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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Northern Exposure

posted by on February 5 at 15:34 PM

Tired of the flimsy faux-Craftsman townhouses going up all over town? Wish more of the mixed-use developments contained apartments instead of exorbitantly priced condos? Your pleas have been heard, at least, north of the ship canal, where some developers are counting on a thriving rental market for workers who can’t afford to buy property near city jobs, and buyers willing pay more for good design.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are four interesting developments breaking ground this year. Click on the intersection link for a map of the surrounding streets.

N 40th St and Aurora Ave N

For the briefest moment, as I read about the plans to replace a couple of the motels near the Aurora bridge, I was like, aww, I’m gonna miss those old things. And then I was, like, no, I won’t. Those were ratty pieces of shit. And by the time I went to take pictures, they were long gone.


Rentals by the hour are being replaced by rentals by the month, says Kent Angiers of Kauri Investments. He’s proposed a four-story building with 93 apartments, seven live-work units at ground level, and 103 underground parking spaces. Most are one- and two-bedroom apartments—sadly, no three-bedroom rentals, which the city needs more of.


It turns its back on Aurora.


It puts the lotion on its skin.

The building is by Clark Design Group, which also designed Trio (represented by this impenetrable Web site), under the eye of Brenda Barnes, who says they expect to get a building permit in the next couple months. Definitely an improvement on the nasty motels.

NE 105th St and Greenwood Ave N

Robert Pinkley has the last name “Pinkley,” which makes him cooler than other developers. But the president of Telus Development also has admirable design ethics. He decided to replace this ugly, piece-of-shit car wash…


…with these 14 bitchin’ townhouses and live-work units.


Design by Caron Architecture.

“I’m really averse to building something that’s so homogenous,” says Pinkley. “You see so many of the developments with that pseudo-Craftsman look, with beige colors. That’s bad business as well as bad taste,” he says. (A-fucking-men, Pinkley.) “It’s prudent to build something imaginative and interesting,” he says.

The two- and three-bedroom townhouses will sell for between $400-500 thousand. Construction crews are expected to break ground in June.

N 40th St and Stone Way N

It was a Safeway until QFC bought the building several years ago and demolished it. Currently there is this chasm.


With a deal in the works to buy the land from Kroger, Prescott Development has already planned a major, block-long development on the site. The firm has proposed a five-story building, with 160 apartments and 17,000 square feet of commercial space.

However, despite “a dozen or so comments about how neighbors would like to see grocery store there,” says Derr, who attended the development’s first design-guidance meeting last night, Prescott has not committed to a grocery store. He says 5000 square feet of the street-level retail will be designated for smaller shops and the remaining 12000 square feet is up in the air. Here’s Prescott’s preferred design proposal.


“Don’t get caught up on the colors,” Derr told me. I’ll try focus on the shape instead. It looks like attempts to break up the monolithic lines of the exterior have resulted in a mish-mash of ill-fitting geometric shapes, like a failed attempt to build something from both Legos and Duplos. Derr says that Baylis Architects is attempting to break up the monotony of the structure while designing a building that is “attractive on all four sides and relates to Wallingford’s and Fremont’s character.” I have hope.

Affordable housing for seniors after the jump.

NE 137th St and Lake City Way NE

Lake City Way is hopelessly depressing.


Retirement facilities are a well of despondence. Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of joy when the street provides a ton of affordable apartments for seniors. Steve Smith bought three big lots on Lake City Way and he’s building senior housing on each of them. One on 130th is already under construction, another near 140th is on the drawing boards, and a proposal for yet another on 137th was recently submitted.


Morgan Design Group’s John Parsaie submitted the proposal for a six-story building, featuring 160 affordable apartments for seniors and 5,500 sq. ft. of commercial use at street level. Parking for 165 vehicles will be located inside structure. Elder residents will enjoy nostalgic views of an adult entertainment parlor and a yellow school-bus lot. The rental units will be managed by the praiseworthy Senior Housing Assistance Group, AKA SHAG.

“The owners are optimistic the construction start around September of this year,” says Parsaie. “It will probably take between nine and ten months [to complete].”

