A Fresh Look Into Our Two New Projects!

We are so excited to announce the opening of two of our senior housing projects in Washington — Merrill Gardens at Burien, and Merrill Gardens at Auburn!

Located in downtown town center of Burien, Merrill Gardens at Burien reflects a blend of traditional main street characters and modern architectural elements that are designed in accordance to the design guidelines of Burien. This 166,320-square-foot community offers a total of 111 residential units including studio, one-, and two-bedroom units. The building features both formal and casual social spaces to encourage camaraderie among residents and promote a sense of community.

Living Lounge

Living Lounge

The interior of this community reflects classic main street characters, where details are rich with earthy accents, colors and textures. To create a more residential ambiance, soft lighting and furnishings with neutral colors are used throughout the amenity spaces. Large windows are also used to let the daylight comes through and fills the interior space with a soft, pleasing glow. 

Dining Room

Dining Room

Library

Library


On the other hand, Merrill Gardens at Auburn, located in the heart of downtown Auburn, was created to reinterpret the traditional old town main street architecture with a contemporary twist. This project features a highly-modern layout, along with a bright and airy interior feel. With convenient access to the Sounder Train Station and a variety of local retails, restaurants and other area amenities, this community is designed to meet the expectations of seniors who seek a modern and independent lifestyle. This 169, 310-square-foot community offers a total 129 residential units with a mix of studio, one-, and two-bedroom units.

Dining Room 

Dining Room 

The dining room of this project features extensive glazing and floor-to-ceiling windows, which flood the interior space with natural light and create a breath of openness. The open modern layout of the communal area allow residents to decide whether to participate fully in group activities or from the periphery. Short walking distances in between amenity spaces also provide an ease of access to common areas, allowing less-mobile residents to easily venture out and join in.

Dining Room / Bistro

Dining Room / Bistro

Emulating modern hospitality interiors, each residential unit has ample space and a private bath with shower where residents can receive guests.

One-bedroom Unit - Living room / kitchen 

One-bedroom Unit - Living room / kitchen 

 To see more photos of these two newly furnished communities, check out our portfolio page for Merrill Gardens at Burien, and Merrill Gardens at Auburn. In addition to these two new communities, our apartment project in Burien, and senior housing project in Rockridge, California, are getting close to opening their doors. Stay tuned for more updates on our next new project! 

Urban Design: Tent Cities

Work in progress of a tent encampment at south Seattle.   |   Photo by Josh Janet

Work in progress of a tent encampment at south Seattle.   |   Photo by Josh Janet

Every year, King County organizes a “One Night Count” of both the unsheltered homeless population throughout the county and those individuals staying in shelters or transitional housing. As of the January 2016 count, nearly 3,000 people were living on the streets in Seattle—a worsening crisis that the city has been trying to address for decades. Following the city’s authorization of homeless encampments in 2015, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine declared a state of emergency to tackle its rising homelessness. This week, our Project Manager Josh discussed the use of encampments in Seattle, and shared his experience of volunteering with the set-up of encampments around the city.

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

Homelessness is a topic that can evoke wildly varying but passionate responses, especially when discussing how to address it. In 2015, the city of Seattle hired a consultant to provide her suggestions on how the city should respond to the growing crisis, and the report that was produced called for re-allocation of funding from transitional housing to rapid re-housing. The consultant had very choice words for homeless encampments in particular: “Encampments are a real distraction from investing in solutions. You can see it takes a lot of energy to get them running and they don’t solve the problem. You still have people who are visibly homeless, living outdoors.”

Although rapid re-housing may work for some, many local homeless housing advocates challenged that it has not shown to work for more vulnerable members of the community. Neither the report nor the consultant’s comments address that fact that if housing isn’t available today, individuals and families that are homeless don’t really have any other options.

Seattle is one of the few cities in the country that has attempted to regulate the use of encampments around the city. The Seattle Municipal Code allows encampments to be accessory uses on property owned by religious organizations and interim uses (up to three months) on other property that meet certain restrictions (such as a 25-foot buffer from residential properties). The maximum allowed number of residents is set at 100 and the site must meet a number of safety standards, including the placement of fire extinguishers and 100-person first-aid kits, designated smoking areas, power protection devices and associated safety posts. Encampments are also required to provide and maintain chemical toilets, running water (either indoors or properly discharged outdoors), and garbage removal services. Cooking facilities aren’t required but need to meet health standards.

I first volunteered with the set-up of an encampment when the Tent City Collective was provided space in a parking lot on the University of Washington’s campus, back in December (right down the street from the College of Built Environment in Gould Hall). With the three months up, the collective had to move this past weekend to another site, located in south Seattle near Renton. Less visible than the UW location, this new spot pits residents much further from services and employment and was basically a large mud pit when they were in the process of constructing the new encampment.

If you’ve never been to an encampment, wooden pallets are arranged in a 3x4 pattern for families and in a 2x2 pattern for individuals. Plywood sheathing is nailed onto the pallets, and these provide a basis for tents to be installed such that they do not need to be set on the ground (staying dryer and warmer). Each unit of pallets must be set 4’-0” apart to provide city-regulated clearance aisles for emergencies. In-between, organizers set them at 1’-0” apart to provide some space for access but also squeeze in as many tents as they can onto the site. In a separate area is the “kitchen,” a covered area where milk crates full of donated or collected foodstuffs are stored for resident use. Other supplies are stored here as well.

One of the biggest challenges for the homeless population in Seattle is security. It comes up often when the Mayor discusses the perceived need to clear out places like “the Jungle,” the area underneath I-5 between roughly South Dearborn Street and Lucille Street. In a talk at the Central Library last June, however, former and current residents of the Jungle spoke to the critical need for stability and community that the Jungle provided. If a homeless individual is on their own, it is likely that whenever they leave their tent behind with possessions in it, it is going to get ransacked. Imagine leaving your home every day and finding all of your possessions gone that evening, forced to start from scratch again the next morning. Encampments and other “village” style communities allow for individuals and families to leave for the day, whether for work, food, support services, school, or just needing a break, and return to a relatively stable environment.

