Alchemy’s proposal for 40 small efficiency apartments in Wallingford could get the green light at its Design Review Recommendation meeting on Monday. As tenants feel the pinch of rapidly climbing rents, we need more projects like this one to provide more housing choices, especially targeted at moderate-income folks.
A small efficiency dwelling unit (SEDU) is Seattle’s technical term for an apartment between 220 and 300 square feet. Each must have a kitchen and bathroom–somewhat distinguishing it from the congregate microhousing that earned the ire of many in the Seattle commentariat. Efficiency apartments might ruffle some feathers, but they represent an affordable home for middle class Seattlites without many options.
Returning from Early Design Guidance, the proposal has trimmed three apartments and fleshed out the design palate the team would use. The ground-floor retail would get a tan brick facade with large windows framed by an ample awning overhead. Flower planters and half a dozen trees would upgrade a front parking lot with a gaping curb cut and some scrappy shrubbery. No off-street parking means no curb cut, improving the quality of space and the comfort of the neighboring Stone Way bike lane, which might be upgraded to a protected bike lane soon. No off-street parking is key to making small apartment buildings financially viable in expensive neighborhoods like Wallingford, as some commenters mentioned at the last design review meeting. With Route 44, Route 62, and the RapidRide E close by, the site is blessed with three frequent bus routes.
The project is fine-grained because it takes a small trapezoidal lot and makes it really shine with small touches like well-thought-out landscaping and inviting storefronts sized to host independent businesses rather than big chains–and above them apartments targeted at the middle class. The three-story building includes a basement with a small back courtyard facing Wallingford’s handsome U.S. Post Office with its tree lined full-block parking lot.
One area for improvements that the sides of the building are a little drab. Perhaps some murals or vines could liven up the blank walls?
Though only three stories tall, this building provides significant density, and it upgrades the intersection of Stone Way N and N 47th St from a parking-dominated void to lively urban storefronts along a continuous sidewalk. Wallingford could use a lot more projects in this vein. Attend the March 26th meeting or email comments to design review planner David Landry to support this project and the increased housing options it brings to Wallingford.
Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.