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New Sunset Electric apartment building shows Pike/Pine preservation rules in action

Sunset Electric stands tall among its neighbors -- for now (Images: CHS)

Sunset Electric stands tall among its neighbors — for now (Images: CHS)

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The old building in its "poster wall" days (Image: CHS)

The old building in its “poster wall” days (Image: CHS)

You might scoff at Capitol Hill’s abundant “preservation” development projects when you see the thin brick facades that end up getting preserved. But if the newly opened Sunset Electric apartment building at 11th and Pine is any indication of preservation projects to come, saving seemingly superficial portions of “character structures” can translate into something more substantial.

Sunset Electric is one of the first major projects to open in Pike/Pine that used the city’s 2009 preservation incentive program, which allowed Sunset’s developers to build a fifth floor of residential units in exchange for keeping parts of the original 1926-built facade and maintaining parts of the old’s building’s internal dimensions.

Preserving the two-story facade allowed for a spacious vaulted foyer and for four vast commercial spaces to utilize second story windows that wrap around the building — a part of the project in keeping with the prior use of the building over its early years as part of Capitol Hill’s auto row.

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The incentives give developers the option to build bigger projects if they preserve certain character structures within the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District. The city council is slated to revisit the rules next month to rein in giant projects and increase demands on developers while opening up the projects to greater flexibility in how the space in the new buildings is put to use.

What would have happened at the site without the preservation incentives available is open to debate. Developers CHS has spoken with say that many of the properties would likely have been scraped clean and started fresh to save on the labor intensive preservation efforts and techniques required to keep old masonry standing even as giant parking pits are dug within feet of the old walls. Others point to Liz Dunn’s projects like Melrose Market which was built without the Pike/Pine incentives as examples of what can be done without developer giveaways. All points are moot — the incentives are here to stay for the foreseeable future. And even Dunn is putting them to use in her latest project on 11th Ave. Meanwhile, another preservation-minded development is about to break ground on E Pike in coming weeks while yet another is about to be completed on 14th Ave.

IMG_0359At the pedestrian level, the preserved facade prevents the building from being too overbearing and some added design elements make the structure feel relatively consistent with the rest of Pike/Pine. Encased in distressed metal, Sunset’s superhero-esque lightning bolt logo was made to look like it came from the building’s original 1916 manufacturing tenant.

Developers decided to scrap plans for a community bulletin board on one outside wall of the building, a proposed nod to the buildings longtime use as a poster display for local musicians. Overall, the new structure bares little resemblance to the original timber-laden warehouse space when viewed from a distance. At the sidewalk level, some of the old feel of the warehouse remains.

One of the first things you notice upon stepping inside Sunset’s front gate is you’re still outside, sort of. The open air lobby and atrium takes cues from the building’s industrial past. Wire mesh panels, exposed steel beams, and reclaimed wood from the original structure are used throughout the partially-covered lobby. Cat-walk hallways criss-cross over the 7-story atrium, adding to the building’s industrial aesthetic.

IMG_0325The Arizona-based The Wolff Company purchased property in 2012 for $6.7 million and began redeveloping the old poster-clad building. Sunset was designed by Seattle architects Weber Thompson. The team will open another major Capitol Hill preservation project in Pike Motorworks at Pike and Harvard in 2015. Wolff is a CHS advertiser.

Four of Sunset’s 92 units are already occupied. CHS got to tour of a few of the apartments, which include some commanding views of Capitol Hill (and at least one lucky tenant will get a direct view, at least for a little while, into The Stranger offices across the street). Reclaimed wood from the original structure was also used inside the apartments for sliding doors and a few built-in desks. One bedroom apartments range from $1,700-$3,200 a month.

Prior to Wolff’s purchase of the building, another developer bought the property for $2.9 million in 2006 and began moving the project you see today forward. Its development began the public design review process way back in summer of 2009. Five years later, this early piece of the conservation district is ready to begin a new life as the latest waves of change continue to flow through Pike/Pine.