As long as rapid re-housing is promoted as the primary method for addressing homelessness, there is going to be a lag between identifying the most vulnerable members of our community and actually finding affordable housing for them along with whatever support services they need. Encampments should not be seen as a city goal, but in the short-term, they provide a measure of normalcy that is better than the alternative. If you are interested in helping tent city residents in the future, whether through support or volunteering during their next set-up in three months, you can find more information on Tent City Collective’s Facebook page.

Glass Cottage is almost completed!

Our Magnolia house project, Glass Cottage, is nearly in completion! The addition portion is completed for the most part, with only a few details left to be installed on the exterior. After months of construction, this 1940s rambler has gradually transformed into a light-filled, sophisticated home that embrace mid-century modern design. We paid a visit to the project yesterday and here's a sneak peek into the newly furnished home!

Kitchen

The previously small, closed-off kitchen was replaced with a light-filled, open kitchen that features a large awning window and a skylight. This streamlined, contemporary kitchen is a part of the SieMatic Collection that is designed by the renowned kitchen designer Mick De Giulio. 

Kitchen/Dining

The new kitchen is now adjoining the dining and living room to form one spacious, multifunctional space that is ideal for socializing and hosting.

Clerestory windows and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors help scoop natural light into the enlarged living room.  

Master Bath

The master bathroom is designed to mimic the streamlined, modern finish of the kitchen counter.

A full-width skylight above the master shower allows zenithal light to cascade across the surrounding space—accentuating the beauty of the open layout under natural daylight. 

Stay tuned for the finished look of this stunning mid-century house project! 

 

Urban Forestry: Trees for Seattle

The presence of trees plays a significant role in our urban environment. Integrating trees into the urban fabric properly can help support a healthy community by adding positive social, economic, and environmental values to the city. This week, our Project Manager Josh discussed the importance of urban forestry, and shared his experience of volunteering with the city of Seattle’s task force to protect urban forests in Seattle.

Trees for Seattle is the urban forestry task force for the City of Seattle.   |   Image via Trees for Seattle.

Trees for Seattle is the urban forestry task force for the City of Seattle.   |   Image via Trees for Seattle.

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

I worked briefly in the planning department of the City of Normandy Park in 2015. One of the common concerns that we would hear from citizens related to tree removal- half of the residents wanted to remove trees on their property to improve their views of the shoreline or expand their homes, while the other half wanted desperately to save all trees for ecological purposes.

Beautiful scenic views and home renovations notwithstanding, trees provide a number of benefits to urban environments. One of the programs managed by the city of Seattle for encouraging and developing urban forestry is Trees for Seattle (TFS), formerly known as “ReLeaf.”

TFS advocates for increasing the urban canopy cover across the city while nurturing and supporting existing trees and green spaces. Canopy cover is defined as the “percentage of the city that is covered by trees, as seen in an aerial view.” There are obvious advantages of trees- they are pleasant to look at and increase property values. Trees also provide natural stormwater management through the reduction of runoff of paved surfaces; reduce the urban heat island effect, which diminishes the need for HVAC in the height of summer and winter; and mitigate air pollution near congested streets.

According to the report Urban Tree Canopy Analysis Project Report: Looking Back and Moving Forward, commissioned by the city of Seattle in 2009, “the city adopted an Urban Forest Management Plan in 2007 with a goal of increasing the city's tree canopy to 30% [in 30 years]. In order to prioritize investments to those actions that will create the greatest tree canopy gain, the City determined that they needed a better understanding of current canopy cover, recent trends in canopy gain and loss, the impacts of development, and tree planting potential. They also wanted to create a baseline to monitor progress against the 30% canopy cover goal.”

Additional reports provided on the TFS website only date back to 2007, but they state that at that time, the city had around 22.9% tree canopy coverage. The Eastlake neighborhood, for which Urbal’s office is located, included less than 15% overall canopy coverage. I would suspect this number has not improved much since then, considering the incredible growth in development experienced along Eastlake Avenue.

So how can the average citizen get involved with Seattle’s urban forestry efforts? TFS also organizes volunteer work parties to promote stewardship in neighborhoods across the city for the natural environment. More than 100 work parties have been conducted at sites city-wide, engaging over 150 volunteers, including one in the Wallingford neighborhood that I volunteered at this past weekend (as well as once last year).

The work at this particular site- the landscaped triangle at North 46th Street and Aurora Avenue North- began in 2014 with the removal of invasive species that were not only harming existing mature streets, but causing sightline issues for pedestrians near a busy arterial. TFS removed English Ivy (growing into tree canopies), Black Locust Seedlings, and various grasses. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2015, the group once again weeded invasive species, but also placed 250 new plants in the area. They chose White Rock Rose shrubs for the triangle due to its high drought tolerance, low growth traits, and low maintenance needs. Ironically, White Rock Rose is not a native Pacific Northwest species, but there are no concerns that this plant is going to overtake native plants.

Volunteers helped clean up the site after removing invasive weeds in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.   |   Image of Wallingford Work Party via Trees for Seattle.

Volunteers helped clean up the site after removing invasive weeds in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.   |   Image of Wallingford Work Party via Trees for Seattle.

I would encourage those that are interested in either urban forestry or just volunteering more to take a look at TFS’s website for upcoming volunteer work parties. The organizers bring food and coffee for volunteers as well as all the necessary tools and gloves for the work. The work can be backbreaking, but it’s a rewarding experience as you witness the growth over time of new trees and shrubs in your neighborhood.


Source:

  • “Watershed Forestry Resource Guide.” Center for Watershed Protection and US Forest Service. Last visited: 08 Feb 2016. Available WWW: http://forestsforwatersheds.org/urban-tree-canopy.

 

Urban Design: Housing for Urban Families in Seattle

Being one of America’s fastest-growing cities, Seattle continues to experience a tremendous growth in population. Despite thousands of housing units are being built to accommodate young professionals and couples that are moving to the city, Seattle does not have enough housing units available and affordable for families with children.  

