Local community members got the first look at plans for The Eldridge, a preservation-friendly seven-story affordable housing development on the property of the auto row-era Eldridge Tire building, located on the 1500 block of Broadway between Pike and Pine, earlier this month at a meeting of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council.
Walter Zisette, the associate director of real estate development at Capitol Hill Housing, one of the developers of the project, said that the level of planned affordable housing is in “the sweet spot” compared to other developments in the neighborhood.
The Seattle Central-owned property will eventually be made up of a variety of affordable housing options. The current plan includes 78 housing units. There will be 24 studios, 36 one bedroom and one bathroom apartments, and 18 family units. Within the umbrella of the family housing spaces, 12 will have two bedrooms and one bathroom, and the other six will have three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms. All will be available at 60% Area Median Income or below.
In addition to housing, the building will include four commercial spaces which will total 4,055 square feet, more than tripling the space allotted by the existing building. Three of these spaces will face Broadway, while one small commercial spot will open onto the westside alley. This is part of a broader effort by Capitol Hill Housing to activate this alley and make it “a more pedestrian-friendly, safer environment.”
One concern voiced at the meeting was that the commercial area may not be large enough to make a difference in activating the alley.
“That commercial space in the alley that you’re proposing, I would say is too small,” Ace Houston, a local architect, said.
Another conceptual part of the design meant to activate the space behind the project is a connection created by continuous windows from Broadway through the residential lobby and lounge to the alley.
There will be an open-air courtyard to the north of the building’s entrance for residents, but some aren’t sure about this idea.
“Personally, I’m not particularly sold on the courtyard,” Houston, who has designed multi-family projects in the past, said. “Because this is an affordable housing project, if there’s an ability to have more units in exchange for not having the courtyard, in my mind it would be more of a service to the city as a whole because we’re in a housing crisis.”
The Eldridge Tire building, which was originally built in 1925, won designation last year as a landmark after the landmarks board found that the auto row-era design was worthy of protection. Earlier this month, the City Council took up the designation and made the protections law.
Architects from Mithun, the firm handling the project, tried to assure the attendees that the legacy of the Mission Revival-styled building will be taken into account in the design.
“Our approach to the Eldridge Tire building is to restore the building,” Mithun’s Doug Leigh, the project manager for the development, said. “We want to maximize the historic significance and its contribution to the neighborhood.”
This effort will include repairing the facade, repointing the cornice, and replacing the windows with what was originally there, among other tasks that will become more clear as the development progresses.
Preservation incentives within Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District have helped preserve facades and basic street level look and feel of a handful of character buildings in the neighborhood. In return for taking on the cost and extra time required to preserve the old building elements, developers are rewarded with bonus height they can use to build an extra story — or sometimes trade away.
Once completed, The Eldridge project will be the only development utilizing the preservation incentives to offer all affordable units.
Tacos Guaymas and Folicle Hair Design currently occupy two of the spaces in the building and will eventually need to make way for the development.
The timeline for this project is rough because it is still in the early stages. Developers plan to apply for funding from the Seattle Office of Housing in September and move forward with the design process in December.
“This is just the start,” Zisette said.
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