Capitol Hill: a resident suggests that developers put in more effort

By Guest Contributor, Jen Power

The POWHat (Pine-Olive Way-Howell-Area Triangle) Neighborhood Association Meeting had a bigger crowd than usual March 13th. On the agenda was a presentation by me about the development going in on Pine between Summit and Belmont. Currently this block is the home of Kincora’s, Manray, the Bus Stop, Harry’s Grocery, Bimbo’s Bitchin’ Burrito Kitchen, the Cha Cha, Winner’s Circle, and 22 residential rental units. I had the pleasure of showing everyone what would be replacing this block of vibrant local businesses.

According to the Master Use Plan recently submitted to the city, the development with be a six story, block-long building with 106 units of condominiums priced for middle and high income ($300,000 and up) and a 7 retails bays on the 1st floor with rents double what they are currently (approx $14/sqft. to approx. $30/sqft.). Below you can also see what the architect’s “vision” is for the space.

933875 388de0b44d Capitol Hill: a resident suggests that developers put in more effort

The POWHat regulars in attendance (yay, Carl and Al!) also got to brief the community about a meeting we had with representatives from the developer Murray Franklyn and the architectural firm Weber + Thompson in January. The Murray Franklyn representative, Wade Metz, asserted that Seattle is a “rich city” and that the market can support higher priced condominiums such as the ones proposed, and stated that he was surprised at the reaction from the neighborhood because Murray Franklyn is a market based company that was simply doing what other developers had already been doing in the neighborhood. And Peter Greaves, the architect, had all the appearance of taking pride in his design work.

Another important note: no bars would be allowed in the retail space because of the bad experience Murray Franklyn had with the Twist in Belltown. At the same time the condos are being marketed to hip young singles and couples for whom the proximity to nightlife would be a reason to move into the neighborhood.

My interpretation of the facts: Murray-Franklyn is getting away with mediocre design and overpriced residences because they already have a killer selling point: Capitol Hill. Unless the condo market is oversaturated before the development hits the market (anybody want to start placing bets?), they will make a lot of money by exploiting the image of a unique and vibrant neighborhood that they will at the same time help destroy.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Development doesn’t have to equal homogenized and unimaginative architecture, lack of green and community oriented elements in design, loss of rental units and a proliferation of condominium developments that are uniformly too expensive for most of the city’s and the neighborhood’s population. It also doesn’t have to equal the loss of neighborhood institutions and long time hangouts due to huge retail rent hikes.

Unfortunately, with “market based companies” short term financial goals win over quality construction and architecture, decently priced retail and housing, and green design elements. Immediate profits even win over longer term economic goals like promoting local businesses, having affordable housing available to the city’s workforce, and investing in local property values by building quality developments (what would we do without that invisible hand?).

I’m not opposed to development, or markets for that matter. What I’m opposed to is developers profiting off an image, a community, that they don’t bother to invest in. I’d like to see Murray-Franklyn, and all the other condo developers on Capitol Hill, put in a little effort. You’re going to make money by just being here – how about giving something back?

Details on the next POWHat Meeting

April 10th is the date of our next POWHat meeting. We’ll be meeting in the basement of Capitol Hill Presbyterian, located on Harvard and Howell right behind Seattle Central Community College.

We’ll be addressing the community’s concerns with the condo development planned at Pine between Summit and Belmont again, but this meeting we’ll be focusing on what the community wants from this development (creating a cohesive message) and what we can do to bring this about (next steps).

To keep up on line please visit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/POWHat-news

Not enamored with the developments in your neighborhood? Let us know, it is time our voices are heard by the city’s developers and their marketing firms.
– Matt

About Matt

Matt , Urbnlivn's publisher, has a love for lofts with industrial features and new construction condos that is only eclipsed by his passion for outdoor sports and urban living. Phrases such as “polished concrete” and “exposed brick” are music to his ears. You can also find Matt on Twitter or skiing.

  • CG

    The start time of the referenced POWHat meeting, to take place on Tuesday, April 10, is at 7:00 p.m. We’ll try to create a doable action plan to influence the design of the Pine + Belmont development. If nothing else, it is empowering to learn the workings of the city design and permitting bureaucracy. Hope you’re able to attend and share your ideas on how to keep Capitol Hill vibrant for condo owners and renters alike.