A white paper highlighting the lack of family-sized housing in Seattle was released in 2014 by the Seattle Planning Commission. After the Planning Commission conducted an extensive study on the availability of affordable, family-sized apartments within Seattle’s housing market in 2011, they found that the majority of affordable housing units in Seattle are not large enough to accommodate families with children. While a standard family-sized housing unit should have at least two bedrooms, the majority of market-rate apartments in Seattle are studio and one-bedroom units. In 2009, merely two percent of market-rate apartment units in Seattle have three or more bedrooms, and only half among the two percent are affordable for low- and middle-income families (see graph below).

Graph captured from The Seattle Planning Commission's 2014 white paper. |   Images via Housing Seattle report

Graph captured from The Seattle Planning Commission's 2014 white paper. |   Images via Housing Seattle report

Last Wednesday, the Urban Design Forum of AIA Seattle put together a panel of Planning Commission members to address the family-sized housing crisis in Seattle. The intent of this panel discussion is to provide the community with an update on how the city intends to attract and retain urban families. The discussion features five speakers, including Catherine Benotto from Weber Thompson, David Cutler AIA from Northwest Studio, Jake McKinstry from Spectrum Development Solutions, Grace Kim AIA from Schemata Workshop, and Amalia Leighton from SVR Design.

During the event, the panelists presented some of the key findings from the Planning Commission’s 2011 Housing Seattle report, and shared highlights of an action agenda that aims to aid the city to increase affordable housing for families with children at a wide spectrum of income levels. One interesting finding the panelists have pointed out was that, despite the city’s goal to attract and retain families with children, there is a relatively small share of households with children in Seattle when compared to other large cities like Portland and Los Angeles ---- roughly 19 percent of households in Seattle are families with children. One attendees asked if the Planning Commission has worked with the local school district has to push for the creation of more school development in downtown Seattle. The panelists explained that the city does not have any plan for new school development in downtown school so far, although part of the action plan calls for strengthening partnerships between the Seattle School District and the City to allow for better planning to accommodate future growth and foster family-friendly neighborhoods. The panelists mentioned that the local school district has played an important role in helping the Planning Commission to understand the enrollment trend in Seattle’s Public Schools. A positive finding shows that Seattle Public Schools’ total enrollment has increased rapidly in the recent school year, and that urban neighborhoods like South Lake Union, Uptown and Pioneer Square have a growing number of families with children.

tHE EVENT allows COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON THE family-sized HOUSING ISSUE.  |   photo  BY sAPPHIRE cHAN

tHE EVENT allows COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON THE family-sized HOUSING ISSUE.  |   photo  BY sAPPHIRE cHAN

The panelists went on and gave a brief summary of the rest of the action items, in which more detailed information about the action agenda with specific recommendations can be found in the whitepaper released by the Planning Commission. A recapture of the action agenda is shown below:

Action #1: Adopt a formal definition of family-sized housing and family-friendly buildings.

Action #2: Allow added flexibility in single-family zoned areas with frequent, reliable transit and in other selected areas.

Action #3: Foster a larger supply of family-friendly lowrise and midrise multifamily housing.

Action #4: Ensure that bonus development provisions and incentive zoning programs work to encourage family-sized units.

Action #5: Advance the creation of residential cores with ground-related housing in the city’s most urban neighborhoods.

Action #6: Ensure that the Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) Program encourages the production of 2-bedroom and 3+ bedroom units.

Action #7: Encourage the creation of more family-friendly housing through innovative design and construction.

Action #8: In affordable housing programs, include a strong priority for families with children.

Action #9: Strengthen partnerships to align School District planning and capital investments with the City’s planning for growth in family-friendly urban neighborhoods.”

If you are interested to find out more about the Planning Commission and their publication, you can go to their website for more information. For those of you who are interested in attending the Urban Design Forum events, the next meeting will be held on February 22, 2017, with a discussion topic on “The Grand Bargain.”

Urban Design: Early Thoughts on the Southeast Economic Opportunity Center

Known as a community rich in ethnic and cultural diversity, the Othello neighborhood of Seattle has been a growing hub for small, family-owned businesses for decades. Despite the community’s unique diversity, the lack of culturally-appropriate access to education, good-paying jobs, and business services in the area might hinder its future economic growth. 

This week, our Project Manager, Josh, introduced us to a unique urban development in the Othello neighborhood — the Southeast Economic Opportunity Center (SEOC)— as he revealed how this project is being designed to address the pressing needs of the local community. 

The highlighted portion shows the future site of the SEOC.   |   Image of Google Earth via Helloothello

The highlighted portion shows the future site of the SEOC.   |   Image of Google Earth via Helloothello

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

Access to quality health care, postsecondary educational opportunities connected to job development, and small business assistance are common concerns for all Americans. The need for these services is even greater among low-income, immigrant, and refugee communities, such as those which have grown in Southeast Seattle. A means to address their needs is currently in development- the Southeast Economic Opportunity Center (SEOC).

The first report outlining these needs was completed in 2014 by SkillUp Washington. The original idea was to provide a “one-stop shop” with integrated services related to employment, financial counselling, economic support, and educational opportunities in the Rainier Valley, mimicking the Opportunity Center for Employment and Education on the North Seattle Community College campus. If you were a recent immigrant and wanted to start your own business, but you did not have a strong grasp of local permitting processes (let alone the English language), this center would be able to provide you all the support you needed to help you through it.

This idea has since expanded substantially to an entire campus of integrated services, ranging from a potential new extension of the Seattle Children’s Hospital to affordable and market-rate family housing to child care services to a potential charter school. Led by local nonprofit HomeSight, there has been enough momentum built over the last two years for this project that a site across from the Othello light rail station has been secured along with over $6 million in initial funding.

I volunteered this past Saturday with HomeSight for a community engagement opportunity at the New Holly Learning Center. The intent of the meeting was to provide the community with an update on where the project was heading and to allow neighbors an opportunity to ask questions of those partners that may be involved in the development. That is, they could ask questions about not just the preliminary site layout, but what type of health care services may be provided at the new clinic, whether the organizers would consider an expansion of services for existing schools in lieu of a new charter school.

The SEOC Community Meeting was held at New Holly Learning Center.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet

The SEOC Community Meeting was held at New Holly Learning Center.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet

An architect from the firm Weber Thompson (WT) provided slides and posterboards for the massing models and preliminary site layouts developed to date. These maps provided text in seven languages to allow for a diverse group of community members to feel included in the discussion.

