It’s easiest to document the changes taking place outside your own window, which for me looks out on Woodland Park Avenue and Stone Way. From my vantage alone, I can see two large construction sites. Frelingford is undergoing a transformation.

What is Frelingford?

What is Frelingford, you ask? Well that’s the name some people (perhaps my wife most of all) use to refer to our neighborhood: the nether region between Fremont and Wallingford. Officially, our apartment on Woodland Park Avenue is in Fremont, but, since Stone Way divides the two booming neighborhoods, Wallingford is just a block away. It feels like we have a foot planted in each neighborhood. I’d contend the area between SR-99 and Interlake Avenue is Frelingford; plus, I’d even claim Wallingford’s southern peninsula below 35th Street, an area more than ten blocks from Wallingford’s main business district on 45th Street.

Frelingford becomes a boot shape neighborhood with the inclusion of the Gas Works Park area. (Graphic by Justin Roth)
Frelingford becomes a boot shape neighborhood with the inclusion of the Gas Works Park area. (Graphic by Justin Roth)

Within a block or so of Stone Way also happens to be where much of the latest round of growth in both neighborhoods is taking place, particularly the largest mixed use projects. Perhaps, the Stone Way district will even begin to rivals Wallingford’s 45th Street commercial district and Fremont’s busy 36th Street business strip. Many projects do include first floor commercial space to lend new additions to an existing mix of restaurants, coffee shops, and retail.

Kitty corner from me, a full block mixed-use building has sprouted at 3801 Stone Way that comes with 278 apartments and 8,215 feet of commercial space.

Stone Way Apartments will include six commercial spaces at street level. The building is still partially curtained but appears to be nearing completion. (Stone Way LLC)
Stone Way Apartments will include six commercial spaces at street level. The building is still partially curtained but appears to be nearing completion. (Stone Way LLC)

Two blocks south at 3627 Stone Way, a tower crane just went up for another large apartment building containing 124 units.

The project at 3627 Stone Way includes 7,400 square feet of retail, perhaps for a restaurant. (Bayliss Architects)
The project at 3627 Stone Way includes 7,400 square feet of retail, perhaps for a restaurant. (Bayliss Architects)

Additionally, a potentially iconic triangular 23-unit apartment building is in the works two blocks north of us at 3860 Bridge Way.

The triangular plot at diagonal Bridge Way somehow fits 23 apartments and might even do so in style by the looks of it. (KO Architecture)
The triangular plot at diagonal Bridge Way somehow fits 23 apartments and might even do so in style by the looks of it. (KO Architecture)

Our building, Velo Apartments, is a relative newcomer, too, going on the market Fall 2014 with 171 units. Velo was built by Mack Urban, who also completed Ray, a building at 3636 Stone Way with 137 units in 2015. Next month, Mack Urban will start renting Smith & Burns, a 150 unit building at 1321 45th Street, just off of Stone Way.

Smith & Burns includes 6,000 square feet of retail near the intersection of 45th Street and Stone Way. (Mack Urban)
Smith & Burns includes 6,000 square feet of retail near the intersection of 45th Street and Stone Way. (Mack Urban)

On another triangular plot at 1240 N Midvale Place, a building with 30 apartments and 2,338 square feet of office space is under construction.

The Route 44 bus passes right by this new triangular building and will likely be heavily used by tenants since no parking is planned. (Caron)
The Route 44 bus passes right by this new triangular building and will likely be heavily used by tenants since no parking is planned. (Caron)

Lagging Growth Elsewhere

Meanwhile, growth in the central area of Fremont seems tepid in comparison. One six-story mixed-use building with 48 units is replacing a smaller existing apartment building at 3519 Fremont Place N. A few townhomes are going in here and there. Plus, a five-story office building is replacing the current site of Milstead Coffee and Cafe Turko (don’t worry, both are staying open at a location just up the street), and just north a five-story mixed-use building with 56 apartments and 1,881 square feet of retail is going in at 743 N 34th Street.

Milstead is going back in once the new 108,777 square foot office building is done. Cafe Turko is staying at its new location. (Weber Thompson)
Milstead is going back in once the new 108,777 square foot office building is done. Cafe Turko is staying at its new location. (Weber Thompson)
A 56-unit apartment building is under construction just east of the Fremont Branch Library. (B9 Architects)
A 56-unit apartment building is under construction just east of the Fremont Branch Library. (B9 Architects)

Wallingford is seeing a few more new projects, but the largest are within a few blocks of Stone Way or at the far south edge near Gas Works Park, where two apartment buildings and the NorthEdge office building are under construction.

