Design review: Pratt Fine Arts Center development in the CD, ‘upscale’ small efficiency project on Capitol Hill

A development set to create market-rate housing and reshape a key block of Central District arts and culture and a project that proves Capitol Hill microhousing is not dead will both take their debut bows in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

1900 S Jackson
The plan announced in spring to create a full-block expansion of the Pratt Fine Arts Center in conjunction with a six-story, 160-unit mixed-use will move forward Wednesday night as developer Daniels Real Estate brings its proposal up for early design guidance.

CHS reported in April on the Pratt project as the Central District cultural center that serves more than 4,000 art students a year marked its 40th anniversary by announcing the venture with Daniels Real Estate. The art center today has 19,000 square feet of studio space in its two existing buildings, which will remain open during the expansion. The expansion will grow the campus by adding 75% of the block between S Jackson and S Main and 19th and 20th Aves. Underground parking will have space for 100 cars.

Design Review: 1900 S Jackson St

The expansion’s street level will include instructional studio space, a new reception area, offices, a community art gallery, and 14,000 square feet for drawing, painting, printmaking, letter pressing, book arts, and youth arts programs, plus the 11,600-square-foot Pratt Yard, “an artfully landscaped outdoor area that connects all elements of the development as well as Pratt’s original buildings and the adjacent city park.”

As of the spring, Pratt had 70% of its funding goal for the project. It planned to use grants and donations to fully fund the project. Part of the project plan includes funding from the developer’s purchase of the land the apartments will be built above.

With a design from SKL ArchitectsGraham Baba is no longer working on the project — the new Pratt campus and mixed-use project will get its first review Wednesday. The project’s goals include improving arts education in the city and “revitalizing” this area of the Central District:

Pratt’s campus vision will celebrate the history and cultural values of Seattle’s Central Area neighborhood, embracing the adjacent city park and bringing surrounding streets to life. This development strengthens Pratt’s role as a creative anchor and leverages its potential as a powerful economic stimulus for the surrounding neighborhood.

The design board, however, will probably be more interested in how the project’s elements “connect to existing open spaces” and provide a “positive and desirable destination for the community.”

225 Harvard Ave E
Old school microhousing is alive and well on Capitol Hill. While regulations have blocked the developments in other parts of the city, Seattle’s densest neighborhood’s still can play host to “small efficiency dwelling units” — apartments with a minimum room size of 150 square feet and a full kitchen or kitchenette.

Today home to the homeliest 1978-built duplex on Capitol Hill, the Harvard Ave lot just north of E Olive Way is being lined up for a new project to create an eight-story building with 69 small apartments. Just a block or so from Capitol Hill Station and likely desired by tenants looking to save a buck or three, the building is also being planned with no parking.

The developer is listed as Woodinville firm Highpoint Investments though property records show the same landlord has owned the property for decades. Cone Architecture is the architect of record.

“The objective for these apartments is to provide upscale and attainable housing that is centrally located to the amenities of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood and within close proximity to multiple forms of public transportation and downtown Seattle,” the developer writes. Upscale small efficiency dwelling units? Sounds like the project will fit right in.

Design Review: 225 Harvard Ave E

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14 thoughts on “Design review: Pratt Fine Arts Center development in the CD, ‘upscale’ small efficiency project on Capitol Hill

  1. In my opinion, not providing ANY parking in these new buildings is an incredibly selfish decision, because it provides more profit for developers on the backs of those in the neighborhood who must try to find street parking (private lots are not affordable for many people). Unfortunately, the city is complicit in this and seems to assume few if any residents of these buildings will have a vehicle, a very doubtful assumption.

  2. Bob, no matter how many times you repeat this comment on different posts, it doesn’t make it more true.

    The city is not removing parking requirements because they believe nobody at all will have cars, nor to help developers make more money. They are doing it as part of a larger strategy that recognizes that, as Seattle increases in density, it is physically impossible to build the road infrastructure needed to move everyone around primarily by car. Thankfully, at those densities it also becomes increasingly easy to reach more destinations by walking and transit. There are plenty of other successful, livable cities in the density range that we are moving towards that work this way.

