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In deference to neighboring church, ‘graceful’ First Hill apartment tower will rise only 8 stories — UPDATE

Wednesday morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan will be at Capitol Hill Housing’s affordable 12th Ave Arts building to sign into law the expansion of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program into neighborhoods across the city including Capitol Hill. Wednesday night, a project to create some 350 new market rate apartments on First Hill will go before the design board for its first review.

While the timing of the eight-story project means its developer won’t be required to pay into the MHA pool — projects vested to a Land Use Code in effect before the upzones won’t be subject to the expanded program — the new development planned for 1100 Boylston will replace a surface parking lot with lots of new First Hill housing.

Design review: 1100 Boylston Ave

“The First Hill Neighborhood is an established, vibrant, urban residential community,” developer Carmel Partners and Encore Architects write. “The vision for this development is to enhance this community by creating a residential project that seamlessly blends into the existing neighborhood as a timeless and elegant design that will provide a comfortable place for residents and visitors.”

Carmel paid a pretty price for the parking lot land — it bought the three parcels making up the lot from the Polyclinic for $18.1 million last September according to county records.

The project is being planned under existing zoning to rise eight stories 240 feet — current zoning limits the area to 300 feet but the MHA upzones will push that to 440 feet — and will contain around 350 apartments and underground parking for 90 vehicles.

The developers say they are building smaller for a better transition to surrounding lower height limits.

“Although the site is zoned to allow for high-rise development, the project is designed as a mid-rise building,” they write. “This will allow for a graceful transition from the adjacent high-rise building to the nearby zones with lower height limits.”

That “graceful” transition also will make for a better neighborly relationship.

“The lower height also shows deference to the adjacent First Baptist Church, and responds to the community’s desire for a smaller scale building on this site,” the developers write.

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18 thoughts on “In deference to neighboring church, ‘graceful’ First Hill apartment tower will rise only 8 stories — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. This is really sad. By building only 8 stories high on that 1/2 block parcel, they are forever preventing the construction of a 44 story building, for which the parcel is zoned.

      • Yes – how dare a developer actually show a little respect for his neighbors… sheesh, what’s this world coming to.

      • cd neighbor. I can’t even with you. I wish this site had a moderator to delete people like you. For your reference, this parcel’s “neighbors” are 20 and 30 story buildings. You bemoan the high price of housing, and the displacement of people in all your posts. Building 44 stories instead of 8 means so much more housing, in a neighborhood that already welcomes density far more than any other neighborhood. And more housing means lower prices. And this is currently a parking lot, so zero displacement. You should be supporting a 44 story building here…it means less people moving in and bringing their cars to your precious Central District home and street.

      • No… I don’t bemoan the high price of housing – I have no need to. I simply don’t think that anything that the MHA will do anything to change it. I think the MHA is selling out our neighborhoods to developers and will destroy more affordable housing than it will ever provide at the same time. The only winners in this equation are the builders.

      • Are the 350 households that will now be able to live in First Hill not winners in this equation? And with a taller building we’d have even more of these winners?

    • I agree with cd neighbor. The notion that “more housing means lower prices” is simply not being born out, at least in Seattle. We have already built alot of new buildings, yet prices are high and increasing (albeit more slowly, for now).

      And, this building will be market rate, which means that it will do nothing for affordability or diversity.

      • Bob, I replied to a similar comment you made in another thread just the other day. How hard is it to understand the basic concept of supply of demand? If supply of a product is limited, the cost goes up. Increase the supply, and the cost at least plateaus, and potentially decreases. This is exactly what has happened in the last year in Seattle, with rents finally plateauing and even decreasing in some places, thanks to all of the recently built apartment buildings. It works! And MHA is going to help to make more of that happen.

      • And, my belief is that this being an area of limiting geography and area of increasing desirability, the supply is simply never going to meet the demands of anything more than the upper middle class. The only thing that will make housing in this area truly affordable is if it is set aside as such or is undesirable to those who can afford more – and no one builds a new building that is undesirable to those who would rent at market rate….. That which is now undesirable is being destroyed at rates higher than that which is set aside is being built, and will continue to be as long as it is easy for developers to come in.

        And it’s not just rents. Having to complete with developers for nearly every piece of buildable land drives the price of houses up even further than simple competition with other prospective home owners. If it were much more difficult to tear down a home – in other words if the land were not worth so much, houses would be priced according to their condition. As it is now, the building is inconsequential. It’s practically impossible for someone starting out to get a house that needs some TLC when a developer can outbid them just to get the lot. Now, shutting out developers would not prevent areas from gentrifying – nothing but a huge economic downturn will do that, but IMHO it sure would slow it down.

