Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Lunch Date Redux: Playing | What's the Matter With Me? »

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tonight’s Design Reviews

posted by on April 8 at 15:15 PM

This morning, Boom suffered a technological tragedy when a sickly laptop buckled under the demands of another post. With fond memories it was sent out to pasture. But after a harried trip to the Apple store, we are back in the saddle riding a new young stallion, albeit behind schedule.

Small Time

Rarely a week passes on Slog that I’m not ranting about the need for inner-city apartments with smaller floor plans. We need affordable homes—near jobs—for working and low-income folks. Plymouth Housing Group is on the case.


The nonprofit has proposed a 7-story building smack in the middle of Belltown with 84 affordable apartments (with full bathrooms and kitchens)—averaging 250 square feet. Plymouth describes it as “studio apartments for currently homeless individuals.” I describe it as “awesome.”


SMR Architects

“It’s a more holistic approach to ending homelessness,” says Christona Bollo of SMR Architects. Caseworkers, a nurse, and other facilities will share the 1st floor with a 2000 square foot retail space, she says. At this design meeting, the second, SMR will show detailed plans for perspectives, elevations and building materials.

Another interesting aspect of the project: No parking is required and none is proposed.

The meeting is tonight at 5:30 p.m. in room L280 of Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave / 601 5th Ave. After-hours access info is here.

MLK, Jr. Way South and South Othello Street

Othello Partners wants to build a six-story structure containing 365 residential units and 25,500 square feet of retail space. Parking for 278 vehicles will be contained in the building. The existing building—a mini mall, I believe—would be demolished.


But before they get the thumbs up, the design review board wants to see some changes.

Overall, the Board felt that the proposed buildings mass along Othello was of particular concern with proximity of exterior wall at street level and on the upper level. Othello will become a prominent pedestrian street leading to and from the light rail station. Opportunities exists provide a vibrant space that is welcoming. The building’s scale is not that bad, however there appears to be a lack of graciousness to what is occurring in public spaces.

No designs to post, sorry. But you can see how the developer and architects Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine will address these and other concerns at a meeting 6:30 p.m. in the lower level of the Rainier Cultural Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street.

Rainier Avenue South and South Dearborn Street

The proposal is to build 15 units in two duplexes, a triplex and two fourplexes in the Rainier Valley. Sorry, no rendering for this project, either.


Here’s what the Web site says: “Market rate unit prices are projected to range from $165,000 for studio units to $287,000 for large 2 bedroom units.” Tonight the review board will give early design guidance at 8:00 p.m. in the lower level of the Rainier Cultural Arts Center, 3515 S Alaska Street.

RSS icon Comments


It kind of makes sense that a building meant for the homeless (presumably the chronically homeless -- with the inclusion of caseworkers and nurses in the plan) would not include parking.

And while Plymouth does great work, I'm failing to see the connection between providing housing for the homeless with providing affordable housing for working class folks so they can live close to their jobs.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 8, 2008 3:28 PM

Plymouth housing is great, but from my experience only one of these rooms will become available per year.

In other words, homeless person finally gets placed there after 4 years on a wait list (initially), hits the jackpot paying $86 a month for a Belltown studio, and lives till they die there.

Which I suppose is the point. but...

woohoo low income housing!

Posted by Non | April 8, 2008 3:29 PM

7 stories? Isn't that 93 stories too short? (Kidding, kidding!)

Posted by arduous | April 8, 2008 3:29 PM

It would sure be nice if the city didn't handshake away the requirements for low income housing everytime Dick Hedreen wants to build a hotel in this city. Nickels bends over for him and when there is no housing that can be afforded by the people who actually work at these hotels, they have to live and drive in from Issaquah, Northbend and Kent.

Posted by Clint | April 8, 2008 3:33 PM

Because I read 'mini-mall':

Posted by NaFun | April 8, 2008 3:35 PM

Keshmeshi @ 1) I'm thinking that part of becoming formerly homeless will entail -- at least for many of the residents -- becoming part of the urban workforce.

