Maybe Capitol Hill’s affordable housing won’t be built on Capitol Hill

The Decibel is part of a trio of affordable apartments planned along 12th Ave south of Capitol Hill

The Decibel is part of a trio of affordable apartments planned along 12th Ave south of Capitol Hill

It is possible the solution to affordable apartments for the people of Capitol Hill won’t actually be *on* Capitol Hill. The Decibel, the second in a triumvirate of affordable apartment projects from Seattle’s Spectrum Development Solutions on the edge of the city’s Yesler Terrace urban village project, is scheduled to take its first bow in front of the East Design Review Board on Wednesday night. It is joined on the docket by a four-story mixed-use project planned for a Central District corner home to a community hub – The Fatima Cafe. More on both projects, below.

301 12th Ave
Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 5.25.01 PM“We wanted to do more than simply build stand-alone apartment projects,” Spectrum’s Jake McKinstry said in a statement about the trio of affordable apartment buildings the company is planning for the area around 12th and Alder. “We believe that the 12th Avenue core from Jefferson to Yesler has the potential to become a vibrant corridor of eclectic and energetic spaces and we want to promote and support that energy through thoughtful design and placemaking.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 5.23.02 PMThanks to its focus on “placemaking” and “energetic spaces,” Spectrum Development Solutions has received national attention for its plans to add a privately developed component to the Seattle Housing Authority’s reinvention of Yesler Terrace. The good capitalists at the Wall Street Journal are especially excited that Spectrum seems to have an equation that will make Seattle’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption Program somehow pay off:

But Spectrum believes it has a workable financial model. Among the key ingredients: smaller floor plans that will range from 475 square feet for a studio to 850 square feet for two-bedroom units. The studios are 5.4% smaller than the current Seattle average, while the two-bedroom units are 16% smaller, according to Dupre & Scott. The Spectrum buildings, designed by architecture firm Mithun, also will have fewer parking spots, and share amenities including a club room, fitness rooms and rooftop terraces.

The city’s MFTE bonus program provides a property tax break to developers for 12 years if they set aside at least 20% of their units for affordable housing. Across the three planned Spectrum buildings, the developer will make 85% of its units — including all 120 inside the under-construction Anthem at 103 12th Ave — available to tenants who make less than the area median income of $61,800 for one person. An Anthem tenant would pay $868 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. Spectrum will also, of course, enjoy a healthy tax break.

Spectrum’s projects

  • Anthem – 103 12th Ave – 120 units (120 affordable)/ 48 parking stalls/ 4,000 sf. commercial — under construction
  • Decibel – 301 12th Ave – 75 units (15 affordable)/ 20 parking stalls/ 3,000 sf. commercial — design review
  • Reverb – 1023 E Alder Street  –84 units (17 affordable)/ 40 parking stalls / no commercial — design review
A drama-filled rendering of The Anthem

A drama-filled rendering of The Anthem

Spectrum is planning for a sort of interconnectedness across the three LEED Silver certified properties that is one part efficiency, one part marketing. “By creating shared amenity spaces and programming between the three dispersed buildings we hope to foster community and resident connections that go beyond the walls of a single residence,” McKinstry is quoted as saying. Another way to put it — not every building is going to have all of the things you might expect to find in a current era apartment development.

Review Meeting: April 23, 8:00 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Building
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3016903 permit status | notice
Planner: Shelley Bolser

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 5.27.23 PMBut none of that will be on the docket Wednesday night. Instead, the review board will concern itself with how Mithun, the architect designing each of the Spectrum buildings, has structured the basic massing of the six-story building planned to create 75 apartment units, 2,700 square feet of retail and 20 parking stalls in a structure incorporated within the building. Parking, it seems, won’t be one of the resources shared by the Spectrum trio.

Here is how Mithun describes The Decibel’s design concept:

The building is placed along 12th Avenue and E Alder Street to define and reinforce urban edge. The building base is expressed as a high space with a change in a greater level of transparency to enhance the pedestrian experience. The courtyard opens to the west to break up massing along west facade to respond to building modulation in multifamily zone, and provide open space and daylight to residential units. The 2 vertical slots at South and North of building reinforce the 12th Avenue facade and address the building southeast corner, as well as provide daylight at ends of corridors for residents.

The streetcar opens later this year -- and will run only a few blocks away

The streetcar opens later this year — and will run only a few blocks away

After the Spectrum’s affordability goals and planned interconnectedness of the separate buildings, the 3,000 square feet of retail planned as indoor open market space for The Decibel might be one of the more interesting elements in the projects. Similar to the market retail concept playing out in Liz Dunn’s 11th Ave Chophouse Row project, The Decibel’s 3,000 square feet of commercial space are envisioned as a kind of Melrose Market south on the edge of the re-developing Yesler Terrace, planned to create around 5,000 new apartment units and 1 million square feet of commercial space where the low-income housing project stands today.

The notes

The notes

Less interesting might be the building’s planned facade concept — “intensity of sound.” Envisioned as musical notes…

Highlighted moments that emphasize experiences in the interior. These moments will have a random / free feeling but create an overall harmony shown through interior architecture,color, and material.

on a staff…

The overall space that creates a simple, organizing element for the notes to appear on. This will have an overall timeless, steady, and simple quality.

we don’t think residents or passersby are going to notice the apparently architect-pleasing effort. But maybe we’re just too cynical.

Spectrum’s Anthem building is already under construction and on track for a 2015 opening. If all goes well with the design review process, Decibel should follow by 2016. The seven-story Reverb is slated for its first turn with the review board in May and should share the Decibel’s 2016 opening target.

2407 E Union St
Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 8.55.13 PMWhere the Spectrum Decibel will replace a worn out old rooming house and a weathered single family home, the project planned for 2407 E Union will mean the displacement of a cultural center for many residents of the area near 23rd and Union.

The Fatima Cafe is slated to be demolished to make way for a four-story building planned for 39 apartments, two live-work units, and 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail. Surface parking for 22 vehicles is planned.

Oregon-based Mountain West Investment Corporation Lake Union Partners is developing the property. Johnston Architects is providing the design. OOPS: Mountain West’s corporation is 24 Union Seattle, LLC — Lake Union’s 2420 E Union, LLC is the listed company for the 2407 E Union development. Sorry for the screw-up. Lake Union will also be busy on this 23rd and Union project.

Review Meeting: April 23, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Building
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3017002 permit status | notice
Planner: Carly Guillory

The relatively straight-forward design for its Central District project isn’t terribly remarkable except for its location. The building will rise across the street from Capitol Hill Housing’s planned affordable mixed-use building slated to be constructed on the current site of the old Liberty Bank. West of the 2407 E Union project, the longtime landowner won lost a contract rezone to allow taller development of the block currently home to the old post office building, a liquor store and the rest of the Midtown Center. (UPDATE: Sorry for the error re: the rezone — we’ll check in on what’s next for the property) Meanwhile, just down the hill to the east, this four-story project is planned for the corner of Union and MLK empty but for a community garden.

7 thoughts on “Maybe Capitol Hill’s affordable housing won’t be built on Capitol Hill

  1. Pingback: Postal Service chooses to stay at 23rd and Union with slimmed down post office | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  2. Pingback: Design reviews: Last in 12th Ave affordable trio, Eastlake mixed-use, CD townhouses | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  3. Pingback: 12th Ave community group votes for apartment development over city ‘pocket park’ | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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