RSS icon Comments


Well now, that's not bad at all. Still a bit iffy on the massing of the proposed building at 40th and Stone Way, but even if it ended up being the mishmash of odd shapes that it appears to be now, it would still be better than another round of faux-craftsmans.

Posted by Hernandez | February 5, 2008 3:47 PM

Seriously? 400K for a 2-BD townhome at 105th and Greenwood? Will those things actually sell up there at that price?

Posted by Mittens Schrodinger | February 5, 2008 3:50 PM

"Faux-Craftsman!" I've been waiting to hear that term on the Slog.

Why, you ask, in your endearing Sloggy tone that sort of makes me want to jump your bones?

Let me tell you why. I've looked around Seattle at "real" Craftsman houses, built in the 20's and so on, and they seem to be all about facades. They have like these hollow wooden pylons on their porches, or false brackets that pretend to support the eaves. Which I think is just fine. But is a "real" Craftsman an honest building, in the way Frank Lloyd Wright talked about a building being honest?

And if not, then a more recent re-creation of a Craftsman can't really be faux. Can it?

Posted by elenchos | February 5, 2008 3:54 PM

It seems odd to me that you can build to six storeys on LCW but only to four storeys on Aurora.

Posted by Andrew | February 5, 2008 3:58 PM

@3 interesting, but I will say that the old stuff looks a lot better. The oranments are fake but at least they suggest quality craftmanship whereas the new stuff is clearly pre-fab.

Posted by jonglix | February 5, 2008 4:06 PM

All it needs to do to "relate to Fremont and Wallingford" is to NOT BE A GIGANTIC HOLE.

Seriously -- these are nice; I like the Greenwood ones. But they're not affordable. Good design, by which most people mean "attractive skin", doesn't matter as much as how big it is and how it faces the street. People are all agitated about a handful of faux-Craftsman, but if you really, really look at the city with fresh eyes you'll see far more and far shittier apartment and condo design from the 70s, 80s and 90s But it doesn't matter.

I am curious about the weird rooftop of the on on 40th & Stone -- is that another story up there, with a rooftop lawn? That's kind of interesting, even if it's "ugly".

The reason it's ugly is because the lot's too big. They should have divided it up into three or four and let the developers do whatever they wanted with the caveat that the roof line and the street setbacks have to be equal.

Posted by Fnarf | February 5, 2008 4:06 PM

There are no "real" "Frank Lloyd Wright" Craftsman homes in Seattle. Frank Lloyd Wright houses cost millions of dollars. Our Craftsman homes were mostly built from kits. People at the time were horrified by their cheap, fake, cookie-cutter aesthetic. Now they're beloved neighborhood icons.

Posted by Fnarf | February 5, 2008 4:09 PM

@2 and @4 are right. But I agree it's strange having a four-story zone in an area where a six-story makes more sense.

And, of course (oblig), wouldn't a few 40 to 100 story inexpensive residential apartment building at the key intersections make sense? Like 40th and Aurora and 40th and Stone ... we could pop an extra stop for the 358 there and it's TOD ... And 40th and Stone is along something like 5 or 6 bus lines (and soon a streetcar).

We need to stop using 20th Century thinking - pro-car pro-Clinton - and start using 21st Century thinking - pro-transit pro-Obama - or we'll never catch up to the rest of the First World and will evermore be doomed to be a backwater nation ...

Hello, Denmark! Hello, Netherlands! Hello, Portugal! Hello, Poland! We're joining you as a has-been superpower!

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 5, 2008 4:11 PM

Ah! It all makes sense now. Thanks, Fnarf.

Posted by elenchos | February 5, 2008 4:18 PM

Expect to see those empty lots sit there for a very loooooooong time now. At least the old buildings had more character than empty lots or half done construction.

Posted by ewww | February 5, 2008 4:21 PM

Fuck you, Will.

Posted by Fnarf | February 5, 2008 4:22 PM

I agree about the severe lack of 3 bedroom rentals. It's pretty much the only reason I don't live in an apartment right now. I mean rental houses are cool for space, but I would rather live somewhere I could walk to the grocery store.