Arduous @ 3) Good one.

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 8, 2008 3:36 PM

great point keshmeshi and non. but i think even though it's not perfect, it's a pretty good thing -- especially having the services there. but this sort of building doesn't need to be downtown as much as decent priced living for the people who work there, who cannot live in under 300 sq ft.

and woah, i've been in one of these places (i think on third between pine and union)... and as good as that is, something needs to change. there needs to be a way to help people without completely enabling them.

Posted by infrequent | April 8, 2008 3:43 PM

More ghetto economics in action. Too short (only 7 stories in Belltown), too non-mixed (only homeless, not a mix of income ranges), ... sigh.

Look, that kind of thing might work for a basic flophouse for inebriates or druggies, so I guess you could argue it, but we have got to break out of this ultra-short thinking.

But we're still pushing the working class and the middle class out of Seattle by not building affordable apartment space downtown.

That said, I like the lack of parking.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 3:47 PM

@7, i'm all for having homeless housing downtown & elsewhere, but good luck getting it past the NIMBYists in the single-family hoods. the mini-mob'll be out, pitchforks in hand.

Posted by dpa | April 8, 2008 3:51 PM

Yeah yeah, blah blah blah.

So what kind of Mac did you get?

Posted by montex | April 8, 2008 4:03 PM

I got a 24" iMac. After hunching over a 12" PowerBook for the last three years, this feels like all my Christmases have come at once--with all presents and the debt.

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 8, 2008 4:13 PM

I wonder, what would be the additional cost to bring it up to 10 stories?

Posted by Greg | April 8, 2008 4:14 PM

@ 12) It can't be 10 stories unless it's made with steel or concrete. Bollo told me that Plymouth can only afford wood construction, which, according to building rules, is only allowed to this height.

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 8, 2008 4:18 PM

It's wood? Huh. It sure didn't look like it from the renderings. I guess I didn't expect a wood building to be even 7 stories.

Posted by Greg | April 8, 2008 4:27 PM

It might be cheaper to habitate problem homeless people rather than pay for their medical bills out of the tax payer's pocket.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 4:46 PM

The Othello project is where a particularly sad looking former Supermarket (that must have been quite natty in it's day) stands. It's opposite the disenfranchised Safeway, south of the old bowling alley, which was a church, and is now empty.

The whole "Othello Station" area is going to be quite interesting once light rail starts up.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | April 8, 2008 5:06 PM

@9 is the most insightful, especially in a neighborhood filled with the ultra-rich and their artist hangers-on.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 5:09 PM

I'm all for getting homeless off the streets, but Belltown seems a little generous. Why are we placing our homeless population so close to our most visible landmarks; the Seattle Center, the Olympic Sculpture Garden, and the Waterfront are all places where these people will go to panhandle. Why not place a structure like this further away in a place like SODO, International District, or First Hill where they can still be close to services and jobs downtown, but not give our city a bad image by placing them near our most visible tourist destinations?

Sorry if I am being insensitive, but this seems much more logical to me.

Posted by Cale | April 8, 2008 5:30 PM

@18 - so they can piss on your sidewalk, Cale.

You wanted to live in a gritty neighborhood in Seattle - deal with it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 5:45 PM

I'd just like to find a decent one bedroom apartment (or large studio) that can accommodate a wheelchair. Everything I find has a 1-year waiting list (minimum).

Posted by elswinger | April 8, 2008 6:22 PM

They've already pissed all over Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market and the International District. It's only fair that it be Belltown's turn next.

Posted by ballsoffire | April 8, 2008 6:55 PM

I guess if this is what it takes to pencil out, and of course any home is better than a box on the streets...

But it makes me sad that the best we can do is 250 sq/f -- is that any kind of dignity?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | April 8, 2008 6:59 PM

please print the floor plans of the 250 SF units.

we should have more of these at all price and market levels

we should have the option to build units without parking anywhere....

and yes we have got to get beyond thinking 7 stories in prime d.t. space is "dense" it's basically low rise.....

sell the land to a developer, with a restriction that when it puts up 40 stories it has to provide a certain no. of units for low income or formerly homeless....building just 7 stories is a waste of land....

