West Seattle development: Charlestown Court comes down


4:49 PM: Twice nominated, and rejected, for city-landmark status, the Charlestown Court apartments across from the ex-Charlestown Café are coming down.

Townhouses will replace them, as we’ve reported previously.

5:40 PM: We’re adding images and backstory. Video:

And – thanks to Bryce for the tip that demolition was under way; unexpected at 4 pm on a Friday going into a long holiday weekend. This site has been on our watchlist for many weeks, and we’ve driven by daily to check for signs of impending teardown, but hadn’t been by today, until that tip.

Back in 2008, with a different demolition/development proposal pending for the site, the city Landmarks Preservation Board rejected a bid for landmark status, saying basically that it was nice-looking but not “special.” The proposal to replace it with a four-story apartments-over-retail building was scrapped later that year, and a new proposal emerged, one that would have preserved its distinctive facade:


(2008 NK Architects proposal incorporating Charlestown Court facade; eventually scrapped)
A land-use permit was granted in early 2009 but the project stalled in the economic downturn, and the apartments remained status-quo until early 2014, when we discovered a new teardown-to-townhouses proposal in the city files. Here’s the concept in the files, from architects S&H Works – 4 buildings, 2 townhouses in each one:

Last summer, as part of the process, Charlestown Court was again considered, and rejected, for landmark status. That cleared the way for the project getting under way now.

SIDE NOTE: Its block is about to have a whole lot of building going on – it’s across the street from the former Charlestown Café, with live-work and townhouses slated to fill that site, and a few doors down on the west side of California, demolition is expected soon at 3829 California, with a 29-unit apartment building to replace it. While demolition was under way to the north, we noticed firefighters training in the now-vacant building:

ADDED 9:54 PM: Sent by Jackie (who has also mentioned this in the comment section):

We saved the azalea, though! The kindest operator and my neighbor, who owns the truck, helped get it up and out of harm’s way. Thank you, Cajun Excavating! You made our day.

Meantime, we went back before sunset to see if the south side of the building had been taken down since we left; it had.

81 Replies to "West Seattle development: Charlestown Court comes down"

  • Bryce May 22, 2015 (5:25 pm)

    I’m so excited for all the construction coming to my block :). (Sarcasm)

  • Julia May 22, 2015 (5:55 pm)

    I am very sad.

  • kumalavula May 22, 2015 (5:56 pm)

    a shame to keep tearing down all the old
    buildings in west seattle with a shred of character left.

  • hc May 22, 2015 (5:58 pm)

    So Sad :(

  • miws May 22, 2015 (6:05 pm)




  • Ebisu May 22, 2015 (6:39 pm)

    Greed wins, again.

  • NW May 22, 2015 (6:51 pm)

    I was able to rescue a single small native sword fern from the property before demolition there was on the south side a large very mature fern which was just too big for myself to save unfortunately.

  • Paula T May 22, 2015 (6:51 pm)

    Oh… my heart is aching. West Seattle is losing is character one brick at a time.

  • Sarah May 22, 2015 (7:02 pm)

    What is wrong with this city?

  • LV May 22, 2015 (7:04 pm)

    Not necessarily a fan of blindly building, I love the small town charm and character of our city and neighborhood but as a neighbor in this area I have to say all of those structures have fallen into disarray, the apartments previously there were not kept up, messy, and I can only hope that this new development does lend it’s self to a safer and cleaner neighborhood.

  • Plf May 22, 2015 (7:13 pm)

    The apartments had charm, the proposed design is god awful ugly
    Does anyone wonder what is being turned out in architecture school? Same box across west Seattle. My grandchild with a box of crayons could create a more interesting design.

  • some dude May 22, 2015 (7:20 pm)

    I was very surprised to see it is going to be a big, gray, boring, ugly, uninspired design – unlike all the other buildings they are throwing up in Seattle! I’m sure it’s nice inside though.

  • SJ2 May 22, 2015 (7:37 pm)

    So sad to see this. All the recent development has me (a West Seattle native) considering other communities. The new Wesy Seattle is no longer true West Seattle. :(

  • Wes C Addle May 22, 2015 (7:46 pm)

    That’s disgusting. It makes me want to vomit.

  • carole May 22, 2015 (7:55 pm)

    It’s a shame they just knocked down those beautiful original bricks, rather than recycling them.

