This Small Wallingford Apartment Building Is Fine-Grained Urbanism at Its Finest

40 apartments would rise from a strip mall site that formerly hosted Wallingford's location of Bill the Butcher. (Alchemy)

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.

Apartments proposed for 4612 Wallingford. (Cone Architecture)

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.

The rear of the building include basement apartments.

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?

The palate includes brick in front but the building’s sides are a bit plain.

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.

Alchemy Plans 43 Homes Next To Wallingford Post Office

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Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. 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.


  1. I think the building is going to be a nightmare for delivery drivers and maintenance workers.
    My retirement job is performing maintenance work on apartments and condos in that area. My company cars are a work truck and a Prius. I see no parking or loading zone for either.
    The real problem is going to be weekends when many residents have dates and having sleepovers.

  2. I’ll never understand how the city and its urbanist cheerleaders get away with putting a happy face on ugly uninspired boxes by calling buildings like these “multifamily.” No family is going to live in a 220 to 300 square foot cubicle. Call it what it is: “multi-unit.”

    • Nope! Not a family! Not enough kids or something…

      Belltown’s narrative is somewhat different, says Merlée Sherman, a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment…. “I want other families to be able to live downtown,” Sherman said earlier this month. “We walk everywhere. Everything is accessible. You’d think 250 square feet would be hell, but when we walk outside we have everything.”

      • Don’t take my word for it, Bryan. You can check the definition of “family” at

        • “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group”

          a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment….

          Looks about right

          • Sorry, I misunderstood your previous post. I thought you were simply being snarky in your first line about the concept of family being defined as a couple with children.

            Of course you’re going to find exceptions to the rule. But you know as well as I do that the overwhelming majority of people here wouldn’t dream of trying to raise a family in a 250 sf studio.

          • But for those who would, let’s respect their choice and give them the option.

            (Also too, I could certainly see a single mom like my massage therapist with a young child doing so in order to live near her office at a price she can afford, and I would highly recommend not calling her family “not a family” because she’s raising her son on her own versus parent (s) plural.)

    • For most of these units most of the time, it will be transitional housing, something to live in until tenants can afford something more comfortable. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And yes, some alt-lifestyle folks will make it work long-term, making a statement; doing less with less.

  3. I’m curious if we have any data on the number of cars owned by occupants of such no-parking apartment developments. My guess is it probably hovers around 50 percent. Yes, these people can take the bus to work and back, but like most of us, they feel the need to own a car for many other journeys.

    One or two or a few such buildings probably won’t fill up available street parking, but at some point it will fill up. What happens then? Do we end up like San Francisco where the entire city is in an RPZ ~ street parking for residents only, if you get home early enough to find a spot?

    • We live ~3 blocks away and we have 2 surplus spaces (1 car, garage, driveway, spot in front of apron). There are several long driveways on our block I’ve never seen full in 14 years; I can count 6 for sure homes with fewer cars than off street spots (and all but one other house typically don’t park extra cars in front of their apron). There indeed are places like SF or Manhattan where any parking is hard to find, but at least in NW Wallingford where this building is going off street parking is underutilized; there’s plenty of slack, and given the current zoning limitations, until they changed, probably not enough potential building to consume all the slack.

      • I was inquiring globally, not just for this one neighborhood. I actually know this area pretty well. First house I bought is at 47th & Densmore. Agree it can absorb a few buildings of this scale. But a few dozen of the more common 5/1 projects, probably not over the long term.

    • Parking is only hard to find if someone is looking for free/subsidized parking. If someone is willing to pay what the market cost, then it’s always available.

      The question we’re asking is, does it make sense for the public to subsidize car storage? If you ask me, the answer is no. Revenue from car storage should instead be used to subsidize public services that benefit everyone, like public transit.

      • Ok, but how do we get there? If a building provides no parking for tenant automobiles, then they park on the street. Maybe the City sells on-street parking passes at “market price”? Tenants can always search for off-street parking on other sites, presumably paying market prices there.

        • If free parking is scarce, it will become less convenient to use. At that point, people inconvenienced by that scarcity have three choices: tolerate the inconvenience as a price they’re willing to pay for free car storage, pay for car storage, or go car-free. It doesn’t really matter much to me which they choose, but the idea that 3rd parties should be burdened to they don’t have to make that choice doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

          • Consider small businesses in one of Seattle’s urban villages, like Wallingford’s 45th St. It’s safe to assume a portion of the customer base comes via automobile, and need a place to park. If on-street spaces are filled with cars of the no-parking-provided apartments, then businesses have a problem. So let’s not be too cavalier with the issue of on-street parking. Lots of these businesses contribute to the social and economic vitality of our neighborhoods, and I don’t think we want them moving to strip malls on Aurora Ave.

          • To state the blindingly obvious, if costumers for local businesses were why we wanted to protect on-street parking, we could solve the problem very easily–just make it 2 hour (or whatever) max limit and be done with it, so the local residents couldn’t mooch free car storage and crowd out the businesses and customers.

            But the businesses obviously aren’t what locals who want to prevent/limit new development to hoard this public resources are concerned about because they’d never consider such a proposal. They want their car storage both extremely convenient and paid for by the government, and they’re happy to exclude and impose costs on newcomers to get it.

          • Very substantive reply. Not that it’s remotely relevant to the discussion, but I split time between Dayton and Seattle.

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