingly a part of ordinary life on Capitol Hill. But what about shared housing?

Communal homes have existed for decades on Capitol Hill and beyond but few if any have actually managed to be truly co-owned, co-managed, and co-constructed. Capitol Hill architects Mike Mariano and Grace Kim are months away from making the dream a reality. The couple, who run architectural firm Schemata Workshop, are behind Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing on 12th Avenue, slated to break ground in April.

“We’re going to live here for the rest of our lives,” Mariano said. “We want this building to last forever.”

CHS has previously reported on the plans to build Capitol Hill’s first co-owned building where each resident is an equal member of an LLC that owns the entire project. Thus far the project has eight of nine families secured, representing 15 adults and seven kids.

Mariano said he expects construction to take about a year. Schemata will move off the site during construction –they’re looking for a temp office space now — and move back into the building once its finished.

Since the LLC is a single entity that owns the building, the banks see it as just like an apartment building — one owner that they can take the building from should it default. But the banks and other investors were unfamiliar with the setup and values of cohousing, making financing tricky to nail down.

Developer Maria Barrientos, a mainstay on Capitol Hill projects, joined the project to help the community through the financing process. In true share-economy fashion, financing for the project couldn’t have happened without some shared risk. Each resident was asked to contribute $30,000 as a down payment. Nearly half the financing was secured through investors from other cohousing communities.

“That was shocking to me … but also exciting and gratifying at same time,” Barrientos said. “It’s part of this idea of family that they have.”

Some residents have come and gone over the past three years, something Mariano said was inevitable. As residents are secured, Schemata is helping families design their individual units. The cohousing community will have nine units in about the same space that the already-under-construction microhousing development next door will have 32.

“It’s not about maximizing profit,” Mariano said. “If we wanted to do that we could do micohousing”

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8 thoughts on “12th Ave Cohousing to break ground in April

  1. Just curious…how is this concept different than a co-op apartment? Don’t residents in those buildings also own a share of the entire building?

    I smiled when I read Ms. Barrientos saying that, if they wanted to maximize profit, they would develop microhousing. This is what many of us have been maintaining all along….apodments are not about altruistically providing less expensive housing and density….they are all about making money for the developer as they exploit loopholes in the city codes.

    • I won’t argue that it is/isn’t true, but just point out– just because she said that doesn’t necessarily make it true. That’s her opinion which might be right or wrong. But it’s not exactly the “smoking gun” proving what many people have been suspecting , just because said it.

  2. As I understand it, all the residents, including Mariano/Kim, are equal partners in an company that owns the entire property. That means they have to collaborate with residents much more than a traditional co-op model. Another less technical difference is that they are trying to build a collaborative and intentional community, rather than simply renting/selling units in a building.

  3. In my opinion, it would be fantastic to see an increase in cooperative housing in Seattle, especially limited equity or zero equity cooperatives, to make housing rates more affordable. Even though it would mean developing the city further, at least the gains from development would go towards the people who live there and not a bank just looking for a good investment opportunity.


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