A map overlaying the existing and proposed zoning changes from the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda was provided, but a few individuals expressed confusion to me over what exactly an “NC3P-95” zone means compared to an “SF 5000.” Seattle zoning seems to be the only language not well read by community members.

The presented maps included legends in seven languages.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet 

The presented maps included legends in seven languages.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet 

Carey Holmes from WT also provided a presentation, and it is always interesting to see what questions come up at this stage. One question I’ve heard come up many times before is “what does the height allowed/proposed translate into stories”? Carey provided a good answer- it depends! When developing commercial space, higher floor-to-floor heights are common (say 12- to 13-feet) while housing may range from 9- to 10-feet. For the final height of the structure, the team will also weigh the benefits of more space with the increase in construction cost for additional floors as well as the visual impact that a taller structure would have on the surrounding neighborhood.

Another interesting question was about why WT proposed pulling back the edge of the massing from South Othello Street. Carey explained that between existing pedestrian traffic and anticipated traffic with the new campus, pulling the building back allowed for more space for pedestrian circulation into the campus. They were concerned about the building otherwise appearing uninviting or cramped. The proposed massing allows for more sight lines into the campus along South Othello Street. 

Discussion highlights from previous meetings were displayed during the SEOC community meeting.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet

Discussion highlights from previous meetings were displayed during the SEOC community meeting.   |   Photo by Joshua Janet

The amount of parking provided was asked, as is typical for most public meetings. The housing will include parking below and there may be other on-site parking locations, but the team is relying on the site’s proximity to the Othello light rail station for access to the campus.

Additional community meetings will be held over the next few months. It is going to take time for the various partners to enter into formal agreements with HomeSight, and the timing and access to various funding sources may dictate which building on campus comes first. I’ll close out this post with some of the language provided from HomeSight on the project, in case the preceding text left any unanswered questions as to what the project will include and what purposes it will serve.

“It will be a culturally competent, relevant, and welcoming place where community members in Southeast Seattle and beyond can access opportunities for higher education, good paying jobs, childcare and health services, and support to start and keep a business.

Core elements of the future Opportunity Center:

  1. Postsecondary education connected to job development and early childhood development

  2. Small business assistance and entrepreneurship center

  3. Employment services and connection to career jobs

  4. Affordable commercial space for neighborhood businesses and cultural organizations, to stabilize services to the diverse residents of South Seattle

  5. Affordable (60% AMI and above) market rate rental and low-income rental to ownership housing, to balance market rate and very low income projects already funded at Othello.

The SEOC embodies the implementation of community priorities from a decade of community activism, engagement, and planning. These priorities include: providing a much-needed hub for higher education to respond to the desperate need of working people in South Seattle and South King County to increase access to education, job training, and small business development skills; preserving supporting, and expanding the unique cultural diversity and neighborhood character, catalyzing economic opportunity; locating services- from employment services to social and health services to childcare facilities- in the midst of the communities who access those services most; and providing a wide range of affordable housing options.”

For those who are interested in attending the next SEOC Community Meeting, the next meeting will be held at the New Holly Gathering Hall on Saturday, March 4th from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Urban Design: Backyard Cottages for Seniors

For seniors who require long-term senior care, staying in hospitals and long-term care facilities may be financially challenging, particularly if they are living off their pensions and retirement funds with limited coverage for healthcare. To create a more affordable housing option for seniors, a research team in Calgary, Alberta, has been developing a portable solution that would allow seniors to remain in a home environment and age in place in a community.

This week, our Project Manager, Josh, will introduce us to an innovative backyard cottage project in Calgary and discuss the potentials of developing prefabricated cottages in Seattle. 

A rendering of the backyard cottage project.   |  Image by the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design via Next City. 

A rendering of the backyard cottage project.   |  Image by the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design via Next City

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

One solution for addressing city concerns over population growth and housing shortages that has been discussed over the last few years in Seattle is the backyard cottage (otherwise known as “mother-in-law suite,” “laneway housing,” or the painfully dull “detached accessory dwelling unit”). The basic idea is that rather than upzone single-family neighborhoods around the city to allow for apartment building construction, single family neighborhoods may be zoned (and encouraged) instead to build additional smaller units on existing properties to create new living space.

It is not my intent with this post to weigh the pros and cons of backyard cottages. There has been plenty of that going around neighborhood councils and planning meetings as it is. Instead, I thought I would comment on a recent article on Next City that introduces the idea of prefabricated cottages designed specifically for seniors in mind.

The provision of senior housing is a chief concern for the folks at Urbal. We work diligently with clients on designing and developing senior housing that addresses the needs of an older population while respecting the need to support independent and active lifestyles. Unfortunately, new construction can be very expensive, especially in hot real estate markets like Seattle, and so the work we produce isn’t always affordable to the full range of seniors that need both affordable and accessible housing.

Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design, Cumming School of Medicine, and O’Brien Institute for Public Health are currently evaluating a prefabricated backyard cottage designed with medical monitoring technology and chronic disease management equipment included. The single-story units are approximately 460 square feet in area (less than the 800 square feet maximum allowed in Seattle) and are intended to be portable for re-use on multiple sites. Special features include:

  • The cabinetry in the kitchenettes are designed with wipe boards to help seniors coping with memory loss to mark the contents of each.
  • Under-cabinet lighting is used in areas with counter tops, such as the kitchen and bathroom, to help residents’ eyes adjust more easily when being used at night.
  • Full length towel bars along bottom cabinetry that double as grab bars.

Backyard cottages are popular in Canadian cities like Calgary and Vancouver because the lots are generally longer and skinnier than what we have in the United States and can more easily accommodate additional units without impacting the privacy of the primary residence. The lots are also usually backed by an alley, so backyard cottage residents can access their units without having to pass through the front of the property. What I’m getting at is that these specific units might not work as well on Seattle lots, but the general idea remains a good one.

