Capitol Hill ‘garden apartment’ complex considered for landmark protections

"A 1945 tax record photo, view looking west at the east façade of the central building in the 10th  Avenue East group. "

“A 1945 tax record photo, view looking west at the east façade of the central building in the 10th
Avenue East group. “

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UPDATE 6/18: The owners of a 10th and Aloha apartment complex pulled their landmark nomination for the property one day before it was scheduled to go before the Landmark Preservation Board.  Property manger Michael Denning told CHS he originally nominated the Aloha Terrace property for landmark status under the assumption it would not qualify and that would increase its value. He said he had recently been told otherwise as his family works with several interested buyers.

Original Report: The longtime owner of a nine-building apartment complex at 10th and Aloha is asking the city to consider the property for official historical protection. The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination of the 1943-built Aloha Terrace apartments at its Wednesday, June 18th meeting (PDF).

It’s an interesting old piece of Capitol Hill and Seattle architecture.

The only question: What does it need protection from?

The ownership of Aloha Terrace did not respond to multiple inquiries from CHS about why the landmark nomination was submitted. In 2016, construction of the Broadway Streetcar will start nearby, but city officials told CHS the Aloha Terrace property will not be part of the project. Frequently the city or developers preemptively nominate buildings by policy or in order to ensure future development plans for the site won’t be held up by possible landmark status. CHS has not yet found record of any redevelopment plans for the site and the property has not been sold.

According to the nominating documents, the 902 E Aloha complex is a “modest” example of Seattle’s garden apartments, which feature “a large master planned site, internal streets and pathways, groupings of one-, two- and three-story buildings, and landscaped courtyards.”

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Aloha Terrace was designed by George Wellington Stoddard, a Detroit-born architect who moved to Seattle in 1920 after serving in WWI. The grouping of two-story, blue-collar apartment buildings are situated around grassy courtyards that are increasingly rare in apartment complexes around central Seattle. The property is located one block east of the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District.

The nomination packet makes frequent use of the word “modest” — and describes the “garden apartment” part of the physical environment you’ll find scattered throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods:

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The ownership of the 71-year-old building has been in the hands of one dedicated family for decades:

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Current manager of the property Michael Denning has also been part of the ownership of some other unique chunks of Central Seattle.

To qualify as a landmark in Seattle building’s must be at least 25 years old and have “significant character, interest or value, as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City, State or Nation.”

The landmarks board will consider the structure for nomination based on a designation process detailed here. The board meets Wednesday, June 18th at at 3:30 PM in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 40th Floor, Room 4060.

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21 thoughts on “Capitol Hill ‘garden apartment’ complex considered for landmark protections

  1. I looked at an apartment here with a friend. Amazing built-ins and very lovely design throughout. I would love to see it preserved.

  2. If I had to guess, sounds like they are getting ready to sell the complex, but they’re devoted to it, and they want to make sure the new owners don’t tear it down. If that’s true, good for them.

    • OR maybe they want to sell it for as much money as they can get but are afraid that a developer won’t be interested if they think they’ll have a landmark’s board fight on their hand. better to get that out of the way before opening things up to the highest bidder.

  3. I used to live here and I say tear this tragic mess down. One hot water tank for every three buildings (lukewarm showers) and a rodent problem that made me believe that this is really rat city was enough for me to move..

  4. my guess is they are teying to get the preservation board to say ‘no, not enough architectural or historical merit to warrant preservation, then the domplex will be put on the market. All of the developers would then know that there wasn’t the threat of a historical designation to impede their development plans.

    Of note, jist gecause a place gets designated ‘historic’ doesn’t mean it can’t be demolished, it’s just that it needs to be catelogued, photographed, etc., and I believe a historical marker placed. The preservation board seems to be pretty stringent on what they consider worthy, as the Victorian house on Madison didn’t qualify, nor the apartment block at Bellevue & Pine. So my guess is this will be a formality, and in 5 years time there will be a large apartment block with $1500 studios $2400 1 BR apartments.

    • I fear you might be right.

      I love the mid-century vintage apartments, but the outside of these buildings hasn’t been looking too good the past couple years. I go by every day at least once and they need some help.

      they look cool, but I think plans are being made for them to go away.

  5. Huh. I walk by that place a couple times a day on the Broadway side. They’re pretty nice for older apartments, but I definitely wouldn’t have thought of them as “historic”. Never seen the inside, though.

  6. As time goes on, anything that has a reasonably dense zoning, but has as much open space as this property does, probably becomes a no brainer for redevelopment. I imagine the property taxes have been climbing a hefty amount these past few years.

