Archive for the ‘real estate’ Category

Wanna own one of Seattle’s first LEED platinum houses?

Here is your chance. The “Alley House,” so named because it was built in the developer’s back yard just went on the market. The-3 bedroom, 3-bathroom house combines green features like Solar Hot Water Preheat, a green roof, and Energy Star appliances with luxury amenities like a Liebherr refrigerator, Caeserstone countertops and built-in audio.

Sloan Ritchie, the developer and owner of Cascade Built, has been blogging about the building process on the Cascade Built blog.

The Alley House was also featured recently in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce building green blog.

Listed for $770,000. Open this Sunday, August 10 from 1-4pm.

another crocodile suitor toys with our hearts

Via Three Imaginary Girls [#], comes another spark of possibility about a Crocodile Cafe revival: Seattle Sound noticed [#] that Marcus Charles and his wife applied for a liquor license for the property. This is, of course, many many steps removed from the club reopening under its old name with new management (but it’s a start). And even knowing that the old team that made the space so great are unlikely to reassemble, it is still nice to think that in the not too distant future that corner could be something other than a graffiti magnet or future condo development site.

Changes in Zoning

Micro Cranes by Seattle Rainscreen

It’s possible that the seemingly never-ending mass production of ugly townhouses is actually coming to an end. At least that’s what Mayor Nickels is promoting. In a recent press meeting, Nickels announced that city planners will review every proposed townhouse design (they weren’t before?!?), with new regulations for specific design changes. These changes include the addition of more windows, wider driveways, lower fences along the public walkways, and more entrances facing the street.

The changes are at least confirmation that the city is listening to neighborhood complaints, but I’m not sure that it’s enough to appease the masses. I haven’t been able to figure out why townhouses have been so popular. In my opinion, they are cheaply made, obtrusive, cookie-cutter bland places to live. The positive side is that it is bringing folks into the city from the suburbs.

Fire destroys Darcy Burner’s House

The Seattle Times reports that early this morning, a fire destroyed Darcy Burner’s Redmond home. Burner, her husband, son, and dog made it out safely, but her cat died in the fire. No word currently on how the fire started.

The Shock of the SLU

Tutta Bella South Lake Union

While enjoying the new Tutta Bella that’s just opened its doors in the 2200 Westlake building, the conversation turned to the surrounding neighborhood of South Lake Union. Vulcan’s towers are rising around what used to be the only tall building around, which will eventually turn a flat part of the city an interesting urban room.

South Lake Union will probably never be same kind of space as Columbus Circle in New York:

Columbus Circle, June 2005

But Westlake and Denny shares some characteristics with Central Park South and West: a crossroads outside the central business district, made up of both residential and office towers, near an open space engineered to transform part of the city. The media and communications companies that formed the core of Midtown Manhattan have, in Paul Allen’s eyes at least, their counterpart in the biotech researchers that will one day fill his offices.

And as Veer, Rollins and others near completion, what used to be a somewhat desolate area after 6pm holds the promise of becoming much more lively. The ding of the (nearly empty) streetcar as it passed by Tutta Bella’s patio every 15 minutes added to the feeling of urban potential, however as-yet-unrealized.

Yet that feeling of being in the midst of a transformation is what gives the neighborhood its peculiar energy: right now, what does exist feels tremendously over-engineered for the amount of use it’s getting. One person at our table, who works nearby, recounted how her (new) bank branch has the kind of personal service usually associated with small-town America: there just aren’t enough customers yet to create a feeling of impersonality. Our dinner itself, at 8pm on a Friday night, on one of Seattle’s rare warm and sunny June days, took place on an open patio with nary a care about a wait for a table. The future is a foreign country, into which one has deplaned just a little bit earlier than the throngs whom the pleasant hosts expect to welcome any minute now.

3200 Sq Ft house goes through the Ballard Locks

Last night, on the way home over the 520 bridge, my husband and I noticed a very large house floating on Lake Washington. It was an impressive sight, and I wish I’d had my camera at the ready. About 4 hours later, as we went for a run through Golden Gardens, we saw the same house! His comment to me was something along the lines of “that must have been a bitch to get through the locks”. Well, thanks to King5, you can see exactly what it took to get the house through the locks.


Edith Macefield Dies at 86

Edith Macefield, the woman who caused quite a stir by refusing to sell her Ballard home to developers, forcing them to build around her, has died, apparently of natural causes. [myballard].

Regardless of where you come down on the whole development issue–and I still maintain that the character of development in Seattle is constantly leaning away from the sort of density that we claim to want–the bottom line is that Macefield was a lady with a rich an interesting life, and stories that have probably still never been told. Richard Andrews of Ballard Bullshit has been working on a documentary about her for the last three years, hopefully scheduled for completion in the fall.

She has no known family, so what happens next to her land and house should be interesting.