A second concern is the cost. The article states that these units would be expected to be rented or leased for $1500 to $1900 per month. This is not unreasonable for a senior that requires extensive medical monitoring and treatment from a healthcare professional, but I would imagine that subsidizing even a portion of the cost of these units as a city policy would help seniors relying on social security payments to afford these units more comfortably.

A third concern is the appearance of these units. They look very institutionalized, even with a few stylized elements like continuous grab bars in the bathrooms that double as shower rods and toilet paper dispensers. The presence of medical equipment in the home doesn’t preclude it from being designed to feel like a home. Warmer tones and more natural materials would help make the cottage feel right at home in a single-family neighborhood rather than the current “Jetsons” vibe this unit is imparting.

I will be following the development of these units to see how they perform and whether or not the University will be able to partner with a contractor and manufacturer to get the idea off the ground.

Merrill Gardens at Woodstock is now opened!

We are so thrilled to announce the completion of our senior housing project in the charming Woodstock community! Located just 30 minutes away from Atlanta, this 133, 300 square foot community in Woodstock, Georgia, offers 130 units with a mix of studio, one-, and two-bedroom independent living, assisted living, and memory care apartments.

Emulating the plantation architectural style of the south, this community offers a modern living environment that reflects the classic and time-honored aesthetic of the historic Woodstock community. The plantation design concept is manifested on the exterior through the use of white beams and stone veneer columns. To maximize visual impact, familiar finish materials and distinctive color palettes that are appropriate to the regional vernacular are used throughout the interior. 

Front of building features symmetrical exterior.

Front of building features symmetrical exterior.

Courtyard with custom trellis and outdoor seating. 

Courtyard with custom trellis and outdoor seating. 

 Designed to encourage socialization, the community features an open layout with amenity-rich spaces including casual lounge areas, a library, gaming area, theater, salon with spa services, open dining room, wellness center, activity room, as well as courtyard with outdoor seating.

dining room furnished with neutral furniture and soft lighting.

dining room furnished with neutral furniture and soft lighting.

Memory Care dining area with bright and airy interior feel.

Memory Care dining area with bright and airy interior feel.

Creating a strong indoor-outdoor connection for the common are is a design priority for this project. The dinning room is designed to spill out onto a spacious landscaped courtyard where residents can enjoy fresh air in an outdoor lounge area. 

courtyard with a fountain and lounge seating. 

courtyard with a fountain and lounge seating. 

The enclosed design of the memory care courtyard provides a comfortable and yet secured outdoor living space for residents. 

Memory Care courtyard with outdoor seating.

Memory Care courtyard with outdoor seating.

See more photos of this elegant community on our project portfolio page!

Urban Design: The Barracks at Magnuson Park

the highlighted portion shows the barracks at Magnuson Park.   |   image captured from google earth. 

the highlighted portion shows the barracks at Magnuson Park.   |   image captured from google earth. 

Situated in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood, Magnuson Park is the second largest urban park in Seattle, best known for its variety of amenities and pieces of Seattle's military past. Since the park was formerly home to the Sand Point Naval Station, a few historic remnants of the former base remain — with some of them being vacant for over a decade.

This week, our Project Manager Josh introduced us to the evolution of the historic barracks at Magnuson Park and unveiled the potentials of an urban adaptive reuse project that will transform the barracks into affordable housing.

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

I have spent time in the last few months viewing condominiums on behalf of a friend who recently moved to Seattle from Philadelphia. On one such visit, I drove past the barracks in Magnuson Park. These buildings have interested me since the first time I visited the park years ago, and I thought I would re-visit the history and status of the Barracks today.

The barracks at Sand Point were built between 1929 and 1938 to house Navy sailors as part of a larger Naval Air Station complex. The park had previously been used as King County’s first airfield. The complex reached its peak military use in 1945 with the housing of over 4,600 Naval or Marine personnel and more than 2,800 civilians.

Building 9, the official name for the barracks, is a 144-foot wide, 800-foot long wood-framed building just north of the park’s entrance along Sand Point Way NE. Designed in colonial revival fashion, the exterior is faced with red brick with white trim around casement windows and around the roof edge. The roof is pitched and lined with dormers. The windows feature keystones above and stone sills below, with additional stonework surrounding a number of main entry doors. There are apparently some original stained glass windows intact in the former chapel at the south end, but I’ve only observed the casement windows or infill plywood at window openings in the past.

The building is two or three stories tall depending on what section you’re in, including the basement but excluding the attic space, of which portions were converted to dormitories in the 1940’s. The Navy stopped using it as formal barracks in 1953.

Building 9 courtyard. 

Building 9 courtyard. 

building 9 Exterior Facade.

building 9 Exterior Facade.

Park signage for building 9.

Park signage for building 9.

boarded up exterior door.

boarded up exterior door.

The land was formally designated as a park in 1977 by Senator Magnuson (hence the name) following a twenty-year public process and attempts by both King County and the Federal Aviation Authority to maintain the airfield status. A grassroots campaign called “Friends of Sand Point Park” led effort to eliminate the airfield and promote the land for its current park use.

The Navy declared its remaining property in the park surplus in 1991 and the city prepared a plan two years later to provide housing on it for low-income families and the homeless. City Resolution 29429, approving a physical development management plan, included plans for the rehabilitation and new development of low-income and homeless housing. The Resolution cited the need to “enhance safety, reduce social isolation, and create a sense of community among residents” as well as a need to “preserve the historic and neighborhood character of the site.” The city implemented the Sand Point Historic District, an area just south of Building 9 that includes 175 housing units, to meet this goal. These units have been managed by non-profit Solid Ground in coordination with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department since 2007 for “transitional housing residences for families, single adults and youth.”

Building 9, however, was “intended to be developed as a multi-use educational facility” considering options such as food service, classrooms, and administrative offices instead of the plan today for additional housing. The University of Washington acquired the building in 1999, but it couldn’t get its act together while the building went unmaintained and vandalized over the next fifteen years. In its original request for proposals for redevelopment, the University stated that much of the building’s plumbing and electrical systems had been removed by thieves. Eventually, Washington representative Frank Chopp secured $14 million in state funding for its redevelopment into affordable housing. Mercy Housing Northwest (MHN) won the bid for the project in 2014.

