By Meghan Hall
The Eastside’s Bel-Red corridor has long been a suburban haven for Seattleites looking to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown. But tastes are changing: Traditional single-family residential development and neighborhood strip malls are no longer as appealing to the tenants of today. Even in Bel-Red, denser, luxury multifamily product has made a name for itself as a desirable commodity, as evidenced by the popularity of Hyde Square a 618-unit development that has leased up almost a unit per day since pre-leasing began in February of 2018. Now complete, the project is the largest multifamily development to open on the Eastside this year.
“I absolutely think that this project has set a new standard for the area, a new level of expectation,” said Robin Chell, founder and principal at Robin Chell Design, the interior design firm hired for the project.
“Suburban places are changing; we’re doing projects along a number of transit corridors, and there is more of a demand for more sophisticated, “downtown” product,” added Scott Surdyke, Robin Chell Design’s Senior Project Manager. “It is not just about downtown Bellevue or South Lake Union or Capitol Hill anymore. We are seeing a demand for nicer and more urban product.”
Hyde Square is the first project in the Pacific Northwest developed by San Francisco-based Carmel Partners. While Carmel did not return The Registry’s request for comment, Chell and Surdyke emphasized the developer’s intention to pursue a project that would have a notable impact on the site—a former strip mall.
“The Bel-Red Corridor is really transitioning; it is mostly low-rise strip retail, and Carmel really wanted to make an impact,” continued Surdyke. “This is their first and really kind of flagship project in the market. They wanted this to be a luxury product. It paid off really successfully.”
In addition to Robin Chell Design, who created the interiors, Carmel worked with Ankrom Moisan Architects to design the project’s four mid-rise residential buildings and two amenity pavilions. The residential buildings were designed to reflect the four corners of the state of Washington: the North Cascades and mountains, the Palouse, Eastern Washington’s rolling planes and the Washington Coast.
“A lot of people could express the Pacific Northwest in a more lodge-y, expected way,” said Chell. “But we wanted to approach the design in a more modern way.”
On the outside, a lot of mature foliage, dark brick, cedar siding and natural wood underneath the eves work to unify the buildings, while the interior of the buildings feature blackened steel, ingrained wood flooring and highly-patterned real stone. Most of the units feature private balconies, and the buildings feature two-story glass lobbies, including one that features an illuminated, perforated metal screen depicting Mount Rainier.
Additionally, Carmel and its development partners sought to include top-notch amenities, including a co-working café and an expansive fitness and wellness center, complete with a yoga studio, outdoor hot tub, sauna and massage rooms. The second amenity pavilion hosts a large private dining room, fireside lounge and entertainment center—all perks that the modern renter is looking for, especially in up-and-coming, not-yet-urbanized communities.
“I think that was the biggest challenge about this property: it was out in an area just full of strip malls, so we [had to think about] how to bring a community to this space,” explained Chell. “For a project of this size, how do you make it an instant community that would attract people from out of state, out of country, that would make it a home?”
Chell and Surdyke added, as an example, Carmel’s decision to place the development’s wellness center in one of the best locations on the property, in a place with ample access to natural light. “It’s not just a gym that was stuck in the basement,” said Surdyke. “[Carmel] took one of the best spaces on site and turned it into their wellness center; it has soaring ceilings and so much glass!”
The design and amenities package have paid off: pre-leasing began in February of last year, and the fourth and final building was delivered to market in July. According to Chell and Surdyke, 91 percent of the units have been leased, a testament to the desirability of Hyde Square’s product type in the Bel-Red market.
“It shows h ow you can transform these low-density sites into something that is that is really successful,” said Surdyke. “There is so much competition to buy property elsewhere, but if you rezone an area like the Bel-Red corridor, it can become a desirable neighborhood. It really is a catalyst project. It is a sign of things to come.”