Why they’re building a hotel and apartment building on Harvard Ave

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-4-13-49-pmAdding some hotel space and apartments to Capitol Hill was an easy decision for Jon Coulter and his business partners Rod McClaskey and Terry Boyle.

In spite of the common perception of soaring rents and developers making money hand over fist, Coulter says they are running up against some softness in the market, at least in the higher-end range where they build.

“The pressure of the rents is downward,” Coulter said. “We’re testing the top of the food chain.”

Design review: 1818 Harvard Ave

And he’s expecting that downward pressure to keep up, with hundreds, if not thousands of new units coming online over the next few years.

“We’re not sure what 380 square feet will get us in Capitol Hill in three years when it’s done,” Coulter said. Continue reading

Design review: What Vulcan’s first Broadway project will look like, plus small efficiency dwelling units on 10th Ave E

Vulcan's Block 3 plan for Broadway at Yesler might finally justify the First Hill Streetcar

Vulcan’s Block 3 plan for Broadway at Yesler might finally justify the First Hill Streetcar

While Wednesday night’s review sessions will include one half of real estate giant Vulcan’s development plans for both sides of Broadway at Yesler and a review of a Central District project the review board was worried about being shoehorned into a residential area, the bigger design review decisions of the week won’t happen at a public meeting. More on Vulcan’s 120 Broadway development and a rowhouse project from Isola Homes at 18th and Spruce, below. But first, let’s stop by the squabble on 10th Ave E just past the curve from Broadway where neighbors aren’t happy about a planned five-story, “small efficiency dwelling unit” apartment building being lined up to rise above the lot currently home to a 1930s-built single family house.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-3-00-43-pmMcKee 10th
Though it will create a five-story building with 18 small units and one regular old “apartment”-style unit, the McKee 10th microhousing development being planned for 714 10th Ave E isn’t large enough to trigger a full design review. Instead, its “streamlined” review process wraps Friday without the full package of 90-minute meetings and a lineup of public comment by neighbors objecting to the bulk and scale of the project. But you can still have your say — here are some of the comments from letters sent to the city about the project: Continue reading

Demolition at 15th and Howell

"Bob, what have we done?" (Image: CHS)

“Bob, what have we done?” (Image: CHS)

Longtime readers of the site know CHS is your leading source for Capitol Hill demolition porn:

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Though our own pace of demolition postings has slowed, it’s not because the development pace has finally slowed down and fewer demolitions are happening on Capitol Hill — we recently tallied 94 demolition permits in 2013, 70 in 2014, and 67 through September 2015.

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Tearing down Ballard? DPD demolition-related permitting activity, 2015 (Source: seattle.gov)

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But the location and scale of the tear-downs has changed. The era of ripping down a block of old buildings in the heart of Pike/Pine — for now — has passed. The recent demolition that quickly and mostly quietly came at 15th and Howell is an example of a ripping apart of an older building we might skip these days, leaving Twitter and Facebook to document the mildewy smell of splintered boards and piles of twisted metal mixed with yellowed insulation.

Tuesday, it inspired a CHS Community Post documenting the old apartment building mid-demolition — and then the corner was cleared. The recent increase in ejected furnishings and old appliances from the apartments being spread around the neighborhood had come to an end.

What’s next is another thing neighbors on Capitol Hill have become more accustomed to. Construction will soon begin on an “urban apartment building” with 57 “small residential units.” The microhousing from developer Greenbuild and designed by Caron architects got its final approval from the design review board about a year ago last January. When it is complete, the corner will have traded two buildings with 8 units for nearly 60 averaging 341 square feet a piece.

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Now a little more YIMBY, plan to scale back new developments in Seattle lowrise areas moving forward

This 5-story microhousing development in a Lowrise 3 zone at 11th and Republican is the type of development new zoning rules would attempt to restrict. (Photo: CHS)

This 5-story microhousing development in a Lowrise 3 zone at 11th and Republican is the type of development new zoning rules would attempt to restrict. (Photo: CHS)

A bill designed to scale back the size of new housing projects, including future microhousing and townhouse developments around Capitol Hill, is finally moving forward with the Seattle City Council after nearly two years of wrangling between neighborhood residents and pro-density advocates.

