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Surrounded by taller buildings with room for more people on all sides, two 1906-built houses set to finally make way for development on Bellevue Ave E

A rendering shows how the building will fit in on Bellevue Ave E

Already surrounded by buildings ranging from three to eleven stories, the last remaining single family-style homes on a stretch of Capitol Hill’s Bellevue Ave E just off E Olive Way will meet with demolition crews if a project coming before the East Design Review Board is approved. But questions remain about whether or not a small stand of trees will meet the same fate.

The project involves properties and two 1906-built homes that have been lined up for redevelopment for most of the past of decade as new buildings sprung up in the nearby area and filled the neighborhood in.

The around 170-unit project comes amid ongoing demand for new housing in the city despite the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout.

The plan is for two adjacent parcels at 123 and 127 Bellevue Ave E, roughly where E John hits Bellevue and stops – about a block north of Denny. Each of the two sites is currently occupied by a building constructed in 1906.

One is still a single-family home. The other started that way and has been renovated and expanded to become a 13-unit apartment building with a small parking lot. The proposed building is surrounded on all sides by apartment buildings, ranging from three to 11 stories.

If the design by Snohomish-based Koz Development is approved, both buildings will be removed. In their place will rise an 8-story building with 167 units. Affordable housing units will be included per city code.

The company paid roughly $6.9 million for the two parcels in separate transactions. CHS reported on the properties hitting the market here in 2013.

The new building will be roughly L-shaped, allowing for a landscaped courtyard along Bellevue. There is an existing grove of trees in the area, and there seems to be some tension surrounding it between the city and the developer. The city would like the existing grove to remain, while the developer wants to replace it with the landscaped courtyard.


123 Bellevue Ave E

Land Use application to allow an 8-story apartment building with 135 small efficiency dwelling units and 32 apartment units (167 units total). Parking for 8 vehicles proposed. Existing buildings to be demolished. Early Design Guidance Review conducted under 3035275-EG.

Design Proposal (83 MB)

Review Meeting
February 24, 2021 5:00 PM

Meeting: https://bit.ly/Mtg3034556

Listen Line: 206-207-1700 Passcode: 146 401 4825
Comment Sign Up: https://bit.ly/Comment3034556
Review Phase
REC–Recommendation  

Project Number

Planner
Wayne Farrens — Email comments to PRC@seattle.gov

Instructions on how to listen to the meeting, or to register to provide comment, are available on the city website


The city argues it’s better to retain the existing trees as they help transition the proposed building to the adjacent three-story building. They say the grove should not only be maintained, but celebrated.

The developer notes the existing grove is held in place by a retaining wall that seems to be failing. Additionally, the developer does not believe the trees would be able to survive the disturbance created during construction. They propose a new courtyard.

The developer says the courtyard will “create a sense of place along Bellevue Ave.” in addition to creating an amenity courtyard for the residents.

The fenced courtyard will include some space for barbeques, fire pits and furnishings. In addition to the plantings in the courtyard, the plan calls for adding some trees along both the northern and southern edges of the property.

Whether courtyard or grove, the bulk of the units inside the building – 135 of them – will range from 230 to 420 square feet. In Seattle-speak, they’re known as Small Efficiency Dwelling Units (SEDU). The codes mandate unit size, that it has kitchen facilities and a closet, and that there be additional storage space somewhere in the building. In spite of the small size, the units are all self-contained (they are not apodments). In addition to the required kitchen facilities units in this building will include an in-unit washer and dryer.

The remaining 32 units will be considered apartments.

While many believe the demand for housing in the city will remain strong, there is less confidence about adding more retail space to the neighborhood. In this project, there are no plans for ground floor retail.

The building will have a roof deck, complete with a kitchen facility and barbeque area and plans call for eight parking spots for cars, accessed from the rear alley, along with a substantial room for bike storage.

The building exterior has light beige brick on the bottom two floors. The upper floors have a mix of materials. The portions facing Bellevue Ave are to be generally a white metal siding. The inside corner of the L will feature a broad stripe of brick going all the way up. The portions of the building facing a rear alley will have grey siding in part of the building and taupe on the other.