Posted by Cale | February 5, 2008 4:26 PM

Shout out to my woman Brenda Barnes at Clark! Woot Woot!

Posted by scharrera | February 5, 2008 4:34 PM

That Safeway on 40th & Stone Way was terrible. I bought some fish there and noticed tiny white worms crawling in it. I PROMPTLY returned to the manager of the store to exchange it for something else and the manager said I could EXCHANGE it out but I would have to pay for any price difference. I never went back again.

Posted by Gay Seattle | February 5, 2008 4:35 PM

Hm, so it looks like my options are: 1.) lose the downtown view over Lake Union from my office window; 2.) rent a south-facing apartment on the top floor of the building across the street from my office; or 3.) move my office.

Posted by COMTE | February 5, 2008 4:38 PM

Thanks, Fnarf.

And, Comte, you could always buy a penthouse suite ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 5, 2008 4:48 PM

@14) I completelyunderstand you're grievance ... but ... uh ... duh. What were you expecting they do? Let you pick out whatever the hell you wanted and just walk out with it? No. Wakeup.

Posted by duh. | February 5, 2008 5:01 PM

Development #1 -- Its best side is to Aurora, and that side is inspiring. Sadly, the other side is that hideous sage/dried blood color combo with, you got it, Low Rotterdam cladding and boring window/balcony groupings.

Development #2 -- The proof's in the pudding, but me likey. It's got color, lets in lots of sun, has downright loopy treats for the eye...hell, it looks FUN!

Development #3 -- Disgusting. Howard Roark, your bomb is waiting...

Development #4 -- Looks like the 500 year flood left a waterline on some packing boxes. Revolting.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 5, 2008 5:12 PM

when you have to "break up the monotony of the structure" during massing studies, you started in the wrong place.

good luck, bayliss!

Posted by max solomon | February 5, 2008 5:23 PM

Dominic, thanks for these posts. I don't always agree with your reviews, but appreciate the contribution to discussion on development and urban planning. Keep 'em coming!

Posted by rb | February 5, 2008 7:43 PM

40th & Stone - looks like the roof is stepping up along Stone to match the slope of the street. Is there such a thing as a 'craftsman' apartment building? If there is, I don't want to see it.

Posted by docd | February 5, 2008 9:05 PM

@3: Elenchos, are you really trying to tell us that craftsman was actually not an architectural style, and that it was all just about cheap knockoffs of Wright? My advice to you is don't forget about Wiki before you start blogging out your ass again.

I live in a 1913 craftsman and it's the only one I've ever seen without brackets supporting such large overhangs. The only thing supporting the 3 foot overhanging second floor gables is cantilevered beadboard. And guess what, the gables have sagged noticeably over time. Brackets on houses like mine were put there for structural reasons. But contemporary faux craftsman houses are built differently, usually have smaller overhangs, and really don't need supporting brackets.

My house also has a large hollow column supporting the porch corner. Hmm, would it be more honest if it was solid wood? Or maybe it should have been a simple 4x4 post all out of proportion with the rest of the house?

If you can't see any differences between the faux craftsman townhouse schlock going up all over Seattle and the real thing, you might want to think about putting away the crack pipe. And the thing is, the craftsman townhouses are some of the better ones. A big chunk of the new townhouses I've seen lately make those awful 70s and 80s apartments look pretty good in comparison.

Posted by Henry Miller Lite | February 5, 2008 9:05 PM

@22: When Stickleys Attack!!!

Woot! You go gurl -- three Maybecks up!!!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 5, 2008 10:59 PM

Another store to compete with QFC at Stone & 40th would be awesome (also closer, so I'm biased). However, that design is rather depressing.

I live in a 1922 "Bungalow" I'm not sure if it was a kit home or development project of its time (there are several similar homes in the neighborhood). I love it and while not a true "craftsman" it is much nicer than the town-homes I've seen.

PS: Mr. Poe, I've finally posted something on here!

Posted by non sequitur | February 6, 2008 12:45 AM

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