Pioneer Square “Ruin” to Become Seattle’s Newest Boutique Hotel

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Commonly dated to 1892, the Metropole Building in Pioneer Square is about to be transformed in the city’s newest boutique hotel.  The building’s finely proportioned façade, articulated in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, has been boarded up since a fire extensively damaged its interior in 2007.  While some restoration work was carried out inside the building following the fire, today, the Metropole resembles a ruin.

In 2015 Seneca ventures purchased the Metropole building for $4 million, planning to turn the dilapidated historical building into a boutique hotel with dining and retail space on its first floor. BuildingWork, a Seattle-based firm, has been hired to undertake the transformation. Matt Aalfs, the owner and principal of BuidlingWork, told the Daily Journal of Commerce that the hotel will have 36 guest rooms, about half of which will be “micro private rooms” geared towards single travelers and those on a budget. The micro rooms will be 120 square feet, but will have private, ensuite bathrooms.  Standard rooms at the hotel will be 220 square feet.

If the permitting process runs smoothly, construction could begin on the Metropole as early as September.  Before any work can begin though, the development team is seeking approval from the National Park Service in order to procure federal historic preservation tax credits, which will provie vital in the financing of the project.

City Proposes Code Changes to Promote the Construction of Back Yard Cottages

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Seattle is seeking new and innovative ways to preserve affordability as housing costs continue to soar. Along with programs like the Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program and the Mandatory Housing Affordability Program, the city of Seattle is proposing to ease land use restrictions that hinder the building of backyard cottages, or in official parlance “accessory dwelling units.”

Since 2010 backyard cottages have been permitted in Seattle, but they are rarely built by homeowners. Only 159 were built in Seattle between 2012 and 2014.  Advocates for backyard cottages lament that the reason so few have been built in Seattle is due to the stringent regulations placed on them in the city’s land use codes. Under current city code, backyard cottages are subject to height limits, footprint, and square footage limits, and require off-street parking.  Along with these restrictions, the city has recently mandated that backyard cottages are subject to King County’s sewer connection charge, which cost one homeowner $10,000.

Portland, which is facing similar affordability issues as Seattle, has softened restrictions placed on backyard cottages. The city, which has allowed backyard cottages since 1981, removed requirements that each cottage must have dedicated off-street parking and a mandate that owners must live on the property, in either the main house or cottage. What made the largest difference to builders, however, was when the city waved the System Development Charges. These charges, which are a set of one-time fees for new or increased use of property, can run up to $12,000 and were a sizable deterrent to potential builders.  Since the city waived these charges, the number of accessory unit permits has drastically increased.  In 2015, there was approximately one permit filed per day.

In Seattle, the changes that the Office of Planning and Community Development are proposing will remove certain barriers that have kept homeowners from building backyard cottages. The most significant changes are an increase in allowable size for detached accessory dwelling units from 800 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. and decoupling the garage area from the allowable size.  An increase in height limit will also make a big difference in some situations. Under the proposal, owner occupancy would be required for only one year, rather than being abandoned altogether, in an attempt to limit speculative development interests. In making these changes, the Office of Planning and Community Development hope to increase the stock of moderately-priced housing options in Seattle’s low-density neighborhoods.

Tour the Bloxom Residence with Historic Seattle

Bloxom

On Saturday, May 21st, join Historic Seattle on a tour of the Bloxom Residence.  The home was designed by Arthur Loveless and completed in 1928.  Loveless was a local architect who moved to Seattle in 1907 after dropping out of Columbia University, where he had studied architecture. During the 1920s, Loveless became highly regarded locally for a series of impressive residential commissions he completed in a distinctive Tudor Revival style. With its half-timbering, hanging tiles, projecting gables, massive chimney blocks, and asymmetry, the Bloxom residence fits tidily within Loveless’ oeuvre.

The Bloxom Residence was built in a planned community developed by David Whitcomb, Sr., which is today known as Woodway.  Whitcomb’s vision was of a woodland residential community with easy access to the city along Pacific Highway. The sales of lots came with setback requirements, a prohibition on subdividing lots to less than two acres, and a prohibition on building more than one home on each two-acre lot. The intent was to maintain breathing space and the country-like atmosphere in perpetuity, preventing the kind of development that inevitably destroyed that peacefulness in city homes.

Whitcomb’s original vision can still be seen today in the Bloxom Residence and its grounds. Despite changes subsequent owners have made to the property, the house retains its original English-manorial character and still sits in a landscape of ponds, formal and cutting gardens, and a great lawn that spreads out to a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Lindsey and Carolyn Echelbarger, present owners, have enlarged the kitchen, relocated the dining room and repurposed the original dining room into a den, added custom oak paneling and built-ins and made other improvements both indoors and out. The walls showcase an outstanding collection of work by early 20th century Pacific Northwest regional artists.

For more information about this event – http://historicseattle.org/event/bloxom-residence/