  7. The nicest people and their dogs currently live here, and many have lived here for a long time. I fear that if they build another behemoth like the Joule or the Gatsby that they will be replaced by another couple hundred bright, shiny, samey young people who will pass through the neighborhood without adding anything but some money for the pockets of their landlords and a few trendy bars and restaurants. This corner of the neighborhood has a lot of good vibes right now because a high percentage of the Aloha residents are out walking and engaging with their neighbors, unlike the Joule residents. Closing this place will be a big loss.

    • I agree and hope that the landmark designation is a serious attempt to keep it from demolition/redevelopment, but I fear that is exactly what’s in the works.

      But I disagree with you on the Gatsby….I think it’s a nicely designed building, including the landscaping, and it is relatively low-rise so it fits in quite well with the neighborhood. It replaced a little-used parking lot, so on balance it’s an improvement.

      • You know, I agree with you that the Gatsby feels much better to walk by than the block-like Joule, and credit should be given to the neighborhood groups who pushed for greater setback and other changes to the originally proposed design as well as to the developer for compromising. And I also agree in this case that the building is better than the ugly, creepy parking lot it replaced (though I still have fond memories of crossing that lot to vote in a real voting booth at the Scottish Rite Temple). But I don’t think that sane people will rent at the exorbitant Gatsby rates long term. So I see it as a place for people to live while they figure out whether they want to stay iin Seattle or where they want to buy. Nothing wrong with being at that stage in life, but we also need lifers!

  8. I lived there for 10 years and LOVED it! The beautiful windows, moldings/trim and built in bookshelves were highlights. I hope Aloha Terrace stands as is for years to come! So many memories….

  9. Do anyone on the ground seem to know what’s going on? The tenants themselves? Word of the street it that is already sold, but to whom, and when, and what’s with the historical landmark push if the buildings have, in fact been sold. Those of use who live here would like to know what precisely is going down and in what kind of a timeframe.

    • King County doesn’t show a recorded sale. The only property record was when the family that owns it Quit Claimed the property to the LLC from which you rent.

    • Without a doubt these buildings more than likely have been sold with the condition that they are NOT historic and can be demolished. These nominations are very expensive. In the 5,000-10,000 dollar range and often it is the developer who picks up the price tag.

      I am a neighborhood real estate agent who has worked with developers and this is pretty common now. They would not want to buy it if it couldn’t be demolished.

      Personally I am not wild about the buildings and could easily see them replaced with something much larger BUT at the moment these are just the type of affordable apartments so many are fighting for right now as our rental prices skyrocket.

      A few years ago I had a friend who lived in one. They are small (500-600 square feet) the rent at that time was $1,200 which is pretty cheap considering what the new places will rent for. It does/did have a rat problem though. One time I went over for dinner and one came in the open window and was sitting on the counter!!! Ick.

      My guess is that it will sell in the 5 million range.

  10. These buildings could definitely use some love, but I don’t think they stand out as any kind of landmark. Rats are bad news!

  11. I have a friend who lives there now and she certainly doesn’t have a rat problem, in fact, her unit is in fantastic shape. Maybe it is only one of the buildings? I certainly hope they don’t tear them down! I have always loved them!!!

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  13. I’m a neighbor who walks by regularly. While I appreciate that these buildings contain history and memories, it’s obvious from the exteriors that maintenance and care are needed to keep them livable, and that they are still affordable exactly because they are somewhat run-down. A new owner motivated by investment returns (and why else would anybody want to be the new owner) would not keep up these apartments or restore them.

    I know that there are some high-income neighbors nearby who are itching to see such buildings replaced with upper-end apartments or condominiums like the Gatsby. I’d rather see a proposal that continues to provide moderate income housing for Seattle, but more of it. To make such a plan that is also attractive to a private developer, these neighbors are going to have to give a bit and accept a taller building on this site.

    Since the site is located right at the terminus of the proposed Broadway streetcar extension, it is ideal for development as dense, moderate income housing that appeals to middle class people who could not otherwise afford to live near north Broadway. Once the streetcar is completed, it will be the perfect housing for commuters to big employment centers such as Swedish and Virginia Mason hospitals, located to the south along the Broadway Streetcar, or to any downtown employer. Many of these commuters will not need cars, thanks to the streetcar and light rail that are coming to the neighborhood.

    Let’s embrace this kind of urbanism! Since it is small affordable apartments that now occupy the site, create even more small apartments for people who work nearby. Insure that they are really for people who work nearby by the limiting parking that is built with the facility. Because the site is potentially large, allow some extra height, but preserve the character of the neighborhood by increasing setbacks, especially on the sides of the building that do not face Broadway. Use those setback areas for landscaping that promotes the “urban forest” feel that some of the surrounding homes and apartment buildings offer.

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