    Parking requirements are also incredibly hypocritical. A new parking space in a multi-unit building costs about $30k to build. You better believe that developers are going to pass that cost on to the buyer or renter, not choose to make less money. So you’re arguing that taxpayers should be subsidizing your ability to find easy parking (because, if street parking costs less than private parking, it is indeed being subsidized by taxpayers). But then newcomers shouldn’t get that same subsidy – they should be required to pay $30k for a private parking spot, AND also subsidize your on-street parking. Why? Because you were here first? Keep in mind that “newcomers” doesn’t just include Amazonians with large salaries (the people everyone likes to focus on). It includes kids who grew up in Seattle and are leaving home for the first time and would like to be able to stay in their home city. Why should they have to pay double when you or others don’t? And ideally newcomers would include as many working class folks as we can keep in the city too. But the more you reduce the number of new units by requiring that they all have parking, the more you’ll drive up costs and the fewer of those folks you’ll be able to keep in the city.

    Given how many different times you’ve posted variations on this comment, I doubt that anything I say will convince you that lack of parking requirements is anything other than a giant conspiracy between city government and developers. Believe it if you want. But suffice it to say that many other people who have no particular connection to either group and who care deeply about equity and affordability see it the exact opposite of how you do. And in my experience, those folks have a lot more knowledge of how other cities around the country and the world are able to remain livable at higher densities.

    If you want to see more about these various arguments, check out or Will you agree with everything you see? No. But I assure you you will see much more nuance and sincere debate than you probably expect.

    In case you’re curious, I live in a one-car/two-adult household (used to be two cars, but we no longer need them as much as we used to). We are in the CD/Cap Hill boundary lands, in a neighborhood zoned multi-family. And yes, we park on the street — our house was built in 1907, long before driveways were the norm. Increasing density without off-street parking will make it hard for me to park right by my house fairly soon. So be it. That’s a small cost I choose to pay for being in the heart of the city. The fact that I still get to park on the street for free somewhere nearby means I’m getting a subsidy from Seattle taxpayers. The fact that that subsidy is going down with increased competition for parking from neighbors doesn’t mean I’m still not coming out ahead.

    Sorry that was so long, everyone. The comment tapped into some deeply held feelings for me. Off my soapbox now, bye.

    • But if you want to build an DADU in your backyard the city requires you to create a parking space for it. Why do homeowners not receive this same forward thinking urbanist cost break? Cuz ADU wanting homeowners do not have the same influence as say developers building apartment buildings.

      Parking for a single family home is a city imposed requirement, not a marketing perk decided upon by the builder. By your logic should SF homeowners be forced to pay for a private parking spot and subsidize on-street free parking for others?

      I don’t disagree with you, but no need to slag Bob so hard cuz you are so modern and enlightened. His perspective is indeed reasonable and shared by many, many, many thousands of people. A less car dependent city is beginning evolve here and will continue to do so, but this is a very, very recent development. And this is primarily made possible by all the self imposed taxes we have been piling on and the urbanist density primarily brought to you by amzn.

    • Steve, I appreciate your thoughts, but….yes….I disagree. And an FYI: I am a homeowner and am lucky enough to have a driveway to park in, but I feel for all those renters/homeowners who aren’t so lucky and are finding it increasingly impossible to find a street parking space when they come home after a day at work. For many, it is not feasible to give up driving and walk or use transit.

    • I absolutely agree that ADU-building homeowners should get to follow the same rules and also not provide off-street parking.

      I also agree that figuring out ways to make this all work while causing minimal pain is difficult. Indeed, if Bob had just said something like that, I probably wouldn’t have responded. But he didn’t — he assigned a motive of “incredible selfishness” to those who disagreed with his perspective and supported not providing parking, and that’s what sent me off.

      I understand this all is new in one sense, and taking people by surprise and thus causing a lot of frustration and pain. I guess my point is that in a different sense it’s very old. Cities have been getting bigger and denser for millennia. If you buy property a mere mile away from the dense urban core of a major city, then you really ought to anticipate that there’s a good chance things are going to change dramatically over the course of your life. Change is generally less dramatic further out from the core, and that’s part of the trade-off we make choosing to live so close in.


    • Regarding the parking requirement for ADU or DADUs – there is legislation drafted that would eliminate the requirement for parking on site. A NIMBY neighborhood group on QA has held it up by suing the city and now the city is paying for an EIS for slight modifications in existing code designed to hopefully make it easier for more people build units on their property.