  • Susan May 22, 2015 (8:00 pm)

    I had been watching this proposal for many years and was thrilled when the plan to demolish Charlestown court was axed and the compromise of the 2008 NK plan was in place (the modification of incorporating the new with the existing. This new news is so very sad; another lackluster modular looking structure with little architectural design to appreciate. I had no idea this was in the making!

  • LKT May 22, 2015 (8:00 pm)

    The demolition fellow was kind enough to help me save the big fern, NW, so I will care for it now. If I can get it out of the back of my truck. The lovely red rhody was also re-homed. A small consolation for the loss of what I thought was a charming historic place.

  • Rick May 22, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    Hey some dude – “throwing up in Seattle” nails it.

  • LKT May 22, 2015 (8:10 pm)

    Sorry, duplicate.

  • GW May 22, 2015 (8:18 pm)

    Depressing and very distressing. This is why we need to elect the right candidate for city council. I don’t see anyone fighting to preserve the character of our beloved home. I’m rooting for Phillip Tavel. He’s a 17 year resident of WS, loves this town with all his heart and will fight for us like the attorney that he is. He knows how to talk to people, he stands up for what’s right and he’s a protector of WS. We need someone to help us ASAP before we wake up and find ourselves living in Ballard. :(

  • West Seattle Hipster May 22, 2015 (8:21 pm)

    Developers run this city.

  • gatewood gurl May 22, 2015 (8:47 pm)

    why, oh why is this happening to west seattle? a nice little neighborhood has morphed into a bunch of file boxes :^(

  • Jackie bryan May 22, 2015 (8:50 pm)

    We saved the red azalea in front. The backhoe operator helped, he was a prince. He couldn’t stand tearing down the place either. It’s so sad. hopefully it lives and has a new lease on life.

  • HIPRfangirl May 22, 2015 (8:51 pm)

    There is a special circle in Hell for these developers.

    The 2008 plan, although it was problematic (what was wrong with the other units?) at least preserved the historic facade. Drove by there tonight and very literally cried.

    They had better recycle the materials–or they go another circle down, downstairs.

    I am so angry.

  • JanS May 22, 2015 (8:54 pm)

    oh, look! More boxes, no imagination, and I guarantee there will be galley kitchens along the wall on one side (you know, to maximize space, and they will have sliding doors to the bedrooms made out of opaque glass or plastic. I, too, wonder what they turn out of architecture school lately.

  • cj May 22, 2015 (9:36 pm)

    When I first moved to West Seattle [2001] There were these beautiful dark brick old dutch style houses everywhere. Literally this was one of the reasons I chose West Seattle as my Seattle home. Bit by bit I see the things I loved most give way to the kind of progress that does not look like progress at all. I know there are reasons but it still makes me sad.

  • BJG May 22, 2015 (9:40 pm)

    It’s not about what architects can design. It’s about what builders will pay for to maximize profits. Deja vous all over again and again….wherever you look in West Seattle.

  • Wasteland May 22, 2015 (9:49 pm)

    @LV, what are you talking about? I live about as close as possible to this property and it was well taken care of until the owner sold it to the developer. It has seriously gone down hill since then because, yeah, the tenants were being evicted so they didn’t give a s–t anymore. Then once they were evicted the owners used it for a tire disposal around back. I live on this block and I have been wanting to get the hell out but I couldn’t even think about listing my property because it has turned into a wasteland ghetto by these developers.

  • Eaglelover May 22, 2015 (10:06 pm)

    Just overheard at met market that WSea no longer a cool place to live. Thanks developers hearing from a few young people, sigh,
    E L

    The new Ballard.

  • Julia May 22, 2015 (10:33 pm)

    Now that I see what they’re being replaced with, I’m not just sad, I’m MAD! Those are the most hideous excuses for homes I’ve ever seen!

  • YogiBerra May 22, 2015 (10:54 pm)

    West Seattle, its to crowded, no one goes there anymore

  • Jeff May 22, 2015 (11:12 pm)

    Why all the long faces? This is exactly what y’all have been voting for. Y’all just didn’t bother to red the fine print.

    What is hilarious is that y’all will continue to vote for this and continue to bitch and blame when the responsible pay is right there in front of you, in the mirror.