        I grew up in area that is geographically similar to Seattle – hills and water limit where you can build, but prices there are not through the roof. A young couple can still buy a house and put the effort into it to make a home. It’s not 100% because of the zoning rules there, some of it is that there is a city income tax, which encourages people to live outside the city limits and a historically slow economy (that has changed) but I’m sure it’s part of it. It’s nearly impossible to do a 100% tear down and rebuild there. You pretty much have to fix what you’ve got or at the most rebuild to the same envelope. In consequence the city is not overrun by contractors building apartments.

      • dave, we’ll just have to disagree. Of course I know that Econ101 teaches the laws of supply/demand, but I think the situation in Seattle is much more complicated than that simplistic construct, as just explained by cd neighbor here. I guess we will just have to see what housing costs in 5 years are….they won’t be lower, that’s for sure.

        This morning I just noticed a beautiful older home, in excellent condition, at the NW corner of Boylston Ave E and E Thomas St. It’s slated for demolition in favor of yet another, ugly apartment building. But I’m sure you, and other pro-growth advocates, are thrilled that it will be gone because its replacement will increase the “god of density.” I think it’s a damn shame. “Disappearing Seattle,” indeed.

      • 100% agree with Bob – there are things that are *worth* preserving. I’ll bet that you, the OP, probably are soooo careful to recycle every can and bottle and always bring your reusable bag to the grocery store, yet you are completely willing to simply throw away your larger surroundings.

        You won’t find me apologizing for being pro preservation – not ever. The lot in this particular story is just a parking lot, so maybe not in this case and is not the case for every building, but there are certainly plenty around here that it has been a crying shame to see them disappear.

      • But we shouldn’t upzone and build more because (1) developers and (2) building more won’t affect rents?

        How do you propose we absorb the increasing population?

        I personally believe we should just upzone the whole city. Don’t want to sell your SFH to a developer? Then don’t.

      • In my opinion, the onus is not on Seattle to absorb all those who want to move here, because that would mean we would have to make decisions which will significantly impair our quality of life ….and some of those decisions have already been made (upzones, MHA, etc.) The onus is on those who wish to move here…they have to make a calculated decision if job opportunities are such that they can afford to live here, and if not they will just have to move somewhere else.

        I own a small single family home, and have decided I will not sell, in spite of many offers from developers and realtors. I am fortunate (and have planned accordingly) not to need more money for my retirement, but apparently many homeowners are not in the same situation, so they are selling when offered crazy amounts of money. Developers are preying on such people, because they know they can make alot of money by building ugly, cheap-looking structures which are negatively impacting our city.

      • In my opinion, the onus is not on Seattle to absorb all those who want to move here, because that would mean we would have to make decisions which will significantly impair our quality of life ….and some of those decisions have already been made (upzones, MHA, etc.).

        So there are people that want to move here and there are developers that are willing to build the capacity for these people to move here, but they shouldn’t be allowed to because you don’t like density?

        they have to make a calculated decision if job opportunities are such that they can afford to live here, and if not they will just have to move somewhere else.

        So Bob has decreed that people who are moving to Seattle for work, but can’t find a place to live must go live in the hinterlands and have a 2 hour commute into work in Seattle because again, Bob doesn’t like density.

        own a small single family home, and have decided I will not sell, in spite of many offers from developers and realtors.

        That’s the beauty of an upzone: no one is forcing you to sell!

        If you don’t like density, I would not recommend living in one of the densest neighborhoods in the City that is the economic and population center for the entire Northwest region. And it’s not like this happens overnight. Capitol Hill has been dense for nearly a century. You can’t un-densify unless you have a Detroit-eque disaster hit your city.

      • I have lived on Capitol Hill for 40 years, so obviously I am not anti-density. But I think it should be done in a steady, moderate way….and not as in the current “feeding frenzy,” which is to bulldoze older homes and buildings (many of which are relatively affordable) in favor of ugly, cheap-looking structures which are shoe-horned into small lots, blocking light and views for their neighbors, and creating additional parking problems.

        As far as the prospective new Seattleites, they need to evaluate their job prospects/income in light of where they want to live in the city. If they can afford to live in a desirable neighborhood, then fine. If not, they will need to live farther out and accept the reality of a longer commute….or, they might have to re-think whether they want to live in Seattle at all. It is not the responsibility of Seattle government to magically provide inexpensive, affordable housing in desirable neighborhoods for all who want to move here.

  2. The title of the article is misleading — 240 feet would approximately 24 stories. But the building is actually only going to be 8 stories.

    • Not misleading — wrong. Corrected above to match up with the design review packet which specifies eight stories. I was working with the Land Use permit project description:
      Construction of a 240 foot tall apartment building with approx, 350 apartments and 290 parking stalls.

      The city’s permitting entry hasn’t been updated to reflect the planned height. Regardless, I should have caught the mistake. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.