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Franklin
Franklin
12 days ago

the bulk of the units inside the building – 135 of them – will range from 230 to 420 square feet”
 
It’s odd that they’re going full-steam ahead with a building of this type when the just-completed Clay apartments nearby just got sold off to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) because the owners weren’t going to be able to rent their sub-300 sq ft units at market rate. If office buildings in downtown Seattle continue to empty out due to remote working, what well-paid employee is going to want to live and work in a tiny apartment in an expensive neighborhood? Why not build units that can accommodate more than one young person with no possessions, or at least give that person more room to live/work?
 
I’m not arguing that the houses on the property need to be preserved (though they are nice looking), but developers and the East Design Review Board could stand to be more farsighted in their multifamily housing planning and approvals. In the near future, Capitol Hill might end up with new buildings full of empty tiny apartments. In a best case scenario, it’ll be a mass of subsidized housing so retail and restaurant workers can afford to live in the neighborhood. 

YimbyYimby
YimbyYimby
12 days ago
Reply to  Franklin

I think you’re right, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to convert small apartments into larger units that might attract families…so we should encourage any housing development we can.

Unfortunately for office buildings, it’s usually cost-prohibitive to turn them into apartments because they aren’t designed for water/sewer/gas lines to every unit; they usually rely on a small number of central bathrooms on each floor. Upgrading sounds easy but is actually not. So if downtown office space isn’t as desired anymore, landlords may be stuck with lower occupancy and rents. “Boo Hoo”, I know, but it means we can’t solve our housing shortage with them.

Franklin
Franklin
12 days ago
Reply to  YimbyYimby

Oh yeah, I wasn’t meaning to imply office buildings would work for mass housing, just that we may have a glut of empty offices AND studio apartments. I still keep wishing for more creative mass housing solutions, but that would require a firmer hand by the city.

Pam
Pam
12 days ago
Reply to  Franklin

What a shame. There is currently a glut of apartments in Seattle. That situation is not going to change soon.

David Witcraft
David Witcraft
12 days ago
Reply to  Pam

Well, when rents actually drop, those apartments may find tennants. Landlords are still playing the full price lease with two free months game, so rents don’t yet appear to have fallen.

Not Having Coronavirus
Not Having Coronavirus
12 days ago
Reply to  Pam

Unless you are looking for a reasonable two bedroom. Those are and have always been in short supply. Classist infrastructures at work, with a barrier of entry for single income families to stay in the city.

ODB
ODB
12 days ago
Reply to  Franklin

I think it’s less that they believe it’s great idea to keep going as much as it is a worse idea to start over the whole design review process for a design with larger units.

If I remember right it can easily take years just to get approval before you can do the first thing step in actual construction. Basically it’s a big slow moving train with a lot of momentum and it’s too late to slow it down now.

RWK
RWK
12 days ago
Reply to  Franklin

“. In the near future, Capitol Hill might end up with new buildings full of empty tiny apartments.”

If this happens, I will shed no tears for the greedy developers who are putting up numerous, cheap-looking, poorly-designed boxes with no character whatsoever. Lot by lot, they are destroying our neighborhood in pursuit of the almighty dollar, with the complicity of the City.

catherine hillenbrand
catherine hillenbrand
12 days ago

I challenge the developer to figure out how to preserve the grove of trees – we are paying a huge environmental and livability price for every group of trees we cut down. Pollution filtration, habitat for birds, noise, and respite in our density.

RWK
RWK
12 days ago

I agree catherine. But developers have no qualms about sacrificing trees if that will improve their bottom line.

Bob
Bob
11 days ago
Reply to  RWK

NIMBYs have no problems caring about trees over unhoused people.

Adam
Adam
11 days ago
Reply to  Bob

There’s multiple massive trees on this property, and all are being removed. That’s a total shame.

I refuse to believe there’s no way to make both housing and the trees work, but it would probably cost incrementally more money that they don’t want to spend. It’s a real loss of an amenity for those of us who live adjacent to it.

Ella
Ella
11 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Tell me how these 250 sq ft $1600 microunits are going to help Seattle’s homeless crisis.