A bike whizzes by on Greenwood Avenue with a brick building in the background
At first glance, Shared Roof is just another five-story apartment building, but there's more than meets the eye. (Andrew Engelson)

Shared Roof features a range of incomes, built-in community, and hip cafes spilling onto a public courtyard.

About 10 years ago, developer Chad Dale knew many friends who were leaving Seattle because “they wanted to have a lot of fun amenities but they couldn’t afford to do so.” After working together to buy a communal farm on Whidbey Island as a shared vacation home, Dale and a group of friends wondered if they could use the same cooperative model to build a cooperative apartment complex in Seattle.

“We created this idea of a more community-focused living space where we could essentially have our cake and eat it too,” Dale said. “We could have all these amenities, we could stay in the city while also supporting each other and raising our kids together.”

The result is the Shared Roof project in Phinney Ridge, which was completed in 2023 and features 35 units, 10 of them occupied by Dale’s family and other investors in the project. It’s a unique collaborative investment that includes first-floor retail, a public courtyard, and a mix of living spaces, including two- and three-bedroom units.

“Northern Europe has already figured this out as a lot of people there live this way, but it hasn’t quite established itself here yet,” he said. “You really get an increased quality of life comparatively to living in a single family home.”

Rather than using a traditional condo or co-op model, each of the investors owns a share of the building’s LLC. Investors contributed anywhere from $50,000 to $5 million in the project and own a percentage of shares based on the size of their investment. Residents all pay rent to the LLC, most of them at market rate. Some of the units were custom designed and range up to 2,000 square feet.

The development, at N 70th Street and Greenwood Avenue, was built on a formerly contaminated site that was home to a dry cleaning business when investors purchased the property in 2016 — right around the same time they began the design review process for their proposal

Out of a total of 18 investors, 10 of them live in the building, and each of those resident investors was able to custom design their living space, Dale said. He noted that many of those units have “wood floors, marble countertops, Bertazzoni appliances, fancy custom lighting, all the things you might put in a high-quality single family home.”

But it’s not all luxury. Dale and his investors were intent on providing units for a mix of incomes and so participated in the city’s Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) program. About 20% of the apartments are offered to moderate income renters, he said. “The deals for those tenants are amazing. They’re about half of market value if they get qualified.”

David Fuchs, a principal at Johnston Architects, was Shared Roof’s designer. He was intrigued by the unique model Dale and his investors proposed and the challenges it presented. “Instead of looking at how to build a bunch of individual rowhouses in a line – which is what you’re seeing with the new zoning – we wondered how can we build a building that works with a group of people with shared values? That requires a little change of a mindset.”

There’s a shared rooftop greenhouse space and the developer acquired a nearby lot to build a shared lawn and garden space. “Imagine you have a house and you have a backyard. How often are you actually using that space?” Fuchs said. “But imagine you’ve got 10 families and a lot bigger backyard and that’s going to get used all the time.”

Architectural plans lay out the patio space, solar array, and greenhouse atop Shared Roof. (Johnson Architects)

The communal spaces contribute to community building, Dale says. “All the kids know each other, the kids hang out together,” he said, noting that the shared roof space has a trampoline that’s exceedingly popular. 

Banks weren’t initially enthusiastic about the funding model, Dale noted. “It was very challenging to get financing,” he said. “I must have talked to 50 banks.” A major sticking point were the high-rent units – some larger luxury unit apartments in the 2,000 square foot range had rents at $8,000 per month but “the first 12 units that got leased were the largest 12 in the building.”

The entire project cost $50 million, though Dale said about $10 million was spent re-building exteriors that were improperly built and damaged by water exposure by a contractor that had to be let go and delayed the project by two and a half years.

A five-story mixed-use brick building under construction on Phinney Avenue.
Shared Roof construction had topped out by 2021, but the interiors were still getting reworked. (Doug Trumm)

The investors were also dedicated to sustainability. Fuchs said the building is close to LEED Platinum certification, with a rooftop array of solar panels, electric heat pumps and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) that help cool the building in summer. Electric heat pump laundry dryers are also included in each unit. “A dryer makes up like 70% of an average home’s electrical usage,” Dale said. “But when you add a heat pump it drops down to 10%.”

Dale, whose previous development work has included adaptive re-use for retail and office spaces, paid close attention to lining up retail tenants, he said. Currently, the ground floor of Shared Roof enveloping the 1,250-square-foot public courtyard includes Holy Mountain brewery tap room, Ben’s Bakery, Doe Bay Wine Company, and Lioness, an upscale Italian restaurant launched by Sea Creatures chef Renee Erickson.

Holy Mountain anchors the north storefront and spills into a patio cafe. (Doug Trumm)

The building’s gym is also home to a personal trainer’s business so that the space is activated more times of the day, Dale said.

Those public amenities, combined with a public-facing plaza helped get the building through design review with more support from the local community, says Fuchs. “Chad did a really good job of outreach early on, spoke to tons of neighbors, spoke to the neighborhood association, so there was a lot of support in general.” Even with that local support, it took the project team until 2019 to secure their permits.

The wine shops rows of bottle's is in the background behind the outdoor patio chairs
Patio seating in the interior public courtyard is much quieter and more serene than if it was on a busy street. (Andrew Engelson)

Is Shared Roof’s model a one-off that’s unlikely to be re-created elsewhere? Both Dale and Fuchs don’t think so – and Dale says he’s had several inquiries from other groups of investors looking to build similar projects.

“There’s no question it’s replicable. Maybe you have a bunch of people that work for Amazon and love gaming and you build an apartment that has amazing Internet, and a gaming room,” Dale said. “It’s about building it with a group of people that have like-minded amenity needs.”

Dale says the benefits to his family are many – although he did admit to one drawback. “My kids get home from school, they throw their backpacks down and leave. And we don’t see them when they’re with their friends.” he said. “And so it really does work, although we’re a little bit lamenting the loss of our dinner times together,” he said with a laugh.

Article Author
Andrew Engelson

Andrew Engelson is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor with over 20 years of experience. Most recently serving as News Director/Deputy Assistant at the South Seattle Emerald, Andrew was also the founder and editor of Cascadia Magazine. His journalism, essays, and writing have appeared in the South Seattle Emerald, The Stranger, Crosscut, Real Change, Seattle Weekly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Seattle Times, Washington Trails, and many other publications. He’s passionate about narrative journalism on a range of topics, including the environment, climate change, social justice, arts, culture, and science. He’s the winner of several first place awards from the Western Washington Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.