CHS Pics | The walls come down at Midtown Center

Midtown Center, perhaps the most visible and yet somehow most stubbornly unchanged symbol of the strains of gentrification in the Central District, is finally being demolished.

Crews began work this week to tear down the old commercial strip following a slow final year for the old buildings as the final commercial tenants moved out and chain-link fencing went up. Continue reading

Design reviews: Knights of Columbus development’s Harvard plans, plus a ‘mass timber’ first on First Hill

A split decision last spring will bring one of twin new projects planned to rise around the historic Knights of Columbus building in front of the East Design Review Board again Wednesday night. Meanwhile, another project coming in front of the review board would create Seattle’s tallest “mass timber” building.

The 704 E Union component of the Knights of Columbus project — a planned seven-story, 37-unit apartment building that will neighbor the overhauled landmark — passed through the first stage of review in April with the board’s only concern centering on a “gasket” connection planned with the 106-year-old masonry clubhouse structure.

But before the full development can move forward to the final recommendation phase of Seattle’s design review process, its larger twin planned for the land currently dedicated to surface parking along Harvard still has a few rough edges that need to be smoothed including “unresolved issues relating to tree placement, open space and the relationship of the project to the neighbor,” the board’s report on the April session reads, the St. John’s Apartments and, most importantly to you summer drinkers, encroachment on the St. John’s bar patio. Fighting words, no? Settle down. There’s a plan. Continue reading

Street Critic | The Diabolical Diagonal — the architecture of the angled streets that climb Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill streets and building parcels are almost uniformly delineated by an orthogonal grid; however, when confronted with the second part of our neighborhood’s name the ubiquitous grid revealed its limitation as an all-inclusive planning tool and left city planners little choice but to utilize diagonal streets to ascend and descend our heights. Diagonal streets present a foil to the well-ordered grid, yet most buildings conform to the grid even when the site is an unconventional shape. There are reasons to stay square when designing a building, but design opportunities are sacrificed when the only nod given to an atypical, non-orthogonal site is to design an orthogonal building and treat its diagonally bounded site simply as a remainder to be ‘planted-up’.

The Hill’s longest and steepest diagonal street, Belmont Avenue, exhibits a variety of design solutions to the grid’s disruptive diagonal. The first approach, illustrated in two variants below, plays to both diagonal and grid in a manner that preserves the conflicting geometries. The third solution is a rarely seen hybrid approach where the geometries of grid and diagonal are blended and create unexpectedly complex forms. which gave us a pair of delightful mid-century apartments. Continue reading

Seattle passes ‘progressive’ backyard apartment legislation — Now it needs to build them

(Image: Seattle.gov)

30 days after Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it, new legislation passed Monday by the City Council will give Seattle a start at catching up after years of delays on making it easier to build backyard apartment units on single family home properties across the city.

“The vote caps an epic process during which obstructionists abused state environmental laws to drag things out for four years, as pro-housing affordability forces built up steam and finally won out over the objections of a tiny minority of anti-housing activists,” pro-growth and affordability nonprofit Sightline wrote on the passage, calling the new rules “the most progressive ADU policy in the US.” Continue reading

Saba, 12th Ave restaurant at center of Sawant displacement fight, set for eviction

Inside Saba (Image: Saba Ethiopian Cuisine)

Though the building it calls home won’t be demolished for months, 12th Ave’s Saba is being shown the door after a King County Superior Court judge upheld an unlawful detainer case against the Ethiopian restaurant whose fight against displacement has been championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant.

“We technically have a month left. But the judge read the lease differently,” Saba Teklegiorgis tells CHS. She says her mother’s restaurant has been in an unfair fight with the management company brought in to help push the tenant out by the property’s owners. Tactics, she says, have included claiming Saba had failed to pay its rent even though the restaurant found another way to make sure the landlord got its check.

“If they are within the law, I don’t know why they keep doing dirty things,” she said. Continue reading

Plan for five-story apartment project to replace Capitol Hill service station moves forward

A proposal for a five-story, 70 or so unit mixed used building to replace the Hilltop Service Station along Capitol Hill’s 15th Ave E is moving forward. The project passed its first round of design review in June with unanimous support from the review board.

“We are now awaiting the EDG letter from the city which will have quite a bit of feedback from both the board and the community to consider,” Michael Oaksmith of Capitol Hill-based developer Hunters Capital said. “Valuable feedback that we will give close attention to during our preparations for a DRB meeting later this year.”

Despite the board’s support for the early proposal’s plans for the five-story, 68-unit, market-rate apartment building with a generous 5,000 square feet of 15th Ave E fronting retail space, and underground parking for around 24 vehicles accessed via Mercer, some neighbors continue to oppose the development. Continue reading

SCC Insight: How much will it cost to fix Seattle’s unreinforced masonry buildings?

With reporting by SCCI Insight

According to SDCI, the City of Seattle contains 1,145 buildings with unreinforced masonry that could collapse in a major seismic event. While records are incomplete, the city estimates that about 11% of those have already retrofitted the building to address the issue. Another 68 of them are owned by various government entities. That leaves 944 buildings in private hands with unreinforced masonry: in total about 20,200,000 square feet, containing 10,400 residential housing units with 22,050 residents. Thirty seven of those buildings contain 1,559 designated affordable housing units. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Conover House set for demolition after board splits on landmarks bid

The 126-year-old Conover House just down 16th Ave from the Central Co-Op will not be eligible for landmarks protections after last week’s split 3-3 vote on its merits.

The split decision paves the way for the house’s demolition to make way for planned development. Continue reading

‘Smaller homes, and more of them per lot’ — Seattle set to finally ease yes in my backyard apartment rules

Seattle’s long march toward easing the rules for adding new so-called mother-in-law style apartments and backyard cottages and apartments to single-family home properties will take big steps forward Tuesday as a Seattle City Council committee shapes final tweaks to plans some four years in the making.

City analysis shows only 1% of the approximately 124,000 single-family zoned lots in Seattle in use for single family residential development have added attached or detached “accessory dwelling unit” structures. There is room to grow.

After having the path cleared by the Seattle Hearing Examiner this spring, the proposals including allowing larger ADU structures, reducing lot size requirements, and eliminating costly barriers like required parking are getting their final updates and additions before going to the full council — hopefully in July. Continue reading

What the Capitol Hill auto row-inspired project planned to replace Hilltop Service Station will look like

The concept for the 523 Hilltop project (Images: Studio Meng Strazzara)

The last time this Capitol Hill developer and the architects from Studio Meng Strazzara hooked up, they created an eight-story project designed to set the standard for Pike/Pine preservation and redevelopment. On 15th Ave E, Hunters Capital won’t leave any motor car history to work with as it prepares to demolish the Hilltop Service Station and continue the work to slowly repair the soils beneath from decades of contamination — but the proposed design for its coming 523 Hilltop building is inspired by Capitol Hill’s auto row past.

Design review: 523 15th Ave E

The Hunters Capital project takes its first pass by the East Design Review Board Wednesday night. Continue reading