First-of-its-kind Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing building breaks ground on 12th Ave

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(Images: CHS)

As the area ponders two new developments on the edges of Capitol Hill, a one-of-a-kind project in the heart of the Hill moved forward last week with a few little scoops and a big milestone.

Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing, a communal development where each resident is an equal member of a company that owns the entire project, broke ground Friday night next to the old 12th Ave masonry building that will be demolished to make way for four stories of co-ownership, co-construction, and co-management.

IMG_9218“We’re going to live here for the rest of our lives,” architect Mike Mariano told CHS last winter. “We want this building to last forever.” Back then, the group hoped to break ground on the project by spring. But pulling together permits and plans for any development — let alone one so out of the ordinary in terms of finance and management — can be a massive challenge.

Friday night, future residents dug in to celebrate the start of construction in the 1700 block of 12th Ave.IMG_9306

Resident-owners Mariano and wife Grace Kim run architectural firm (and frequent CHS contributorSchemata Workshop which has temporarily relocated near the Seattle Center to make way for the demolition and construction. The project is Capitol Hill’s first co-owned building where each resident is an equal member of an LLC that owns the entire project. The building includes nine residential units and an “urban farm” and is designed to emphasize community, collaboration and eco-efficiency, the architects say:

The property is being developed around the Danish model of “cohousing”, a term that simply applies to the concept of future residents intentionally organizing and collectively building a community. This specific group began meeting in Spring 2010 with the interest in developing a highly sustainable, urban community in a central Capitol Hill location. The physical building is very similar to any other multi-family building, with the addition of extensive common areas that provide for opportunities to create a stronger sense of community within. This occurs through a regularly occurring “supper club”, shop space, laundry room, guest room, and outdoor common areas.

Developer Maria Barrientos 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.

You can learn more at capitolhillurbancohousing.org.IMG_9408

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12 thoughts on “First-of-its-kind Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing building breaks ground on 12th Ave

  1. Congratulations! so excited to see you on your way! We need more of these kinds of projects, and every one that gets built paves the way for more.

  2. Maria Barrientos involved??? Ya, right it will work… love to n=be a fly on the wall… good entertainment! I give it 6 months.

  3. Thanks Cathy and Manny ! It’s been a long time in coming. All of our families are looking forward to living in the same building and sharing many more celebrations.

    Capitalhillgreen – not sure if you’ve been following this project, but we’ve been 4 years in the planning and if it wasn’t for Maria’s support of the project and consistent cheerleading, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Development is not for the faint of heart…and this group of committed, hardworking residents did not know how to overcome the many challenges we have in the past 1 1/2 years we’ve been working with Maria.
    So if you were making a wager on 6 months, I’m sorry, but you’ve lost many times over.

  4. I’ve been a member of this cohousing community for nearly 5 years. We still are looking for one more household to join us. I’d like to invite anyone interested to check out our website then email me for more information about getting involved.

  5. I own a co-op unit in Capitol Hill, i.e. I own shares in a company (i.e. the co-op) that owns and manages the property, which then leases me space. How is this different?

    • The difference between a co-op and a resident-developed community is that someone else developed yours, sold everything off, and pocketed a substantial profit that is rolled into your purchase price. In our case, the building or individual units are not intended to be sold, and we’re essentially imposing rent control on ourselves. There’s no point in raising rents on ourselves, other than for keeping up with taxes and other expenses, as needed. We’re intentionally and collectively equity owners of the project, and after construction, there will only be resident-owners with a stake in the building, so the focus is really on building a community, and not maximizing profit.

  6. My impression of co-housing, unlike condos or coop homeowners associations, is that the owners buy, design and develop the land. Kudos to this urban co-housing development. I’d love to see more in Seattle.

  7. Congratulations on your groundbreaking from the San Francisco Bay Area. In response to Seattle Neighbor. You must not have realized this but even before Capitol Hill Chousing was a twinkle in this group’s eye, there were 8 completed cohousing communities up and running (a couple of them for more than 20 years) in the Seattle area: Winslow Cohousing on Bainbridge Island, Sharingwood Cohousing in Snohomish County, Puget Ridge and Duwamish Cohousing Communities in W. Seattle, Vashon Cohousing on Vashon Island, Songaia Cohousing in Bothell and Rosewind Cohousing in Port Townsend, and Jackson Place in Seattle. There’s also one in Bellingham,one in Olympia and one on Whidby Island with the new Capitol Hill Cohousing making for an even dozen

  8. I want to add to Mike’s response, having lived in a Capitol Hill Coop in the early 80s, another difference is that we did not have a common space where we could enjoy meals together and we also did not have an INTENTION to be a community and to make all our decisions via consensus. Those are key differences.

    And Joani, we all knew about all the other wonderful cohousing here in our area. What the headline saying “first of its kind” likely means, is that we are a rental model rather than a condo or coop model. In that way , it is somewhat unique, at least here in Seattle. The forming of the LLC and the rent control vs buying of our units is fairly unusual.