The redevelopment by MHN will include “a computer lab, laundry facilities on each floor, an exercise studio, bike storage and maintenance area, and children’s indoor play areas in the basement,” as well as an 18,000 square-foot community health center to be operated by SeaMar Community Health Clinics. Rents are anticipated to cost between $700 and $1000, which is a little steep for low-income housing but represents rents affordable to individuals earning 30%-45% of area median income (nearly $90,000 in 2015). Perhaps most important among these units are that 70% of the units will be two- or three-bedroom units, a critical need for low-income families.

It is my understanding that the project is in the permitting phase right now, with construction not expected to begin for about another year. Still, I am eagerly looking forward to the day that the naval barracks at Magnuson Park are not only restored back to their original luster, but to see them being used by members of our community who could benefit from affordable housing.

 

Photo Credit:  All photos are taken by Josh Janet, edited by Sapphire Chan.


Source:

  • “Building 9 at Sand Point Renovation & Adaptive Re-Use: Request for Qualifications and Concepts.” University of Washington. 30 Jan 2012. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://www.washington.edu/community/files/2012/02/Building-9_RFQ-C__2_.pdf.

  • Esteban, Michelle. “WWII barracks will serve again as low-income housing.” 10 Feb 2015. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://komonews.com/news/local/wwii-barracks-will-serve-again-as-low-income-housing

  • “History Summary Sand Point Peninsula.” University of Washington School of Environmental & Forest Sciences. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://courses.washington.edu/fm328/Fieldtrip%20Material/Peninsulahistory_PublicComps.pdf

  • McRoberts, Patrick. “Magnuson Park (Seattle).” History Link. 5 May 2000. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://www.historylink.org/File/2287.

  • “Partner Organizations – Magnuson Park.” Seattle Parks and Recreation. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016.Available WWW: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/magnuson-park/partnerorganizations. 

  • “Seattle City Council Resolution 29429.” Seattle Office of the City Clerk. 16 June 1997. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scripts/nphbrs.exe?s1=&s3=29429&s2=&s4=&Sect4=AND&l=200&Sect2=THESON&Sect3=PLURON&Sect5=RESNY&Sect6=HITOFF&d=RESF&p=1&u=%2F~public%2Fresny.htm&r=1&f=G.

  • “Seattle City Council Resolution 30063.” Seattle Office of the City Clerk. 1 Nov 1999. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scripts/nphbrs.exe?s1=&s3=30063&s2=&s4=&Sect4=AND&l=200&Sect2=THESON&Sect3=PLURON&Sect5=RESNY&Sect6=HITOFF&d=RESF&p=1&u=%2F~public%2Fresny.htm&r=1&f=G.

  • “Seattle City Council Resolution 30293.” Seattle Office of the City Clerk. 2 Apr 2001. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scripts/nphbrs.exe?s1=&s3=30293&s2=&s4=&Sect4=AND&l=200&Sect2=THESON&Sect3=PLURON&Sect5=RESNY&Sect6=HITOFF&d=RESF&p=1&u=%2F~public%2Fresny.htm&r=1&f=G.

  • “Warren G. Magnuson Park.” Washington Native Plant Society. Last visited: 11 Dec 2016. Available WWW: https://www.wnps.org/restoration/documents/MP/MP_Proj_Notes/MP_a1_1.pdf

Balancing Connection and Privacy in Student Housing

What makes an ideal design for student housing? The right balance between connection and privacy.

In modern practices of student housing design, common areas have become increasingly important as they create opportunities for students to socialize and collaborate. While the need for private spaces is still significant, students value the availability of an open communal living space that allows them to interact with each others. 

For our student apartment project at Everett Community College, we have come up with a design approach that balances the need for privacy with the need of creating community. To create a socially-oriented shared living experience, we incorporate various common areas into our design, including an ground-level open interior courtyard that will provide an open environment for students to hang out and enjoy the outdoors. The units will be arranged along an open circulation path that surrounds the interior courtyard, giving students an all-around view of the building while fostering a strong sense of community.

Interior Courtyard Rendering

Interior Courtyard Rendering

The building will include studio units, as well as three- and four-bedroom units with communal living space. Along with a modern open layout, large windows inside units will let in daylight and create a light-filled, airy living environment. 

Studio Bedroom rendering

Studio Bedroom rendering

All three- and four-bedroom units will include a shared modern kitchen and a spacious communal living room, which will draw students out of their individual units and encourage interaction. 

Three Bedroom Unit Rendering 

Three Bedroom Unit Rendering 

Four Bedroom Unit Rendering

Four Bedroom Unit Rendering

The design of student housing plays a critical role in shaping student's college experience. Our design offers a balanced mix of private and social spaces, which will support students both academically and socially by meeting their needs for privacy and connection. 

More renderings and updates for this project are coming soon, stay tuned! 

Urban Design: Using Data in Urban Planning

Technological advancements change the way we learn, the way we communicate, and the way we live. With an increasing amount of data available about our built environment and those who live in it, urban planners are discovering new ways to incorporate data into city planning and design. This week, our Project Manager Josh shared his thoughts on a recent lecture regarding the use of data collection for the advancement of city planning, and reflected on the potentials of data collection for architecture.

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

 I had the good fortune to be able to take an Urban Form course with Professor Anne Moudon at the University of Washington two years ago. After 34 years with UW, Anne decided to retire, allowing more time for herself to travel the world and to focus more research in the Urban Form lab that she helped establish with the Department of Urban Design and Planning.

The Department held a celebratory final lecture and cocktails event this past Saturday in her honor. Current professors, former colleagues, and past students listened as Anne gave a brief whirlwind history of a subject near and dear to her — the collection and application of data on urban life to influence how we can improve our cities and ourselves.

Professor Moudon delivering her closing remarks   |    photo by Josh Janet

Professor Moudon delivering her closing remarks   |    photo by Josh Janet

She first spoke of Ildefons Cerdà, the world’s first urban planner, who expanded Barcelona in the 1850’s with the Eixample district to address mass health issues due to overcrowding. Cerdà relied on data collected on myriad subjects — from the sizes and lengths of streets to the volume of air one person needed to breathe — to inform the development of the new district. The Eixample isn’t all that well regarded by architects with regards to urban form — there are little to no landmarks in the district and the grid layout is monotonous as a result — but Cerdà’s 1867 publication, “General Theory of Urbanization,” was the first of its kind in developing the new field of urban planning.

