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Proposed Complex of 128 Small Efficiency Dwelling Units Approved by Seattle Design Review Board, Moves Project to MUP

Small Efficiency Dwelling Units, Clark Barnes Architecture, Pryde Development, Colliers International, Valdok, Blue Birch, Elara, 80 Main
Rendering Courtesy of Clark Barnes Architecture

By Meghan Hall

Small Efficiency Dwelling Units—known as “SEDUs”—have increased wildly in popularity in booming cities such as Seattle, where tech expansion and economic good fortune has greatly increased the cost of housing. Developers are increasingly pursuing SEDU-focused projects in an effort to not only provide more affordable housing, but also to make their projects pencil. A new, 128-unit apartment complex will soon join the likes of existing SEDU-based development in Seattle. Located at 3101 Eastlake Ave. E. and proposed by Seattle-based Pryde Development Company and Clark Barnes Architecture, the project received the green light from the East Design Review Board to proceed from the Early Design Guidance phase to a Master Use Permit application.

The property is currently composed of two parcels and developed with a mix of building types. The southern site is home to a three-story commercial building constructed in 1948, a smaller, one-story building and a surface parking lot, while the northern site is developed with two commercial and three residential structures that date to 1953.

Pryde Development Company’s preferred project scenario would also include 3,000 square feet of commercial space and 21 parking stalls. The project’s design, spearheaded by Clark Barnes, will included terraced massing and a rooftop amenity, complete with a dining area and grill island, fire pit lounge and green area. Unit orientation at the south façade will provide visual interest through unit windows. An interior courtyard will provide a private amenity space, and the project’s residential entry at the Southwest corner will provide visibility for the apartment lobby and retail flexibility for tenants of the commercial space.

Materiality will be inspired by other projects recently delivered to the market and, due to its proximity to Lake Union, will have a “Lake House” feel, according to project documents. Examples of the project’s intended design come from other developments throughout Seattle, including 80 Main in Pioneer Square, Valdok and Blue Birch in Ballard, and Elara in Pike Place Market. The developments are all mid-rise and feature large windows, gray tones and wooden soffits or accents.

At the project’s first Early Design Guidance meeting, which took place in early September, the Board appreciated the terraced massing, believing that its design responded well to the site’s steep topography and provided increased views for the project’s various units. However, the Board did prefer the residential lobby location of another massing option, in which the lobby was center to the building located on Eastlake Ave. E. The Board also emphasized the importance of using materials to differentiate the retail and commercial entries and also asked the development team to add additional design elements to the north façade, which had been originally proposed as a blank wall with minimal architectural features.

At the conclusion of the Early Design Guidance meeting, the Board voted to move the project forward to the Master Use Permit application phase.

According to a report released by Colliers International at the end of 2018, Seattle has led the nation in the development of micro-housing such as SEDUs since 2009. Ranging in size from 240 to about 320 square feet, SEDUs are generally regarded as compact studios, equipped with cooking and restroom facilities. Such units will often rent for about $1,300 per month, compared with over $1,500 for regular sized studios, stated Colliers. By the end of 2018, there were 6,297 SEDU and micro-units — which are even smaller and range in size from 140 to 250 square feet, with kitchen and living facilities in shared areas — throughout Seattle. An additional 2,659 units were under construction, and another 2,040 were planned for future development.