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steve
steve
6 years ago

The grey color on the Sunset Bldg just looks REALLY awful. UGLY

M.C.Barrett
M.C.Barrett
6 years ago
Reply to  steve

You want some color blocks in there? Maybe… orange, like everything else?

sigh
sigh
6 years ago

“One bedroom apartments range from $1,700-$3,200 a month.”
Less housing, higher prices. I guess we will hit a 2k minimum in 2015.

zeebleoop
zeebleoop
6 years ago
Reply to  sigh

those prices actually aren’t all that unreasonable considering location, the fact that it’s new constuction and also having increased construction costs around preservation of the ground floor.

if i were to rent out my 1 bedroom place i’d have to charge $1800/mo to cover the mortgage, hoa dues and property taxes. and my building was put up in ’92.

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
6 years ago
Reply to  zeebleoop

I think it would surprise a lot of renters who are frequently railing against greedy developers, just how much taxes add to rents. My little house wouldn’t sell for anywhere near what one of these apts would sell for, and I’m sure it’s assessed for way less on the tax rolls; and just prop taxes alone are almost $400/mo. It looks so reasonable when you’re constantly seeing it expressed as how little more each ballot question would add to the typical property’s tax assessment. Would not surprise me to see a typical unit in a newer bldg on CapHill costing $500/mo just on taxes alone.

fluffy
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim98122x

Yep. My 2-bedroom condo is around $2400/month total, of which $600ish is HOA (which is basically just maintenance costs and management overhead for the building) and $400ish is property taxes. (On the plus side, of what remains, about half is principal, which means in theory I get it back when I sell, not that I’m planning on selling any time soon.)

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
6 years ago

The thing with the grey coloring is that during most of our overcast days here in Seattle, it helps the newconstruction ‘disappear’ or blend into the sky.

I just can't get behind it
I just can't get behind it
6 years ago

The patterning of residential windows is excessively busy and competes with the fine detail of the transoms below. The uniformity of color is oppressive. The top portion totally dominates the base. Missed opportunity.

DB
DB
6 years ago

agreed

DB
DB
6 years ago

Someday we’ll look back and think “where the hell did all this cheap looking metal siding come from?!” It is literally on every single new building and it looks so cheap and flimsy. The design review board needs to step their game up BIG TIME

Jeff
Jeff
6 years ago
Reply to  DB

Look back? I’m wondering about that question right now.

fluffy
6 years ago
Reply to  DB

The randomly-colored metal panels that are so pervasive right now bug the shit out of me. Northwest School, the big project next to the Paramount, about 80% of the newer buildings in SLU, the Melrose/Pine building, the list goes on and on…

Who thought that was a good idea, and why did everyone else agree?

fluffy
6 years ago
Reply to  fluffy

(That said I actually like the look of Sunset Electric. I think they did a good job of blending old and new.)

Seriously?
Seriously?
6 years ago

…You must be an architect.

I just walked by this project. The impact of the horizontal windows is really striking against the vertically-oriented base. It brings the visual weight and building height down, which architects are NEVER inclined to do in multifamily. The overall effect is surprisingly airy and respectful of the original facade’s era. I think Weber Thompson and Wolff hit this one out of the park.

Brad
Brad
6 years ago

I’m not fond of a lot of new construction but I LOVE this building. I think the windows are key. Great job.

Keith
Keith
6 years ago

I don’t want to hear any complaining about this building.

No residents or business were displaced, instead a beautiful building was repurposed. One that sat empty for years and was a target of vandalism and tagging.

Also, about the dark grey upper part of the building, that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to draw attention to the new part, but rather focus the attention on the wonderful red brick of the original facade. Bonus points for this building have a lot of natural light and a beautiful courtyard.

JB
JB
6 years ago
Reply to  Keith

I agree. I think it’s a nice contrast between the warm, earthy and detailed brick and the simplicity and sleek modern look of the metal above. I am generally not wild about a lot of modern/contemporary buildings, but I think this one does pretty well. Love the stair too!

Interesting article, but could stand a little editing here and there.

DB
DB
6 years ago
Reply to  Keith

Have to disagree here. I think it draws attention by how tall and top-heavy it is. If it was 1-2 stories of grey metal on top, maybe you could argue that it blends in. But 5 stories of grey metal is a totally different story. All that metal siding screams “look at me!”