On the northern shores of Lake Union, Gas Works Park has become a gathering place for the Wallingford and Fremont communities and will soon see a lot of Tableau employees. (Perkins + Will)
On the northern shores of Lake Union, Gas Works Park has become a gathering place for the Wallingford and Fremont communities and will soon see a lot of Tableau employees. (Perkins + Will)

Data visualization software company Tableau leased out an entire NorthEdge office building with space for 1,300 employees. The expectation of several hundred new tech hires moving to the area is a big reason Fremont and Wallingford are seeing such a dramatic boom.

Tableau already had 200,000 square feet of office space in the Fremont area even before it signed an 11-year lease on NorthEdge's 210,000 square feet of office space in Frelingford. (Perkins + Will)
Tableau already had 200,000 square feet of office space in the Fremont area even before it signed an 11-year lease on NorthEdge’s 210,000 square feet of office space in Frelingford. (Perkins + Will)

Two apartment buildings are going up two blocks east of the new Tableau office building. Designed by AMLI Residential Partners, the twin five-story structures will house 239 units.

The buildings at 3400 and 3326 Wallingford Avenue will collectively 212 apartments and 27 live-work units. (AMLI Residential Partners)
The buildings at 3400 and 3326 Wallingford Avenue will collectively 212 apartments and 27 live-work units. (AMLI Residential Partners)

Meanwhile in old Wallingford, national pharmacy chain CVS bought a cherished neighborhood building at the corner of N 45th St and Meridian Ave N, known best for an iconic neighborhood mural and Moon Temple (and a Tully’s Coffee). In a display of urban design ineptitude, CVS refused to put up a mixed-use building, opting instead to renovate the existing one-story building to circumvent authority of the Northwest Design Review Board.

It's really unfortunate that this corner won't be put to better use. (Seattle Curbed)
It’s really unfortunate that this corner won’t be put to better use. (Seattle Curbed)

CVS also planned to add one-story suburban-style stores in West Seattle and Lower Queen Anne but encountered a large backlash from neighborhood activists. Thanks to this pressure, the City Council passed a minimum floor area ratio measure (a density requirement) that helped force CVS to add two additional stories to its Lower Queen Anne location. The Wallingford location is proceeding as a renovation of the existing one-story building — to me the worst compromise and a skin-deep concession to historical preservation. Either leave the two small storefronts in the old building, or, if you’re going to displace them, put up something more visionary and worthy of a prime piece of land.

At N 45th St and Woodlawn Ave N, a 48-unit apartment building is going in with 3600 square feet of retail. Fellow writer of The Urbanist, Stephen Fesler gave the design a glowing review. I’d concur; it’s a handsome brick building. At just three blocks east of Stone Way, this building very nearly falls in Frelingford.

The 45th & Woodlawn apartments will be across the street from Molly Moon's and fill in a gap in the streetscape. (B9 Architects)
The 45th & Woodlawn apartments will be across the street from Molly Moon’s and fill in a gap in the streetscape. (B9 Architects)

Rounding out the big projects in Wallingford, a four-story Bedrooms & More retail and office space complex is under construction at the neighborhood’s eastern edge at 324 NE 45th Street.

This building will function as Bedrooms & More's showroom, its office space, and the owners will even live in the fourth floor condo. That's a very personal approach to mixed-use development! (Stuart Silk Architects)
This building will function as Bedrooms & More’s showroom, its office space, and the owners will even live in the fourth floor condo. That’s a very personal approach to mixed-use development! (Stuart Silk Architects)

Why the lag?

While at least 1,500 new apartments have been built in the area that I’ve defined as Frelingford since 2012, comparatively few have gone in the central districts of Fremont and Wallingford during that time span. Why is Frelingford seeing more intensified growth than the even more bustling and high demand hearts of these neighborhoods? The answer, I think, has a lot to do with zoning. The zoning of decades past is reinforced by a perceived desire to keep much of the one- to two-story retail that predominates in both business districts and the two story mostly single family residential that dominates just a block or two off the business strip. That’s not to say zoning is the only explanation. I expect parcels along Stone Way may have been easier and cheaper to acquire for mixed-use development given that they previously formed an industrial warehouse area.