      I’m a long time CD resident and have no qualms w someone parking on the public street in front of my house. It’s interesting how people try to claim the public realm for themselves. If people who rent units in a building w/o adequate parking shouldn’t be allowed zone permits, then should people who live in houses w/o off street parking be allowed permits? Hmmmm sounds like sketchy reasoning to me

  3. What do they talk about at these design review meetings? I thought about going to the one for the Harvard building (I live on the same block) but got pretty much everything I needed to know from the design proposal pdf. Do they talk about interesting things or is it going to be 90 minutes of convincing someone to allow the 4 inches of leeway into the 10 ft buffer zone and people arguing about the lack of parking?

  4. Steve… I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say the parking space in front of your house is subsidized by the city… they own it, they did pave the street originally, but now it’s your responsibility.

    You may not be aware of it, but you likely do not own the first 10-15 or so feet of what you think is your own yard (it’s true on my street at least) – The city does… That part, the sidewalk, the planting strip and the road shoulder in front of your property are all owned by the city and they can come through and take them if they really want to (say they want to widen a road), yet you are required to maintain all of them… You must keep the grass cut, rake the leaves, make sure garbage (no matter who throws it there) is cleared away, keep hedges trimmed back, fix the sidewalk if it cracks, shovel snow on the rare occasions it happens, put salt out if it ices and I think, but am not totally sure, you even need to keep the parking space in front of your home swept clean of debris…

    Add to that, that I now need to pay for a sticker that gives me the grand privilege of parking in my own neighborhood – in a stupid way… the hours “other” people are blocked from parking are during the day -7am – 5pm… Why the heck shouldn’t people be able to park here during the day when lots of the residents have driven away to wherever they work and the streets have lots of free spaces…… it’s at night when everyone comes home and all the spill over from apartment buildings that only allocate 1 space per unit happens that the streets get overly crowded.. It’s ass backwards…

    After all that, why *shouldn’t* I at least get to park in front of my own home that has a lot so small it really can’t fit a driveway? (and yes, we have only one car in our household and no our house isn’t a huge Mc.Mansion… it’s a small 1.5 story bungalow) instead of having to drive around just because someone who has more cars than they have parking spots available at their abode beats me home by 5 min… I definitely think homeowners should have priority – and even then only to the amount of parking that abuts their property. That’s a sticker I’d be happy to pay for..

    I dunno… where I grew up it was a no brainer – only really rude and inconsiderate people parked in front of their neighbor’s houses and only truly awful ones parked in a spot someone else had taken the time to shovel out… I guess at least it doesn’t snow here often..

    • CD neighbor: I’m well aware that the parking strip between the sidewalk and the street is the city’s domain. And I work to maintain it. I’ve planted an herb garden there, so I get lots of direct benefits for being able to use the space. But I don’t see how that has any relationship to my expectation that I have exclusive use to the public street beyond, especially since that is built and maintained by taxpayer money.

      I guess I’d ask this question: do you feel OK parking on the street in commercial areas like Broadway or 15th? What about if there’s an apartment building above the business you’re parking in front of? If so, then you’re parking in a parking space in front of someone else’s home. Why is that OK for you, but it’s not OK for other people to park in front of your home?

      I get that in suburbs and rural areas people feel that they have a social right to exclusive use of the space in front of their house, even if it’s not an actual legal right. But that’s just not possible in dense urban areasm, and there’s nothing rude or unneighborly about it.

    • I never drive when I’m going somewhere just in the neighborhood, so I guess I never have to feel any guilt over that… but

      If you live in a commercial area and your building doesn’t have adequate parking for it’s tenants then no – I don’t think you have any right to complain – the business is a tenant too – they are paying rent too, which goes into the taxes that build those roads just the same as the residential tenants are, so why should they have less right to use the spaces around the building for customers if that is their prerogative? If you live in the next building over and your neighbor’s customers are always in your spot – complain away – I think you have the total right..

      I don’t buy the utopia that people are going to give up their vehicles.. and I don’t see why I should have to suffer the consequences for other people being greedy… You want that dream and are happy to move into a zero parking building that’s what you should get – zero parking permits.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree over whether or not it is rude and unneighborly to park (especially consistently) in front of someone else’s home. Where I was and how I was raised it most certainly was and I still think it is – and if you come and park in front of my house I will continue to think you are a jerk…

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