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Condo Expo: Blaine Weber on high density housing trends

By May 20, 2007


Here are my notes from Blaine Weber’s, of Weber + Thompson, talk on high density housing trends.

There are three ideas that are big picture trend drivers in high density housing.

1. Sensibility

  • Good design has demonstrable value
  • Buyers will pay premium
  • Market is responsive to innovation, authenticity, elegantly simple design
  • Modern design is back in style because it is timeless
  • Recent code changes have been a catalyst which is resulting in taller and slender buildings that are easier on the eyes

His example here is 1521 a building with million dollar units of which there are only 10 units left. People are clearly willing to pay a premium.

2. Responsibility

  • We are stewards of seattle’s future
  • Focus on public benefit, sustainability, pocket parks, housing diversity, public realm improvements, create a rich pedestrian experience at street level
  • Sculpted well massed towers that are sensitive to context and place
  • “Think beyond the building”, urban patterns, pedestrian connectness, context, being good neighbors
  • Sense of place, time and history

His example here is Icon tower which features a lit halo on top as a nod to the Space Needle. They also worked with the city on pocket parks.

3. Affordability

  • People being priced out of the market
  • Cost of land + entitlement
  • Cost of construction and materials and labour is increasing
  • City of Seattle requirements for affordable housing
  • Lofts, hybrid, projects/shared infrastructure
  • New products
  • Smaller spaces
  • big ideas
  • There is a deficit of work force housing

His example here is Ava. The developer is the Executive Group out of Vancouver. This building will feature a diversification of unit types and will also feature combinable units. This means there will be affordable units at the lower end that can be sold on their own or people can combine units to create a larger space.

What else?

There is a challenge to include affordable units in high rises.

Made a comparison to boats and the downsizing trend we will see. I wonder if this is what people want or is simply a forced reality given prices. He says that Americans are a bit spoiled and that Japan and Europe is ahead of us in embracing small spaces.

I own and manage Urban Living, a boutique Seattle and Bellevue real estate brokerage. I love lofts, floating homes, new construction, and mid-century moderns, but I will help you buy or sell just about anything!

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