Hovering Hideaway is coming along smoothly

Construction update from our single family project Hovering Hideaway. Joining the electrical and plumbing is complete. Drywall is the next phase. The paver patio is starting to take shape, and will transition to the basement entrance. Once completed it will include a new bathroom, spacious theater, and additional storage space.

Check out our project page here.

Final Rendering 

Final Rendering 

Construction in progress

Construction in progress

Construction in progress  

Construction in progress  

Before rendering 

Before rendering 

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.