I just can't get behind it
I just can't get behind it
6 years ago
Reply to  DB

The materials and grey color (which I don’t mind that much), would feel lighter if pulled back slightly from the edge of the building to create a visual separation between the old and new. I think simplifying the windows or adding some variation (varying shade of a slightly lighter grey, perhaps?) between floors could have broken up the uniformity. But what do I know? I’m not an architect nor a developer, just a long time resident with an appreciation for design.

bobb
bobb
6 years ago

This building looks awful. Just about as warm and inviting as the jailhouse downtown or a prison. Terrible blight once you look up past the brick. Preservation fail case study right here.

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[…] « New Sunset Electric apartment building shows Pike/Pine preservation rules in action […]

Updog
Updog
6 years ago

Wow you guys are a tough crowd to please. I really like how this turned out.

calhoun
6 years ago

I’m generally not fond of modern buildings, but I think this one looks great! I especially like the preserved brick façade, and also the inner courtyard with landscaping….very classy.

It’s nice to see a new building without the small, “pasted-on” balconies for each unit. My understanding is that these are included in many new buildings because their square footage is included in the total “open space” which is required by code, thereby allowing developers to include less open space at ground level. Can anyone confirm this? The problem is that the balconies are usually too small to be useful….it is rare to see a tenant outside on one of them….and they give the buildings a cluttered, tacky look.

Timmy73
Timmy73
6 years ago

Love it. A nice addition to the neighborhood. The industrial warehouse look is in keeping with the area with its clean lines and metal facade above the brick. The courtyard makes for a pleasant living experience. It looks much nicer than the beige box atop the Packard building.

The reality that few will even notice the upper stories unless they walk peering up towards the sky.

I’m not sure what others are expecting. Perhaps 6 stories of plaster work flanked with cherubs?

Howard
Howard
6 years ago

I don’t know how anyone can justify that kind of rental cost, its insanity in my opinion.

I just can't get behind it
I just can't get behind it
6 years ago
Reply to  Howard

Anything over $2k for a 1 bedroom seems pretty crazy unless it has sweeping views. Again…not a developer.

Timmy73
Timmy73
6 years ago
Reply to  Howard

I agree the rental rates in new builds is extremely high. They are really getting out of hand. I make a decent living and if I had to pay 2k for rent I would be working strictly to pay rent and not much else.

That being said, I’d much rather pay rent here than the “Viva Cap Hill” disaster of a building that has even higher rents.

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[…] CHS looked at some of the first fruits of the labor to create a Conservation Overlay District in Pike/Pine. Wednesday night, the East Design Review Board will take a second and, perhaps, final look at an E […]

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[…] only the shells and dimensions of those buildings produce the same results. CHS visited one of the neighborhood’s first preservation incentive-focused developments earlier this week. A neighborhood group Dunn is a big part of will meet next week with the […]

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[…] Capitol Hill Seattle Blog praises the recently opened, historically preserved, and newly dense Sunset Electric Building. And while we love cities, we also love the countryside, especially the Spanish countryside. This […]

Alik Brundrett
Alik Brundrett
6 years ago

Sorry, but NO. Sunset Electric is not a preservation success story. Although they did a good job of keeping the original brick facade, what they built on top of it is discordant and hideous – it’s a black eye on a gorgeous old building. Why can’t these developers use colors, details, and materials that compliment the original. It looks like they were just lazy about the design and stuck a gross grey box on the top.

FAIL.

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[…] Stranger with 50,000 square feet of office space. It will join the Sunset Electric building — the first development completed under the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District incentives — on the eastern side of 11th at Pine. Across the street from the future home of Modera, Liz […]

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[…] CHS reported earlier this year on the opening of the Sunset Electric apartment building as the first project to be completed under the auspices of the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District’s preservation program. […]

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[…] Depicted in the photo below are the Sunset Electric Apartments in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood. The apartments were one of the first major projects in the area that took advantage of Seattle’s 2009 preservation incentive program, which granted developers a fifth floor of residential units in exchange for keeping the original 1926-constructed outer facade.  […]