By Meghan Hall
Seattle has experienced unprecedented population growth in recent years as major employers such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft expand and attract new talent and businesses to the region. As a result, the housing market has become increasingly tight, prompting the creation and popularity of small efficiency dwelling units and congregate housing — smaller and more affordable residential options in the city’s competitive market. Efficiency units are gaining traction in the market and going mainstream — a new market opportunity that a project team led by Hybrid Architecture and Seattle-based Calhoun Properties intends to take advantage of with a new, five-story, 139-unit congregate residence located at 2000 23rd Ave. S. After a second early design guidance meeting at the beginning of November, the project was approved to apply for a Master Use Permit by the Central Area Design Review Board.
The development — called Genoa Apodments — is broken down into 136 efficiency dwelling units, 3 live-work spaces and 139 biking stalls. No vehicle parking spaces are included in the plans or required by city ordinance. Congregate housing spaces will included shared kitchens and amenity lounge areas, and the units will be geared toward single, individual residents, according to project plans. According to U.S. Census Data, roughly 40 percent of households are single occupancy in the City of Seattle; that number is even higher in the Atlantic neighborhood of Rainier Valley, where 57.5 percent of households only contain one occupant.
The board focused on the development team’s “Corner Court” massing option in its review, which included H-shaped massing to engage the gateway corner and was designed to maximize light and air in the units. The massing option includes a corner courtyard at Plum St. and 23rd Ave. S., which the board appreciated in conjunction with the double height common space, but asked that the design team provide further clarification on uses for the open space, landscape design and entry sequences for the building.
The design team plans to use bold materials such as graphic motifs and textures on the exterior of the building, as well as vertically delineated siding. In order to provide separation between the East and West segments of the building, the development team designed a “bridge” clad in clean, white material to break down the perceived scale of the structure and provide visual interest. The board was overall supportive of the building’s exterior design but cautioned that color and pattern concepts should be “approached holistically” on the lower levels of the development.
Hybrid and Calhoun Properties requested one departure: to make the floor-to-floor height 11 feet instead of 13, which the board was open to provided the design team investigate incorporating a sleeping loft into the plans for the live-work spaces.
In the coming months, the project team will apply for a master use permit as it continues through other aspects of the application process.
As densification continues across Seattle, the occurrence and frequency of developments incorporating efficiency dwelling units into their project plans is expected to continue, according to new data released in the fall of 2018 by Colliers International that examines the place of such units in the Seattle real estate market. Colliers states that 11,000 micro apartments have been built across the region since 2009, and that these units are “the biggest little thing to happen to apartment investments,” meaning that more projects such as the Genoa Apodment complex are likely to hit the Seattle development pipeline in the near future.