  • Friends of Morgan Junction Parks May 22, 2015 (11:33 pm)

    Jackie, NW, and LKT, thanks for saving the plants! If you’d like to donate them to a local park or open space then we can plant them for you. We rescued the last two living things from the old Huling Brothers (Whole Foods) site last fall and put them in Morgan Junction Park, a couple of mature heavenly bamboos that are doing well. Contact us on our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/FoMJP

  • melissa May 22, 2015 (11:40 pm)

    I lived there. Beautiful! The mailbox still had a stamp that read 1924. I cringe and I cry. West Seattle is gone.

  • David May 23, 2015 (12:20 am)

    I know I’ll be in the minority here, but really folks, step back a minute and think about what progress means. Don’t you think the same thing was happening back in the 50’s when the “new” 60’s style architecture was taking over? I, for one, will be glad to see the Whole Foods complex take over that crappy Huling Bros complex that was an eyesore for so long and almost made you embarrased to drive into your neighborhood. As long as people want to have our pristine wilderness preserved for hiking,etc, you have to go up, not out.

  • Kathleen May 23, 2015 (12:34 am)

    Passed by this with my young daughter and was heartbroken (even though I knew it was coming). I’m so disappointed my kids won’t know this kind of West Seattle.

  • Jeanie May 23, 2015 (1:11 am)

    The new design is hideous! The 2008 was OK; why didn’t they go with that version?

    • WSB May 23, 2015 (1:24 am)

      2008 = recession. Same year many things stalled. (“The Hole,” for example.) Since then, the property owners sold this site, and the new owners came up with their own plan.

  • WSobserver May 23, 2015 (5:38 am)

    The azalea ya’ll saved in the back of that pickup truck was a rhododendron. Just sayin’.

  • huck May 23, 2015 (6:16 am)

    I love all the new development. There are a lot of other buildings in west Seattle that I wish would get torn down and replaced.

  • wetone May 23, 2015 (6:20 am)

    29 unit’s and how many parking spots ? two lots to the south is coming down also with how many parking spots ? south end of block has new units being built now, how many usable parking spots ? across street coming down soon….. Poor neighborhood is going to have lots of new traffic and zero access as no parking will be available. Not a place I’d want a business. Coming soon 1/2hr. commute Admiral way to Morgan St. win win………So Seattle

  • Chris May 23, 2015 (7:27 am)

    I’m mostly in favor of the development and increased density along California, but this was one site where I wish the developer had saved the original facade.

  • derek May 23, 2015 (7:32 am)

    Dirt is worth a lot of money these days. your parking strip might be targeted next.

  • Stephanie McCoy May 23, 2015 (9:15 am)

    Thanks for the plant to Cajun Excavating?! Nice consolation prize, but it should be their duty and not considered a favor to preserve anything they can from that sight and reuse, rehome and repurpose. I’d like to know what is being reused and what Cajun Excavating intends to do with all of that. Landfill?

  • G May 23, 2015 (9:15 am)

    I’ll miss this old charmer as much as anyone, but more development is coming and sadly this old brick building would have been terribly out of place. I remember an old Seattle that has in many ways disappeared (and I’m talking since the 80’s), but that’s life. New people, new memories to make.

  • WS4life May 23, 2015 (9:36 am)

    Sad very sad indeed. ;( The small neighborhood charm is quickly disappearing.
    This video pretty much sums it up:

  • NW May 23, 2015 (9:46 am)

    Regarding plant rescue what I have done is when I know of a lot that is to be developed and it has plants on it I have with my bright orange work vest and shovel basically during day light hours dug up those plants beside the structure that I am certain would otherwise be disposed of. A recent project I had been eyeing on the 5900 block of Fauntleroy way three mature native sword ferns I had not dug up they were along a rockery in front of the property I thought may be left in place. I drove by just this past week and all of it had been bulldozed! It upset me that they most likely were not saved and are now dead.

  • HIPRfangirl May 23, 2015 (10:15 am)

    Regarding G’s comment: it’s a sad statement on how things have gone in West Seattle to think that the “matchboxes” are the new normal. In a neighborhood dating primarily to the first half of the twentieth century, it should be–and is, in my eyes–the matchboxes that are jarringly out of keeping with the neighborhood.

  • WS4life May 23, 2015 (11:08 am)

    This video sums it up:

  • Bob formerly of west seattle May 23, 2015 (11:12 am)

    Glad I moved, West Seattle has destroyed its charm, nothing but boxes and masses of apartments now. How is anyone going to get around in West Seattle, traffic was bad when I left, it is going to be worse. Someone must be paying off the City Planning Commission for sure. Very sad to see the old buildings go. Good Luck to everyone living there..”it aint gonna be pretty”.

