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Microhousing still has a home on the Hill on Harvard Ave

A trio of single-family style homes that have somehow survived in the heart of Capitol Hill at the corner of Harvard and Denny for some 116 years will make way for a planned seven-story building with 80 or so new apartment units. But first the 102 Harvard project must pass through design review. The process begins Wednesday night.

Design review: 102 Harvard Ave E

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The project from developer Kamiak and frequent collaborator architecture firm Workshop AD joins a relatively lonely field of Capitol Hill development moving through early stages during the intertidal period before implementation of new Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning that will include transitioning Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to Roy to 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning that would allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout.

The developers say the goal of the 102 Harvard microhousing project is to “create a civic connection to the activity of E Denny Way with a broad entry porch that directly engages the pedestrian realm” while enhancing “the domestic character of Harvard Avenue East through landscape, scale, and use.”

The proposal calls for a mix of 83 units including 65 “small efficiency dwelling units,” 1-bedroom, and 4-bedroom units. The project includes plans for a small 550-square-foot street level commercial space — and, sorry car lovers, “1 loading space and no parking stalls are proposed on site,” the architect notes.

The project is also planned to include five affordable units allowing the project to take advantage of existing development incentives and build to seven stories.

Kamiak, a development firm from Scott Lien purchased the three 1902-constructed homes on Harvard that will be demolished to make way for the project in three separate transactions on the same date in September 2018 for a combined $4 million and change.

No formal public comment had been recorded for the project as of the new year, the city says. The developer reports neighbors attending a summer information session on the project expressed concerns about engaging the surrounding street, trees, and parking.

Meanwhile, the development will add another microhousing/SEDU project to the pipeline for Harvard Ave even as the city has snuffed out the building type in other parts of the city. Another SEDU development at 225 Harvard Ave E is being designed as “upscale” microhousing.

102 Harvard is being planned for a 2021 opening, the developer says.

CORRECTION: CHS mistakenly identified developer Scott Lien as the creator of the GrandPad tablet computer. Credit for the technology goes to another Scott Lien. We have updated the post.

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30 thoughts on “Microhousing still has a home on the Hill on Harvard Ave

    • Hmmm. You have the right to hate those units. You have the right to live in as large a dwelling as you can afford to pay for with your own money.

      However, I do question how small dwellings are the core problem in our society. Are you saying that building living spaces to house people is a bad idea? Or are you saying you would rather build larger units, costing more to rent or buy and as a consequence building more buildings farther and farther away from cities, requiring huge investments in infrastructure and less open land for forests of food growing?

    • Don’t like ’em? Don’t live in one. Just don’t get in the way of other people, with other needs, who want to make other choices, and don’t share your opinions.

  1. I understand we need affordable, practical, efficient housing. But why do these buildings have to be so butt-ugly? Big deal on “sidewalk engagement” and “landscaping.” They’re going to insert a few shrubs and young trees.”Civic connection” as code for a broader-than-usual entryway with a few steps? Are you kidding? There won’t be anything “civic” about it. Residents will go in and out and the rest of us will shield our eyes and hope the moment passes. The “community” aspect will also be minimal because tenant turnover will probably be high.The UW and Seattle U build friendlier, more engaging dorms than this, for crying out loud.

      • And, at least in theory, low maintenance. No paint, stucco, rotting wood, bricks to repoint, etc. As long as the siding is of good quality and properly installed, the exterior should be low maintenance for decades.

    • I wish they could design some of these exactly like college dorms- and market them to recent college grads in their 20’s. That way we would have truly affordable housing in the densest, liveliest parts of the city where young people want to live.

      Unfortunately, the city regulated dorm style affordable housing out of existence. (Google “How Seattle Killed Micro-Housing for details.)

      Now all that is allowed is this type of “luxury micro-housing” which is the worst of both worlds. Both ugly and unaffordable. I’d rather have the reverse- allow the units to be smaller and more dorm-like, but require the exteriors to be a bit more appealing.

      • Have you seen some of the new dorms at the UW? No kitchen, private bath. Pricing floating around $1000/month. Food not included. Microhousing is arguable cheaper.

      • Probably more accurate to say they regulated affordable microhousing out of existence.

        The SEDU’s that are allowed now are about 40% larger and 50% more expensive to build/rent after multiple new regulations were passed from 2014-2016. Add to this the overall increase in rents in the area, and what can be built now is not affordable. It is “luxury microhousing” for $1400/month and up.

        It is simple math. Regulations changed the minimum size to 55% bigger. Further regulations made construction overall more expensive. So the rents go up by the same amount. And since the rents are no longer cheap, the builders market them as “luxury microhousing” to try and justify the price point… by adding in some fancier finishes that further push up the rent.

        You need to allow true congregant (dorm style) housing to get rents under $1000/month considering the price of land/construction/regulation in Capitol Hill. That type of housing was regulated out of existence.

  2. “Design review”? *shrug*. Whatever.
    Just lay a few aquariums side-by-side and end-to-end, and stack a few cubes connected by Habitrails on top of them.
    Presto, you have every other recent new bldg on Capitol Hill.
    Save time and money, same outcome.

  3. Note to developer, if you’d like to get through EDG, add some exterior brick. Otherwise, the DRB will be asking you to come back for round two.

    • No one here is against more housing, especially in an area like this, close to transit. But many of us would prefer more attractive, warmer buildings instead of the ugly, prefab-looking things we are mostly getting from developers, who only care about maximizing their profits. Aesthetics of a neighborhood are important, unless you want to live in a place which looks like East Berlin in the 60s.

      • Read your comment again, Bob. “No one here is against more housing,” you write. That’s not true. You are against more housing. You want us to get on your side opposing the construction of more housing because you don’t want to look at a building that doesn’t meet your aesthetic standards. Meanwhile, we have among the highest rents in the nation and the third-highest homeless population in the country’s 18th-most-populated city.

        Build the housing. Thousands of people, including current and future Seattle dwellers, are waiting to live in buildings like this one. Don’t lie by saying that “No one here is against more housing.” You are. Our primary daily newspaper is. Others in the neighborhood are.

      • You wrote, “No one here is against more housing,” speaking for everyone “here.” If you want me not to speak for you, Bob, then kindly speak for yourself. Be truthful.

      • You’re grasping at straws in an effort to discredit me. It is certainly true that very, very few Seattleites would take the position of absolutely no new housing……that would be absurd. It is the quality of new housing (including aesthetics), and where it is located, that is the issue.

  4. To everyone leaving comments about how ugly the building is: I 100% agree with you and STRONGLY encourage you to attend the design review meetings and make public comment or at the very least email the design review planner for the project. Believe it or not you can actually influence design if you make the effort. Had I known about this hideous project sooner, I would have been there tonight. Let’s say we all commit to attending the next or at least to blowing up the planner’s inbox!

    • So you advocate slowing growth and driving up costs because you don’t like the color, material or window pattern of a building.

      The problem with this city is they intake thousands of opinions, not facts, and slow growth.

      It’s unfortunate that building design hearings are public. Building design should be based on zoning and facts. Not “I think it’s ugly”.

      • I advocate for better designs. If developers and the architects and designers they hired bothered to put effort into better designs things would move a lot faster. Good designs pass through review quickly. If you don’t think there should be design review though, take it up with the city council and the mayor.