Urban Density: Downtown

Seattle PI
Photo: Joshua Trujillo / P-I
Urban growth is on the rise. Two articles posted recently in the Seattle-PI show possibilities for the direction of two distinct neighborhoods: South Downtown and South Lake Union.

South Downtown (think Stadium district) is in the process of revealing a proposal to add more 6,000 new housing units (consisting of condos most likely) and enough business development to support 16,000 additional jobs. The PI published this list of development plan highlights:

OVERALL: The plan would urge developers to build more housing, especially near mass transit. Taller, denser projects would be allowed in some areas and environmentally friendly practices encouraged.

PIONEER SQUARE: Developers would be allowed to construct taller buildings in parts of this district, except the central historic area of First Avenue South. Better east-west walkways over the railroad tracks to link Pioneer Square with the International District are suggested.

INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT: The plan aims to improve sidewalks and streetscapes throughout the area but largely recommends against allowing taller buildings in the retail core of Chinatown.

The South Lake Union neighborhood, known for recent growth, is looking to approve new zoning proposals that would raise height restrictions.

The upzones range from most dense, 125 to 400 feet, to medium density, 85 feet to 400 feet, to the “least dense/stair-step” plan, 85 feet to 240 feet.

When I participated in the Capitol Hill Community Council Steering Committee, there was discussion about the South Lake Union neighborhood and the increasing amount of tall residential buildings being developed. Residents of Capitol Hill worried that they would lose their views and congestion would increase around the borders between South Lake Union and Capitol Hill. The South Lake Union community group is trying to address those fears, as reported in the PI:

The community group’s board members told City Council members last week that taller, more slender buildings would allow more light, help retain views, allow for more open or green space at street level and make neighborhoods more walkable and livable.

Honestly, I am torn between two different feelings in regards to proposals like these. On one hand, I really enjoy Seattle the way it is. Change is uncertain. On the other hand, the Seattle core is unable to expand any further out and must instead expand up. Urban density can work for a city if the citizens are willing to work with each other and the government.

Regardless of what ultimately is approved, Seattle is going to look very different in 20 years.

Surprise! Old buildings may fall down in earthquake

We’ve covered before on this very website the fact that I am irrationally paranoid about earthquakes, so any headline with the word in the title is going to set me clicking. I don’t know if this latest city report on how Seattle is screwed in the event of another earthquake was spurred by the recent terrible events in China, but today the Mayor reported that there are around 1,000 buildings in town prepared to collapse in the event of a quake. They’re all old brick buildings in Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, SoDo, and the International District, which should come as a surprise to exactly no one, considering how after the Nisqually quake most of the uninhabitable buildings were from the 1930’s [Times]. Not so big on the building codes, back then.

Shockingly, Mayor Nickels wants to put together a committee that will spend about a year studying retrofitting, incentives and penalties, time lines, and all of the things that are required in order to change the building codes, which will have to go through City Council to be approved. My first guess is that having your building fall down because you didn’t do earthquake retrofits is not going to be penalty enough. They’ll be notifying the owners of these unsteady buildings.

California is the only other state that requires earthquake retrofitting. This is why I am a little afraid of California.

The Seattle Times: Pity poor Trevor Jones

Poor Trevor Jones’ Home
Photo courtesy of

The Seattle Times is generally pretty hilarious. From their 1950’s era editorials to their insistence that Steve Kelley deserves to be paid to write, their humor knows no bounds. Today, though, they get serious with an article on King County home sales [times]. They note that while home sales have dropped, prices have not. They then provide a series of explanations for this phenomenon and end the article on a hopeful note with a quote from a local real estate economist: “The good news is homes are still valuable commodities,” he says. “Prices are depressed, but I suspect as this shakes out — and I suspect it will shake out in 2008 — you’ll see the market rebound.”

As usual in an article like this, a real-life example is provided. An example so sad and pitiful, it’s impossible not to be taken in by this person’s plight. It’s inconceivable for this story not to resonate at the deepest core of your being.

Enter poor Trevor Jones.

Poor Trevor Jones is a developer with a big problem. His $1.9 million mansion “in one of Seattle’s most sought-after neighborhoods” hasn’t sold after 9 months on the market. I know what you must be thinking. How do we help Trevor? Well, the down-to-earth folks at the Times, those clever do-gooders, are way ahead of you. See, by using Trevor’s unbearable situation to illustrate their point that home sales have declined, they’ve provided him with free advertising – including two gorgeous pictures of his home. All we can hope now is that someone takes pity on poor Trevor (Paul Allen, are you reading this?).

You may be scratching your head right now. You may even be thinking, “But Ryan, Trevor isn’t actually poor. Why would the Times use his situation to illustrate their point when his house is worth almost 4 times the median price of a home in King County? Why wouldn’t they head over to one of the myriad of King County neighborhoods with median-priced homes that haven’t sold and use one of those as an example?” I say don’t trouble yourself with such thoughts. Just keep in mind that when the richest members of our community suffer, we all suffer. The Times understands that and so should you.

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