Building Name/AddressNumber of UnitsYear Opened/ExpectedNumber of Stories
Prescott 3920 Stone Way N15420126
The Noble 4301 Stone Way N9320134
Collage Fremont 3606 Woodland Park Ave N5220134
Positano Apodments 3642 Woodland Park Ave N66Aug 20144
Velo Apartments 3635 Woodland Park Ave N171Fall 20145
Ray 3636 Stone Way137Spring 20154
3801 Stone Way27820165
Smith & Burns 1321 N 45th St150Jan 20165
3627 Stone Way N124In construction4
3860 Bridge Way N23Planned4
1240 Midvale Place30In construction4
3400 Wallingford Ave N146In construction5
3326 Wallingford Ave N93In construction5
TOTAL1,517

Getting Zoning To Match Urban Village Aspirations

Both Wallingford and Fremont were deemed urban villages in the 1994 Comprehensive plan, but to a large extent zoning changes envisioned did not materialize. The 2035 Plan — which should finally be passed next year — suggests easing zoning and development restrictions within the boundaries of the Wallingford Residential Urban Village. As you can see below, about half of the “urban” village is still zoned for single-family residential development, not urban residential or mixed-use development.

Seems like a good idea. (Seattle Department of Planning and Development)
Seems like a good idea. (Seattle Department of Planning and Development)

Notice how the Wallingford urban village is weighted heavily to the western side, and much is within the Frelingford area that I’ve described. East of Sunnyside Ave N, the urban village boundaries are pencil thin, not even a full block. The Urbanist Editorial Board has recommended expanding the boundaries of high demand urban villages and mentioned Wallingford specifically:

The city needs to go further and expand the areas of urban development in urban villages and high-intensity zoning in urban centers, especially where there is extraordinary demand for housing (e.g. Ballard, Wallingford, South Lake Union, and the University District).

I like the idea of stretching the urban village’s boundaries from 43rd Street to 51st Street throughout Wallingford. That doesn’t mean all the single-family homes within that boundary would be redeveloped, but it would spread the growth and hopefully allow building diversity in age and type. Moreover, portions of 40th Street and Wallingford Avenue are ripe for redevelopment. 40th Street has many grandfathered uses that mirror low-rise residential and neighborhood-scaled commercial lining the corridor from Stone Way to I-5. As an added benefit, the street has frequent bus service from Routes 26, 31, and 32. Wallingford Avenue already has some some commercial use that could be built upon with relaxed zoning along its spine and near Gas Works Park.

The Seattle 2035 plan flirts with expanding the Fremont Hub Urban Village 1994 boundaries by a few blocks. Currently, 40th Street delineates the northernmost extent, but much of Upper Fremont is already zoned Low-Rise Multi-Family meaning growth could climb up the Fremont Avenue corridor, and to some extent already has. The Urbanist has recommended making Upper Fremont an urban village in its own right. Notice again, the urban village already stretches to Fremont’s far eastern edge.

Fremont's urban village boundaries appear ripe for expansion. (Seattle Department of Planning and Development)
Fremont’s urban village boundaries appear ripe for expansion. (Seattle Department of Planning and Development)

As Fremont and Wallingford are currently zoned, growth has been concentrated along the Stone Way corridor. I’ve argued this could lead to Stone Way rivaling the traditional hubs along 36th Street in Fremont and 45th Street in Wallingford. Stone Way’s mixed-use growth could also lead Frelingford to feeling increasingly like a distinct neighborhood. It’s already cut-off from the rest of Fremont by SR-99, and Wallingford’s business district is a long walk up the hill for those of us at the bottom. As more cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, and businesses go in along Stone Way, we in Frelingford will have more excuses to stay in the immediate neighborhood.

The development of a strong mixed-use district along Stone Way is a good thing, but it also highlights the need for zoning to allow more mixed-use development in other areas of Wallingford and Fremont so that the traditional centers of these neighborhoods do not stagnate and so that even more people can enjoy the high quality amenities of living here. We also have to worry about a constricted housing supply in such a high demand market pricing renters out of the neighborhood.

The HALA report has recommended shifting the height limits up in urban villages. Lowrise Residential zones would see one to two story jumps: LR2 zones would increase from 30 feet to 40 feet while LR3 zones would increase from 40 feet to 55 feet. Neighborhod Commercial zones would also see a bump. Locally, NC-65 zones would be rezoned to NC-75, a change in maximum height from 65 feet to 75 feet. These changes still need to be enacted by the City Council, but doing so would allow new buildings with an additional floor or two which might change the calculus in favor or redeveloping more plots — just another reason to make sure the HALA recommendations are adopted!

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Former Wallingford resident here. Stone Way is the best logical boundary between W and Fremont, and your made-up name, Frelingford, is horrible. Better to call that area East Fremont. And lower Wallingford will *always* be part of Wallingford! Don’t even try to annex it to somewhere else!!

    • I’m with you. This is kind of silly. I know Fremont and Ballard begat Frelard, but there were a couple reasons for this. First, the centers of each area are a very long way away from each other. So far away that there actually is a neighborhood between them, called West Woodland. But like my neighborhood (Pinehurst) most people haven’t heard of it, thus the desire to leverage more well known names. Second, Frelard is funny. It rolls off the tongue. It sounds like something that you wouldn’t really want “Free Lard? No thanks, I have some Crisco at home”.