  • CG

    The start time of the referenced POWHat meeting, to take place on Tuesday, April 10, is at 7:00 p.m. We’ll try to create a doable action plan to influence the design of the Pine + Belmont development. If nothing else, it is empowering to learn the workings of the city design and permitting bureaucracy. Hope you’re able to attend and share your ideas on how to keep Capitol Hill vibrant for condo owners and renters alike.

  • EconE

    Kicking out Bimbos? Damn. It’s really kind of sad to read entries like this. It’s one thing to take the seedy warehouse infested part of SLU and bring it to life…as there was no life there to begin with…but hearing about the “sterilization” of Cap Hill is a downer for me. I have never lived on the hill but have been there a few times and felt that it had a quality that made it truly unique.

    Maybe while they’re at it they can also get rid of all the Ivars, Spuds, The Space Needle, the troll under the bridge (I’m sure they can fit some condos there too) and anything else that Seattle’s people hold dear in pursuit of the almighty $.

    Oh…and while you builders are at it…could you chop down all the trees?…think about how much more you’ll get per sf without those ugly evergreens blocking the views.

  • EconE

    Kicking out Bimbos? Damn. It’s really kind of sad to read entries like this. It’s one thing to take the seedy warehouse infested part of SLU and bring it to life…as there was no life there to begin with…but hearing about the “sterilization” of Cap Hill is a downer for me. I have never lived on the hill but have been there a few times and felt that it had a quality that made it truly unique.

    Maybe while they’re at it they can also get rid of all the Ivars, Spuds, The Space Needle, the troll under the bridge (I’m sure they can fit some condos there too) and anything else that Seattle’s people hold dear in pursuit of the almighty $.

    Oh…and while you builders are at it…could you chop down all the trees?…think about how much more you’ll get per sf without those ugly evergreens blocking the views.

  • POWHatan

    Have suggestions that could improve the project? SPEAK UP and let the City know! Read on for details:

    The Dept. of Planning and Development is accepting written public comments through April 25th. This is an extention of the orginial 2 week period.

    POWHat supports density and mixed use development; however, the design of this project is of great concern for many within the community. Design review and environmental-related feedback is critical at this point. Please read the following tips on the types of comments DPD considers before you write your letter –

    http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Notices/Public_Comment/How_To_Comment/default.asp

    Send comments to:
    Seattle Department of Planning & Development
    700 5th Ave., Ste 2000
    PO Box 34019
    Seattle, WA 98124-4019

    You can read more information about the project here – http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Notice.aspx?id=5058

    And learn more about the Design Review process here – http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/publications/CAM/cam238.pdf

  • POWHatan

    Have suggestions that could improve the project? SPEAK UP and let the City know! Read on for details:

    The Dept. of Planning and Development is accepting written public comments through April 25th. This is an extention of the orginial 2 week period.

    POWHat supports density and mixed use development; however, the design of this project is of great concern for many within the community. Design review and environmental-related feedback is critical at this point. Please read the following tips on the types of comments DPD considers before you write your letter –

    http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Notices/Public_Comment/How_To_Comment/default.asp

    Send comments to:
    Seattle Department of Planning & Development
    700 5th Ave., Ste 2000
    PO Box 34019
    Seattle, WA 98124-4019

    You can read more information about the project here – http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Notice.aspx?id=5058

    And learn more about the Design Review process here – http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/publications/CAM/cam238.pdf

  • aly

    Hello,
    I didn’t know where to post this but I found a small development on 14th and fir street.
    a green project by urbansight (g-projects llc and b9 architects) of 8 townhouses. between 1100 and 1330 SF and high 400K to low 500K. it’s a small developer that does one project at a time. I have to admit that I’m not too impressed with construction quality. Also some elevation issues like why does the large window face the neighborh instead of the street? but some nice touches, too. Permeable concrete surface at parking, rain barrel.. No HOD and you can do whatever you want with your 3 story unit. the sample home had the kitchen/dining at main floor, living room with powder at second, and the bedroom with a nice bath and study area at 3rd. there is a grated floor area at living room that filters light into main floor. concrete floors, reclaimed wood, doubleflush toilets… exterior walls had the rain screen system (like the lumen but not as fancy of course) 2 units sold. the agent said that if interested in any unit, they could finish it up in a month. also each owner gets 15 hours of carpentary to add some personal touch to their townhouse. I noticed that in the kitchen they had a traditional Turkish cooking book. that was a nice compliment to me, cause I’m Turkish :)

    anyways check it out….

