By Meghan Hall
After developing for years in Seattle’s core neighborhoods, local firm Spectrum Development Solutions has turned its sights to other districts along the region’s growing Light Rail lines. Currently, the firm is working to develop two projects totaling 382 units in Shoreline as part of its efforts to increase workforce and affordable housing stock.
“Spectrum has a long history of developing transit-oriented, workforce housing throughout the Seattle region,” explained Spectrum Principal Gabe Grant. “We’ve done a number of projects in Capitol Hill, Yesler Terrace…We’ve just completed one in Othello. [These projects] all tie into our focus on workforce housing because transportation is such a big component of people’s overall cost of housing.”
In 2021, Spectrum estimates that the Seattle region added 120,000 jobs but only 20,000 new residential units. Reports by brokerage firms such as Kidder Mathews and others have also shown that prices for apartments continue to rise as pressures on current demand for housing stock remains unabated. In February, Kidder Mathews reported that rents region-wide were 13 percent higher than 2020 at an average of $1,837 per unit. Kidder Mathews also emphasized in its analysis that rents even outperformed 2019, generally considered the strongest on record in the Puget Sound.
The rapidity with which the apartment market is changing has raised a number of questions about the importance of centrally-located workforce and affordable housing versus the development of new luxury units. The goal of Spectrum Development is to provide housing alternatives that will remain affordable to Seattle’s population as it grows. The firm ultimately selected Shoreline for additional development because of its access to the Light Rail system.
While many developers enter a neighborhood with perhaps just one project in mind, the urgency of Seattle’s housing situation had Spectrum thinking much further ahead.
“With Shoreline, we paid a lot of attention to the Light Rail Line,” said Grant. “The sites had a number of intrinsic qualities that we really like a lot. It’s the perfect place to begin to build a portfolio.”
Grant added that in high-cost cities like Seattle, residents can spend up to 10 percent of their income on transportation costs, making proximity to public transit key.
Spectrum is kicking off the construction of their portfolio with the construction of two projects: Shed and Burl. Shed, named for the watershed that runs below Seattle, will include about 210 units. Burl, which got its name from various tree growths, is smaller, at 172 units. Apartments will be a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.
The names of the projects were inspired by the community and Spectrum’s approach to development.
“We’re really focused on going [into the neighborhood] in an authentic way,” said Jake McKinstry. “…The buildings are going to be a little bit different but share the same vernacular in terms of what we’re doing.”
Both projects will target those earning 70 to 80 percent of area median income (AMI), and units will remain affordable for 99 years. The two buildings sit just across the street from one another and within a block of the Shoreline South Light Rail Station.
The two buildings will share a host of contemporary features and amenities, including a courtyard with a “treeehouse,” media lounge, roof deck, dog run and more. Both buildings are also targeting LEED Platinum and Fitwel certifications. The amenities of the two buildings will connect and play off of one another to create a more cohesive community.
“We have learned from COVID-19, that people want a variety of spaces,” said McKinstry.
Spectrum Development is planning to continue to build in Shoreline once Burl and Shed are completed, in 2024 and 2025. While the firm is scoping out locations, it has not quite yet solidified where its next project will land next. However, its goal with future projects will largely remain the same.
“There’s this real fundamental imbalance between job and population growth, and apartment delivery,” said Grant. For us, trying to create apartments at scale in transit locations is a really fundamental component in trying to address that imbalance which leads directly to that lack of affordability.”