Aerial image of Eixample   |   Images via amusing planet

Aerial image of Eixample   |   Images via amusing planet

Anne continued with the innovations of Sir Patrick Geddes, the Scottish planner who developed ideas related to regional urban planning and “conurbation,” or the continued urbanization of areas beyond central cities, in the early 19th century. He developed the “Valley section model” as a representation for how regional environmental characteristics shaped city institutions and values.

THE “VALLEY SECTION MODEL” CREATED BY PATRICK GEDDES   |   IMAGES VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

THE “VALLEY SECTION MODEL” CREATED BY PATRICK GEDDES   |   IMAGES VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Anne finished with the Puget Sound region and the advancement of geographic information systems (GIS), beginning with the founding of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) by former UW professor Edgar Horwood in 1963. Horwood, a civil engineering professor, was fundamental in the guiding of information system development for urban and regional applications. We would not have complex mapping software like ArcGIS today if not for Horwood’s foresight and leadership.

The use of data collection for the advancement of city planning is an obvious fit, but it got me thinking about the lack of data collection for architecture. Our work is so site and client specific that it is difficult to apply broad ranges of data sets to our designs and applications. We innovate where possible, of course — we listen to clients’ needs and may research what new technology or materials may exist that can address lighting, energy, or durability concerns (assuming it falls within a normal budget).

At Urbal, we also regularly update our senior housing programming based on the information that we receive from clients, who make their suggestions based on the data they collect from their residents and staff. These can range in scale from the size of certain spaces, like a Wellness Center, to the location of the control valves in roll-in showers.

Architects have to strike a precarious balance between pioneering new and/or untested building systems, materials, and programming arrangements, and chasing the zeitgeist with outdated technology and modes of thinking. We also face the prospect of being replaced by computers, if companies like Flux (an offshoot of Google X) are able to truly integrate the complex web of zoning codes, building codes, accessibility codes, structural codes, fire codes, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing codes into a single development tool. I remain skeptical (if perhaps just a little biased) that any computer system can replace the need for a design team, but in honor of Anne Moudon’s insistence on the need to automatize land use development for urban development, I’ll try to keep an open mind. 


Sources:

  • Bausells, Marta. “Story of Cities #13: Barcelona’s unloved planner invents science of ‘urbanisation.’ ” The Guardian. 1 April 2016. Available WWW: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/apr/01/story-cities-13-eixample-barcelona-ildefons-cerda-planner-urbanisation.
  • Marshall, Victoria. “The Valley Section.” City in Environment. 16 February 2013. Available WWW: http://cityinenvironment.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-valley-section.html
  • Dueker, Kenneth J. “Edgar Horwood.” URISA. Available WWW: http://www.urisa.org/awards/edgar-horwood/.

Urban Design: Adapting Parking Structures for Homes

In our previous blog post on the adaptive reuse project of King Street Station, we chatted with our Project Manager, Josh, to learn about the unique opportunity of creating an urban cultural space in Seattle’s historical train station. This week, continuing on the theme of adaptive reuse architecture, Josh revealed the potentials of adapting parking structures for residence use, and discussed another unique project in downtown Seattle — the Tower at 4th and Columbia project, which might include four floors of above-grade parking that can convert into living spaces.

Written by Josh Janet, Project Manager | PE:

Before I joined Urbal Architecture, I worked for six years at an A/E firm that designed parking structures. With sustainability and adaptive reuse as recurring themes in architectural design and urban planning over the last two decades, I have often been asked about the possibility of renovating and adapting existing parking structures for use as new residences, similar to how vacant warehouses in de-industrialized cities have been transformed into high-demand lofts.

Sadly, the reality is that there are too many obstacles in how parking garages are (and have been) designed that if the land beneath is desired for higher-density uses, then the most cost-effective and practical solution is to demolish the structure and start anew. In a recent Wired article, however, it seems that LMN Architects is designing a new above-grade parking garage in downtown Seattle with many of these challenges addressed up front.

PROPOSED RENDERING OF THE 4TH AND COLUMBIA PROJECT  |  IMAGE BY LMN ARCHITECTS VIA WIRED

PROPOSED RENDERING OF THE 4TH AND COLUMBIA PROJECT  |  IMAGE BY LMN ARCHITECTS VIA WIRED

1.       Design load: Building codes require structural engineers to only design parking structures for 40 pounds per square foot (psf) live load, while apartment loading varies from 40 psf in interiors to 100 psf in corridors. Accounting for the possibility of higher loads in design, while adding construction cost, mitigates the need for extensive structural rehabilitation if and when the building use changes.

2.       High ceilings: Parking garages are only required to provide a 7’-0” clearance for standard vehicles and 8’-2” for floors accommodating ADA vans. Most designers try to minimize material and labor cost by keeping the heights as low as possible. Accounting for higher ceilings up front allows future residential uses to not feel claustrophobic as well as account for the physical space required for future mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment.

3.       Ventilation: Above-grade parking garages can avoid substantial construction and operation costs if they are designed with sufficient “openness” in the exterior facades that the building is considered to be naturally ventilated. This “openness” becomes an issue for adaptive reuse, however. All of those openings would need to be enclosed and properly sealed for waterproofing and thermal protection if it was expected that the spaces would be permanently occupied.

4.       Ramped floors: This is the one area of LMN’s project that I’m still skeptical has been completely addressed. Floors in parking structures are ramped for two reasons- to move vehicles between floors and to direct any surface water to drains (standing water is both a slip hazard and structural maintenance issue). An enclosed structure reduces the amount of rainwater that would enter the structure, but cars can still carry/drip water with them that needs to be drained somewhere. The amount of water expected here may be so minimal that there is less concern of creating unsuitable conditions, but I’ve seen a parking structure built with completely flat slabs before (underneath a hospital) where the engineer informed the owner that their solution to the standing water problem was to “hire someone who can push the water into a nearby drain with a broom.”
Additionally, vehicular elevators are a creative solution, but they can create queuing issues at high volume periods; off-line maintenance periods make that parking garage unusable during that time; and unless we’re talking about driverless cars or the functionality is dummy-proof, there could be human error involved in how the vehicular elevator is used.