  • aly

    Hello,
    I didn’t know where to post this but I found a small development on 14th and fir street.
    a green project by urbansight (g-projects llc and b9 architects) of 8 townhouses. between 1100 and 1330 SF and high 400K to low 500K. it’s a small developer that does one project at a time. I have to admit that I’m not too impressed with construction quality. Also some elevation issues like why does the large window face the neighborh instead of the street? but some nice touches, too. Permeable concrete surface at parking, rain barrel.. No HOD and you can do whatever you want with your 3 story unit. the sample home had the kitchen/dining at main floor, living room with powder at second, and the bedroom with a nice bath and study area at 3rd. there is a grated floor area at living room that filters light into main floor. concrete floors, reclaimed wood, doubleflush toilets… exterior walls had the rain screen system (like the lumen but not as fancy of course) 2 units sold. the agent said that if interested in any unit, they could finish it up in a month. also each owner gets 15 hours of carpentary to add some personal touch to their townhouse. I noticed that in the kitchen they had a traditional Turkish cooking book. that was a nice compliment to me, cause I’m Turkish :)

    anyways check it out….

  • chris

    since you’re looking at creative solutions. Get your neighborhood behind increasing height limits in this area while only slightly increasing FAR (if you’re following the rezoning process in SLU – or if not – such a process will eventually make its way to Capitol Hill west of Broadway). the problem the developer is facing is the restrictive height requires maxing out the building envelope at what looks to be 65′ height – the diagram shows 65′ above grade in front and rear.

    The large, expensive, retail bays are an economic consequence of the zoning because it needs the margin to be financed. If you go the developer and ask for concessions, you might be able to get somewhat smaller retail bays, maybe work on facade changes, but hands are tied on the massing without a zone change.

    For simplicity, lets assume the developer could take the same density and allocate it to a 12-story tower and a 3-story podium with groundfloor live/work lofts, open space setbacks and smaller, less expensive retail. The revenue from the top floors with views could help offset the costs of steel/concrete construction.

  • chris

    since you’re looking at creative solutions. Get your neighborhood behind increasing height limits in this area while only slightly increasing FAR (if you’re following the rezoning process in SLU – or if not – such a process will eventually make its way to Capitol Hill west of Broadway). the problem the developer is facing is the restrictive height requires maxing out the building envelope at what looks to be 65′ height – the diagram shows 65′ above grade in front and rear.

    The large, expensive, retail bays are an economic consequence of the zoning because it needs the margin to be financed. If you go the developer and ask for concessions, you might be able to get somewhat smaller retail bays, maybe work on facade changes, but hands are tied on the massing without a zone change.

    For simplicity, lets assume the developer could take the same density and allocate it to a 12-story tower and a 3-story podium with groundfloor live/work lofts, open space setbacks and smaller, less expensive retail. The revenue from the top floors with views could help offset the costs of steel/concrete construction.

  • Jerry

    Many may not be aware that Webber Thompson also did the uninspired architecture work for Cristalla (definitely not user friendly or inspired interiors), as well as the uninspired, cheaply done and aesthetically challenged interiors of the 2200 project. Not knowing what constraints the developers placed on them, it is hard to know if the fault lies entirely with Webber Thompson, or if they simply agree to do this kind of work driven by the demands of their developers.Given what I’ve see of their work, I don’t think it realistic to expect them to be creative or interesting in their work on this project. Frankly, with so much architectural talent out there, I do not understand how they keep winning these new commissions in Seattle.

  • Jerry

    Many may not be aware that Webber Thompson also did the uninspired architecture work for Cristalla (definitely not user friendly or inspired interiors), as well as the uninspired, cheaply done and aesthetically challenged interiors of the 2200 project. Not knowing what constraints the developers placed on them, it is hard to know if the fault lies entirely with Webber Thompson, or if they simply agree to do this kind of work driven by the demands of their developers.Given what I’ve see of their work, I don’t think it realistic to expect them to be creative or interesting in their work on this project. Frankly, with so much architectural talent out there, I do not understand how they keep winning these new commissions in Seattle.

  • Jerry

    sorry, just caught the typo. It is Weber Thompson, one “B”

  • Jerry

    sorry, just caught the typo. It is Weber Thompson, one “B”