However, one provision was left out of the bill after members of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee said it would discourage developers from maximizing the living space inside their buildings. Then-City Council member Sally Clark initially proposed to remove an existing 4-foot height bonus and another floor-to-area ratio bonus for developers that included basement units in their projects. Continue reading

Developer has plan to build new microhousing inside old Capitol Hill apartment building

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Padden (via Linkedin)

Padden (via Linkedin)

It may be a first for Seattle development: overhauling an old apartment building to create new microhousing. By combining two Seattle development trends at a legendary E Summit building, one developer thinks he may have found a solution to create some much sought after affordable housing on Capitol Hill.

In some ways, a microhousing renovation project would be back to the future for the Summit Inn. The history of tiny, affordable rooms for rent goes back well beyond the recent aPodment-powered trend. The Summit In was built 115 years ago for single room occupancy units.

Developer Brad Padden told CHS he plans to start the estimated $2.5 million renovation in October and have units ready to rent by next summer. The plan is to add one story to the building and transform the building to a mix of dorm-style congregate units and “small efficiency dwelling units” with individual kitchens.

Padden paid $2.9 million for the property late last year.

January's Slummit Block Party, LLC (Image: CHS)

January’s Slummit Block Party, LLC (Image: CHS)

Continue reading

Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

"It doesn't feel like microhousing at all!" -- Guy in rendering

“It doesn’t feel like microhousing at all!” — Guy in rendering

As CHS reported last fall, Seattle’s new microhousing rules left plenty of room for aPodment-style development on Capitol Hill. One of the biggest asks for microhousing critics was to subject the “efficiency unit” building type to the Seattle design review process. Critics — and the rest of us — can see their dreams become reality at Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.13.46 PMBoylston Flats
1404 Boylston is familiar territory for the board. The seven-story “affordable” apartment building with 105 units averaging around 440 square feet a piece and slated to replace the 1905-built Emerald City Manor apartments took its first run through early design guidance back in November.

At that meeting, the board didn’t like what it saw and kicked the project back to microhousing developers Tyler Carr and Kelten Johnson and architect S+H Works to sort out the issues for another EDG round. Continue reading

Meet the Harvard Ave Neighbors mounting a fight against microhousing

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This probably isn't the first Capitol Hill triplex you'd choose to start a legal battle over (Image: King County records)

This probably isn’t the first Capitol Hill triplex you’d choose to start a legal battle over (Image: King County records)

Lawyers and money: neighborhood activists in Capitol Hill are deploying a classic arsenal in their fight against local microhousing. At issue is how to count the number of units in a microhousing building and, as a consequence, whether a proposed project at 741 Harvard Ave E. is subject to design review. In the wake of a summer ruling that effectively stopped the project — and others like it — the Harvard developers are fighting back with an appeal that could put the development back in motion.

To keep that from happening, the Harvard Ave Neighbors group has lawyered-up to prevent the project from skipping the review process.

Organizer Larry Nicholas says at question is whether wealthy developers with “an unending amount of money to throw at a project” are subject to the same laws as everyone else. Continue reading

‘Scrunched’ on Capitol Hill

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.11.05 AMMaybe it’s a sign of fatigue in people’s interest level after years of debate — CHS’s first major examination of aPodment-related development came way back in the summer of 2012 — but this epic Politico examination of Seattle’s microhousing is worthy of more attention on Capitol Hill.

For one, you’ll learn more about the people behind the debate…

Like Jim Potter:

The roots of micro-housing in Seattle can be traced to a single developer named Jim Potter. At 6 foot 6, he was the movement’s Johnny Appleseed, an imposing presence with a booming voice, an aggressive businessman who owned properties up and down the state of Washington. But his true claim to fame, at least in the Seattle real estate world, was his compulsive study of the city’s zoning code.

