Sunday, March 30, 2008

Central District Green Development

On a tip from Sorin, a visitor to this site, I took a bike ride down to 1411 E. Fir Street to check out a green townhouse development. The Seattle P-I has a write-up on the development in its blog section that shows some interior photos and goes into detail about its green features.

Sorin was especially interested in the layout of the complex and how it encouraged interaction between the residents. The shared boardwalk, the glass sliding doors, and low fences surely contribute to community building.

I was also happy to see a P-patch at the corner of 14th and Fir. I don't know anything about the development behind it (yet) but it got me to thinking of using the open space in a townhouse development as a place to garden.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Link

I just added a link to the The Seattle Condo Blog over on the sidebar. Though they exist for an entirely different reason than this site, I thought it may be of interest to people that find their way to this site. I just came across it a few minutes ago and am always interested in sites that focus on the built environment.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

13th and Olive Redux

Okay, my level of expertise with the King County Parcel Viewer and Property Report led me astray last night. I didn't believe that the Medhame Alem property was only 4800 square feet but I couldn't verify that hunch. I have since realized that there are three adjacent parcels and obtained the area of each, for a grand total of 15,360 sq. ft. At the L3 max zoning density of 12 units/9600 sq ft., that would yield a maximum of 19 units on the property.

However, L3 zoning requires that only 50% of the area can be covered. According to my numbers, that means seventeen three-bedroom units could potentially be built (and still receive the maximum point bonus from LEED) if the area was spread over all three stories (430 sq ft. footprint). That seems like it would be unorthodox architecture but when you look at the (rough) dollar figures, it is appealing.

If we are still assuming that the property would sell for $1.8 million, that gets us down to around $106,000 per unit, just for the property which is, in my book, much more plausible. Of course the programming could be rearranged for some two-bedroom units and larger footprints could be acommodated; the number would fluctuate, but at least it's within the realm of reality. After reading through the NAHC's website, it seems that the purchase of the land is one of the biggest hurdles and most important first steps.

I apolgize for my previous error and pessimism. I have two deadlines next Friday at work and my brain has been fried.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

East Olive


Take a walk up Olive, just East of 12th Avenue and you will come across two sites that pique my interest.

At the corner of 13th, to your left, you will find a beautiful old church building, home to Medhame Alem Evangelical Church. I used to just walk past and note its classy architecture and continue up the hill. However, within the past few weeks "For Sale" signs have been posted at both ends of their property, which extends along Olive to 14th Avenue.

You can't see it in these pictures, but one of the signs says it's a great location for a church, condos, or townhouses. Being a fan of "old brick buildings" and a resident of Capitol Hill, I have mixed feelings about these prospects.

Part of me thinks that the building should be preserved as is; another part, the pessimistic part, just knows that some developer is going to level it and put in more reactionary, overpriced condos (this attitude is ubiquitous in my neighborhood; it is arguably warranted); and the last part of me, the enterprising part, thinks this would be a great place for the type of project I'm talking about pursuing.

According the King County, they paid almost $1.3 million for this property in 2002. I don't know what that translates to in today's dollars but I know it's a lot. As you can see by the sign, it is already zoned L3, which would allow for six units, up to three stories in height, to be built on the property. Unfortunately, if you assume the property is worth $1.8 million now and divide that out over six households, you get $300,000 per household for only the land. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

If you cross 14th and look to your left, you will see Cite Jardin. It fits into what Lawrence Cheek calls "The Townhouse Scourge"(and may actually be the same project that is photographed in the article). The only redeeming qualities I see in this development are the added density to the neighborhood and the landscaping. As for aesthetics, originality, or advertised sustainable features, I can't say anything positive. I know there are eleven units in the development but I haven't found out much else (what the property is zoned, the density of the development, or how much each unit cost to buy).

I'll keep my eye on this block but pessimism is taking hold. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Info on Cooperative Housing

Starting a New Co-op from the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Green Housing Collaborative

I figure to make this official a manifesto is warranted:

In response to the dearth of affordable, green, multi-family housing in Seattle, I have decided that we should band together and try to build some ourselves. My wife and I would love a small townhouse, maybe 2BR/1.5BA, close to all the amenities that we have grown accustomed to living in lower QA and Capitol Hill (grocery store, drug store, restaurants, video rental, coffee shop, etc), near a park, a short walk to transit, and so on. While this living arrangement is inherently green (both increased density and site selection if you're at all familiar with LEED), I would prefer to build residences with as many other green features as possible (continuous hot water circulation, low flow appliances, fluorescent lighting, recycled materials, reclaimed water for non-potable uses, etc).

Of course, money is an issue, as it always is. I'm hoping that by pooling our resources (money) and time (for those interested parties) we can cut out the developers that are only in to construction for the financial gains. I'm hoping that we can create a place where we want to live, that fits within a neighborhood rather than plowing over it. I believe that a co-op would be the best way to reach this goal.

What is a co-op, you ask? Well, it's similar to a nonprofit that owns a building and each member has the right to occupy a unit. An added advantage is that the co-op has to approve of new residents. I know that sounds discriminatory but it would keep the character of community intact (green, urban, accepting, etc.).

I've created this site as a place for interested parties to interact and share ideas. Maybe there are enough people to pursue a single project as I mentioned above or something completely different (smaller units, no kids, shared food or gardening, etc.). I'm a structural engineer and a LEED Accredited Professional; I know an architect that works with other progressive architects/developers and am acquainted with several developers that I may be able to solicit for advice. So please, post comments, exchange ideas, and let's try to see what we can accomplish.