Posted by unPC | April 8, 2008 8:17 PM
The first North American homes were very small, one room, one-storey structures that were based on European building techniques brought by settlers and eventually adapted to the building materials, climatic conditions, and topography of the New World. The majority of these structures had less than 450 square feet of space
Posted by McG | April 8, 2008 8:46 PM


Gritty neighborhood? I live in Wallingford.

This isn't about NIMBY, it's about logic. What is the goal? The goal is to get the homeless off the streets and into an environment where they can have opportunity to flourish. They need to be close to job opportunities and close to low/no income services. There are plenty of areas besides Belltown which make sense for something like this to be built. Why not Belltown? Because it is our premier urban neighborhood with close proximity to our most visible public spaces.

I'm worried that Seattle is losing out on tons of potential business in our downtown because of the perception that it is overrun with bums. I don't mind housing and giving homeless a second chance, but it is silly to think that having these services in popular and highly visible locations won't have an adverse effect on people's perceptions of a place.

Posted by Cale | April 8, 2008 9:30 PM

"I'm worried that Seattle is losing out on tons of potential business in our downtown because of the perception that it is overrun with bums."

Huh? What? Downtown is incredibly busy. Were you here in the early 90's, after Fredericks, I. Magnin, Woolworths and Klopensteins all closed within a few months of each other? Maybe then, it could be considered "overrun with bums", but even then it was a lot more lively than most American downtowns.

As far as 250 square feet and dignity. I suspect that most of the Capitol Hill studio apartments my friends and I inhabited during our single days were probably around that size, and we had no problem with our dignity.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | April 8, 2008 10:05 PM

I'm all for housing meant to get the homeless and truly needy off the streets, especially if corresponding services to help these people back to their feet are involved therewith. Go for it.

Posted by Gomez | April 8, 2008 10:06 PM

There is no denying Seattle is a bustling, wonderful place. That's why I live here. What I am refering to is the perception I hear from out-of-towners visiting for either business or pleasure- lots of bums... smells like piss... random fighting on the streets.

If you go to a place like Chicago, there is nowhere near the frequency of bums in the most popular spots- Magnificent Mile, Grant Park, Millenium Park, etc. I think people who might otherwise go out and recommend Seattle as a wonderful place will mention the high concentration of homeless and scare away potential visitors or people considering moving here.

Even for business setting up in the area are placing themselves in Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland based on many things, but it's hard not to notice that one competitive advantage they have is a comparitive lack of aggressive homeless. It's not like they are in Bellevue because it is cheap, because it ain't. Aggressive panhandling makes people feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I suppose crack dealers and gang bangers are also part of this problem, but aggresive panhandling should not be happening around Pike Place Market.

Posted by Cale | April 8, 2008 10:36 PM


I've heard the opposite, at least from people in San Francisco. You ain't seen nothin' until you've seen some truly psychotic chronically homeless people in that city.

My impression is that other cities simply do a better job of sweeping the homeless under the carpet. Sure, you won't see a lot of homeless in Time Square, but if you actually live in Manhattan, you have to deal with them in your daily life, in greater numbers than here in Seattle.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 8, 2008 10:47 PM

There are a couple different levels of transitional housing, and they affect the neighborhood in different ways. Plymouth is not a Downtown Emergency Services Center shelter -- it's clean and sober housing that homeless folks can move too once they're stable. This will be more like the Plymouth building on the northwest corner of Stewart & Denny than like the Morrison Hotel at 3rd & Yesler. You'll hardly see anyone outside except a few smokers -- it'll be like some building on Capitol Hill, only everyone looks 50 years older (though they're actually only 30 years older).

We need more Plymouth-style housing, and 1st and Ceder is a fine location for it; this building is not going to create a black hole of bums. We need more DESC, too, but that's another, trickier, story.

Posted by Steve | April 9, 2008 12:03 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).