Regardless of that last concern, it is highly commendable to LMN Architects for approaching the challenges of adaptively reusing parking structures up front and to the developer for accepting the associated construction and operational cost premiums. Cities are constantly reinventing themselves over time, and the ability to adapt the physical environment to meet new challenges is a greener solution than demolition and starting over.

Glass Cottage: Construction Is In Full Swing!

Glass Cottage, situated in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, is gradually growing into a modern, alluring home. In the past few months, framing and drywall installation were completed, and windows and new roof were installed. The project is now in full-swing construction mode, with finishes and details left to implement. We're so excited to see how this house is shaping up to be a beautiful, contemporary home with better functionality and open sight lines.

The back of the house is looking closer and closer to the proposed rendering! 

The addition features contemporary exterior with brick siding, an overhang shed roof and an at-grade covered patio space.

Floor-to-ceiling glass glazing along west facade floods the interior space with natural light throughout the day. 

Shed roof above the new living room adds volume and space, while skylights and sliding glass doors in the kitchen and dining area let in extra natural light.

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The current unfinished basement will be finished out to include a guest bedroom, a new laundry and powder room adjacent to the garage, and a large play area and family room.  

Much more to come on the progress with this home, stay tuned!

Urban Design: ARTSaboard at King Street Station

Third floor of King Street Station  |  Image by SDOT via art beat blog

Third floor of King Street Station  |  Image by SDOT via art beat blog

King Street Station, located just south of downtown Seattle, is the busiest train station in the Pacific Northwest. As you might have seen or heard, the historical station is undergoing a series of renovations that will increase its capacity and transform it into a modern transit hub.

As part of the renovation, an art and cultural space will be established on the third floor of the station to provide new public art space and host offices for Seattle’s Arts and Culture office. This past Saturday, our Project Manager | PE, Josh Janet, attended a workshop event hosted by the Office of Arts and Culture (OAC) to discuss the development of cultural space in the station. We asked Josh a few questions to gain insights into the latest development of the station restoration.

Can you tell us more about the "ARTS at King Street Station" project?

JJ: The OAC and its collaborators, Seattle Department of Transportation and the Office of Economic Development, are renovating the upper two floors of King Street Station that had originally served as a waiting room and offices when the station opened in 1906. The intent is to redesign these spaces to serve artistic purposes, including both “traditional” office spaces like meeting rooms and resource centers and reconfigurable spaces for artist studios, gallery viewings, and performances.

What was the highlight of the workshop?

JJ: The workshop element of the program was dedicated to splitting the attendees into groups to discuss a variety of programming and resource topics, including whether the use of the space should be governed by an arts committee; how artists should apply to use the space; and other recommendations or alternate ideas for use of the space. The OAC is trying to incorporate public input into this process, with special attention to race and social justice concerns.

What will be the cultural space look like?

JJ: Jerry Garcia, a principal at Olson Kundig, spoke to some of the preliminary design work that has gone into the development of the space from his firm. I won’t spoil it too much, especially since the design isn’t complete, but they are respecting the original ornate architecture at the 2nd Level as they develop new lobby space and signage for the Office of Arts and Culture. They are exposing the original exterior masonry in some locations while developing some unique solutions to meeting ADA and building code compliance. They are envisioning a system of ceiling tracks in the 3,000 square-foot open artist space to allow for movable, floating wall panels for flexibility, following the input from various public meetings and other artists.

New Entry  |  Image by Olson Kundig via OAC

New Entry  |  Image by Olson Kundig via OAC

 Living room and reception  |   Image by Olson Kundig via OAC

 Living room and reception  |   Image by Olson Kundig via OAC

Why is it important to create dedicated cultural space in the station?

JJ: The other presenters spoke to the importance of this project as providing not only a centralized hub for artists looking to acquire resources and support for cultivating their work, but for providing space for minority and ethnic artists that may otherwise be marginalized or ignored by other white-dominating galleries and studios.

How can we learn more about this project?

JJ: I would highly recommend following the development of this space if the expansion of new artist spaces, social equity, and adaptive reuse are of interest. You can follow updates from the OAC on social media through #ARTSaboard.

Urban Residential Living at West Covina

We're so excited to present our latest senior housing development on the West Coast: Merrill Gardens at West Covina!

Located in the foothill of San Gabriel Mountains, California, this project is just minutes away from Downtown Los Angeles. One feature that makes this project truly unique is its integration with the surrounding community. Designed according to the city’s master plan emphasizing new urbanism concepts, the building features highly-prominent facades and pedestrian-oriented open spaces. Along with modern architectural details and a 9,247 sf multi-tiered rooftop terrace, this building offers a variety of amenity-rich spaces, allowing residents to enjoy a dynamic urban lifestyle. 

W Covina View 5 (2).jpg

See more photos for this project on our portfolio page

Carve for a Cause 2016: Pumpkin Architecture

Happy National Pumpkin Day! We participated the 2016 Carve for a Cause hosted by Architects Without Borders - Seattle last night, and the event was amazing! From brainstorming to pumpkin carving, we had lots of fun creating our "Pumpkin Mondrian" and "The Wave." Here is a recap of our pumpkin adventure!

Progress Photos for Merrill Gardens at Auburn

One of the unique features of this project is the overhanging roof with decorative cornice, which adds depth to the overall design. The construction crew was installing decorative brackets underneath the roof. A close-up of the decorative brackets. Dark bronze windows frames and fiber cement panels have been installed to the courtyard elevation.

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Merrill Gardens at Anthem Is Making Good Progress!

One unique feature of this project is that the color palette of the building is mostly derived from surrounding residential aesthetics. Beige stucco and tan stone veneer are used throughout the exterior to blend with the desert setting, while charcoal grey roofs are used to add a modern feel and contrast with surrounding neutral tones. This project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Stay tuned for more progress photos!

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