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Local Developer Receives Go Ahead for 40-unit Apartment Project in Capitol Hill District

By Kristin Bentley

A local developer from Mercer Island, Sunrise DC LLC, received a unanimous approval on Wednesday from the design review board to move forward with its five to six-story apartment project, which will add approximately 40 small market rate units in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The next step will be to apply for a master use permit before construction can begin.

Located at 323 Bellevue Avenue, the average size unit is 420 square feet, and at a rate of $3 per square foot, monthly rents will range from $1,260 to $1,550. The proposed project will provide affordable apartments in an active and vibrant urban neighborhood, says Principal Project Manager Matt Driscoll of d/Arch LLC, a Seattle-based architecture firm that specializes in market-rate and low-income rental residential housing.

“Capitol Hill offers good proximity to Broadway Avenue and downtown.”

West Capitol Hill, which is north of Olive Way and west of Broadway Avenue, is quieter and more residential than the Pike-Pine area located to the south, says Driscoll. There are also more single lot infill projects. The mid-rise zoning in West Capitol Hill does not require commercial use on the ground floor, which Driscoll believes gives the area a competitive edge for rental rates. Due to city zoning laws for Capitol Hill, the construction type is usually five stories of wood frame over one to two levels of concrete, with a maximum height of 60 to 65 feet. “That’s the most economical form of construction, so these projects can generally rent for less than a taller building,” said Driscoll.

Driscoll says the growth in Capitol Hill will continue to attract tenants to the area, however, it will most likely create a greater need for more affordable units as well. “Capitol Hill offers good proximity to Broadway Avenue and downtown,” he added. Broadway Avenue is a major north–south thoroughfare in Seattle that runs from Yesler Terrace north through First Hill and Capitol Hill. The city will invest $20 million into a project by the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) to renovate Pike and Pine streets, between First and Melrose avenues, in order to improve the pedestrian experience of walking from downtown up to Capitol Hill.

According to a report by DSA, the neighborhood has a population of 12,337, which is the largest in Seattle. Set on the north side of downtown, Capitol Hill is home to a mix of families, young professionals and students. The average rent is $2,420 a month and approximately 2,551 residential units are either under construction, approved or proposed in Capitol Hill, according to a report from Polaris Pacific.

Along with these projects, Gerding Edlen is proposing a 100,000-square-foot development that will offer a supermarket, market hall, several community spaces and 418 apartment units. According to Lexi Gelb, a research analyst for Polaris Pacific, Capitol Hill also continues to be a culinary destination. The neighborhood saw nearly 40 restaurants and bars open in 2015, and there are at least 30 planned openings for 2016.

Capitol Hill has also seen transportation infrastructure improvements, says Gelb. The First Hill Streetcar, which opened in January, connects the neighborhood to Pioneer Square, the Central District and First Hill. Similarly, the Capitol Hill U-Link light rail station, which opened in March, now connects the neighborhood with the U-District and SeaTac Airport.