      Frelingmontderford (or whatever you want to call it) is just silly. The two areas are adjacent. Someone might argue that you are in one or the other, but you most certainly are in one or the other. The map is ridiculous. Fremont extends to the east (always has, from way back). Otherwise, for example, Fremont Brewery is in the wrong place. Google, Wikipedia and Seattle maps all extend Fremont east of Fremont Avenue. Stone Way makes a decent cut off point. East of there you are in Wallingford.

      This article is mainly about development in and around Stone Way. Fair enough. So focus on that. Mention the development around Gas Works (lower Wallingford if you will) and that is it. No need to make up stuff.

  2. Thanks for the great write up! I’m in north Fremont and would love to get some of the action – we have great businesses but could use more- especially a great neighbourhood bar!

    • It was called the Buckaroo and is long gone now. Gentrification will not easily make space for “a great neighborhood bar.” More hipster restaurants are far more likely (with a bar, of course).

      • I’m a big fan of Fuse Box (Aurora / 49th) as a neighborhood pub – but it’s really, really small, keeps strange hours, and has a limited drink lineup.

  3. Unfortunately, the influx of genuinely useful retail is not keeping pace with these buildings. “Walkable development” is a great theory, but when the nearest grocery store is a 0.7 mile hike away (your first example, Stone Way Apartments, to the Fremont PCC), most of it along rather hostile streetscapes, true walkability is not achieved. Especially when one considers that the Prescott, which started this boom off, actually displaced a Safeway, but itself contains the completely useless shallow ground-floor retail that really isn’t good for anything (it currently contains yet another mostly empty gym).

    It’s not just zoning that makes existing historic single-story retail strips so lively; it’s the way they are designed, and the rents that they charge (because they’re older and shabbier, though not in a meaningful way). Wide, shallow retail is the name of the game in these new buildings, and the cosmetic nature of it is visible in the poor takeup of these spaces by genuinely valuable businesses that make the older parts of 45th, say, so good.

    • These things take time. MiiR Flagship coffee shop has promise. We have three great restaurants in Whale Wins, Joule and Manolin. Yeah we could definitely use a grocery store to signal Frelingford as a stand alone neighborhood. And yes Prescott retail includes a gym and (an Eltana bagel shop). I don’t frequent either one but I don’t have to use every single storefront on the street for it to be useful addition to the neighborhood.

      • But the reason there’s only two shops is because there’s only room for two in that incredibly long block. Long blocks with only two shop penetrations are vibrancy-killers, and always will be. The good blocks of 45th in Wallingford, or several streets in Fremont, have five, six, or a dozen shops per block, which means so much more is within reach of a few steps.

      • You are not likely to get a grocery store—or anything else requiring a large space—because most of the developers putting up the apartment blocks around here don’t want to build such spaces. Their “mixed-use” buildings are so mostly in name only. “Wide and shallow” as described by fnarf is accurate for the retail and commercial spaces being built to replace businesses that formerly occupied the whole lot. The former Safeway site came closest to having a larger store space until Prescott bought the site from QFC (who likely gave up due to the difficulty of the site as well as the 2008 downturn). And with a QFC on 45th and PCC in Fremont (and Fred Meyer in Frelard), the area market looks pretty saturated.

        You are overthinking the question (why less development along Stone than in downtown Fremont or on 45th). First, the sites along Stone are much larger than most lots in either of the other two. Developers could much more easily take apart and make money from conversion of the series of remodel and supply businesses that flourished along Stone Way for decades than from building on much smaller parcels in Fremont or on 45th. It was also easier to block up parcels on Woodland Park, Albion, etc.

        Second, at least in Fremont, much more of the unused capacity had been redeveloped over the past 20 years. Stone’s business community (associated for years more with Fremont Chamber than W’ford’s, BTW) managed to stay somewhat insular, in part due to the lack of amenities needed for a new “downtown.” Including minimal transit service, which is only marginally better now with change of route 26 to 62.

        I agree with rossb below: “Frelingford” is absurd. If you want to have a conversation about the history of the area, I’ll be happy to have a beer with you (at Fremont Brewery). Also, Fremont Neighborhood Council meets most fourth Mondays at the Oddfellows Hall around the corner from Hotel Hotel. Anyone in Fremont (Canal to 50th, Stone to 8th NW) is welcome to attend and if you pay dues (cheap!) you get a vote with your voice, and, if you attend three meetings you are likely to be asked to join the board (up to the bylaw position limit). fremontneighborhoodcouncil.org

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