Continue reading

Seattle’s new regulations leave space for densest microhousing to continue in Capitol Hill’s core

UPDATE 10/6/2014: The full City Council Monday afternoon approved the new microhousing rules passed by committee and detailed below. The mayor had threatened a veto of the bill if it resulted in changes that would force developers to increase rents in microhousing-style apartments. In the meantime, a judge’s decision has prompted DPD to kick 21 microhousing developments back in the planning process.

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This 12th Ave microhousing project will have room for a Basque restaurant. This one will have beer. Put that in your regulations! (Image: CHS)

34 pages of legislation ( here in PDF) — plus a few possible last minute additions related to elements like defining exactly how many sinks an aPodment-style unit should have — are ready to move on from City Council as Seattle seeks to complete a long, drawn-out quest to regulate microhousing developments. Meanwhile, a legal battle that had a seeming happy ending for neighbors fighting a Capitol Hill microhousing development near the tony Harvard-Belmont Historical District will have a judicial epilogue.

DPD "congregate housing" related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

DPD “congregate housing” related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

Tuesday afternoon, the City Council’s land use and planning committee is expected to unwrinkle a final set of amendments before sending the bill onto the full council.

“People living in smaller units is a choice,” planning committee chair Mike O’Brien said. “What we really care about is how big the building is on the outside.”

UPDATE: The committee approved the legislation Tuesday afternoon and the bill will move to the full council for a vote on October 6th.

The new rules pounded out after over years of debate will continue to allow microhousing development in dense areas like Capitol Hill while setting a new average size requirement for the apartments built in lowrise-zoned areas. Under the compromises forged by O’Brien, Seattle will end up with two types of microhousing. In areas zoned lowrise where you’re more likely to find single family homes or small apartments, microhousing units must average 220 square feet — though Tuesday’s amendments may adjust size thresholds.Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 4.19.29 PM

But buildings within “urban centers” like the western core of Capitol Hill and “urban villages” like E Madison, Miller Park, and parts of the Central District will be open territory for good ol’ fashioned microhousing with shared, congregate elements and units that can average smaller than 180 square feet.

But we're only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014's partial year tally

But we’re only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014’s partial year tally even as Seattle still doesn’t have a plan in place to tackle housing affordability. It’s OK, though — at least somebody is thinking big

“My proposal will allow these to continue to be built as congregate housing, but specifies that they can only be built in higher density zones in our urban villages and urban centers,” an O’Brien statement on the legislation states. “These are the places that most likely have access to transit and amenities to support a higher density community.” Continue reading

Judge: Microhousing bedrooms count as ‘dwelling units’ in Capitol Hill project, must go through design review

The proliferation of microhousing throughout Capitol Hill and Seattle may have hit its first major snag after a judge ruled that at least one of the dorm-style projects must go through a public design review before construction can begin.

On Wednesday a King County Superior Court judge reversed the city’s characterization of a proposed microhousing project on north Capitol Hill after a neighborhood group filed a complaint against the city, arguing the bedrooms should count as stand-alone dwelling units.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 10.11.11 AMThe proposed 49-bedroom building at 741 Harvard Ave E near Aloha had been characterized as having only eight “dwelling units” because the dorm-style bedrooms were clustered around eight shared kitchens and living spaces. Each bedroom will now count as a separate dwelling unit, meaning it passes the dwelling unit threshold for going through a public design and environmental review.

In her decision, Judge Laura Gene Middaugh wrote the Department of Planning and Development’s characterization of the microhousing project as having only eight dwelling units was “clearly erroneous.”

“The fact that the developer designed a communal area that allows, or even encourages, residents of an adjacent dwelling unit to interact, does not change the fact that the individual units were designed, and can function, as independent living units,” the judge wrote.  Continue reading