    • WSB May 23, 2015 (11:29 am)

      For accuracy’s sake: The volunteer Planning Commission has absolutely nothing to do with development permits (here’s what they do – http://www.seattle.gov/planningcommission ). Nor does any other commission. Some projects go before the volunteer Design Review Board but it doesn’t get final say either; that comes from the staff of the Department of Planning and Development. This project went through “administrative Design Review,” which does not involve the Design Review Board, just DPD staff – TR

  • rob May 23, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    think about it folks when this place was built the idea of energy efficient was not at the top of the list. Also the concept of earthquakes were not designed in. It im sure painted many times with lead paint and asbestos everywhere. Things are now being built with nontoxic materials and high energy saving design which we all no is better for our planet plus this will put a lot of tradesmen to work. I know it is said to see the old things go but sometimes the new is better for all in the long run

  • westseattledood May 23, 2015 (1:27 pm)

    Rob, I might be mistaken but I do not see where this says those town homes are going to be LEED certified. Maybe they are, but new construction is not universally built to be green. They are often, however, constructed with cheap materials. Builders do not always build to LEED standards. Are these?

  • Diane May 23, 2015 (1:41 pm)

    saddest story of the year, of the decade, in West Seattle development; THIS is what gives developers a bad image
    7 yrs ago, we tried to save Charlestown Court, and were thrilled when that developer came up with a beautiful design to raise the apts, reuse the bricks from garages in back, incorporate into new 1st floor; gorgeous design
    then the recession hit; renters continued to live in these beautiful historic affordable apts
    this year the greedy developers are back, demolishing 100’s of historic dwellings in our city, all for the money, throwing up giant modern boxes with zero character, maxing out the lots
    Charlestown Court is very close to my home, one of the last remaining courtyard apts in WS, nearly 100 yrs old
    I pass daily; have been mourning the impending loss, especially after the ominous demolition fence went up
    to be replaced with “modern” towering black/grey boxes, lot line to lot line
    fyi; I LOVE modern architecture, but not at the expense of beautiful historic buildings
    they didn’t even deconstruct, to save the bricks; or the 1924 mailboxes? or windows? anything?
    we need to raise, restore, reuse old buildings; not raze; this is infuriating
    and STOP displacing renters from affordable apartments

  • Diane May 23, 2015 (1:44 pm)

    when I saw this last night; after crying, I thought, I feel like writing a letter to all the children of the future; “I am so sorry; we tried so hard to stop this; we tried so hard to save the beautiful old buildings; we tried so hard to save our neighborhoods from being demolished and replaced with giant modern boxes by the money machine; I am so sorry; and so sad that we couldn’t protect the wonderful old homes for you to enjoy as you grow up”

  • m May 23, 2015 (2:06 pm)

    Developers are building these kind of places because this is what people WANT. like it or not this change to west Seattle is coming and many of us actually welcome it. I’m excited that WS has an opportunity to be the newest, most modern neighborhood in Seattle. If only we could encourage better restaurants to come to WS.

  • Nancy Freeman May 23, 2015 (5:30 pm)

    I suspect we’ll look back on these rubber-stamped, uber-modern designs 10 years from now and wonder, “what were we thinking?”. No style or grace. Is this type of construction much cheaper?

  • Stephanie McCoy May 23, 2015 (5:40 pm)

    M, “this is what people want”?! The majority on this thread would suggest otherwise. Historic preservation matters.
    Bob formerly of West Seattle, we left too.
    WSB, thank you for the waste link. Compared to CA, Seattle is really doing a fine job with regard to waste reduction. Here in San Diego they just give everybody the same size huge trash bin. Crazy. Btw, Tracy I miss the blog. What you guys are doing is just amazing.

  • T May 23, 2015 (8:03 pm)

    I hate what west Seattle is becoming/has become.

  • Junctionite May 23, 2015 (8:48 pm)

    More ugly, characterless boxes.

  • Brontosaurus May 23, 2015 (10:27 pm)

    I’ve only lived in West Seattle since ’96 but I already feel that my old West Seattle is disappearing. I’m a fan of modern architecture, as long as it’s not just boring cookie-cutter boxes. There’s a place for new development of course, and every community needs to move on and change BUT it shouldn’t be at the expense of gorgeous properties with real architectural character. There are plenty of rundown neglected properties with no architectural appeal, that could be bulldozed and built upon. I was surprised to see that this was allowed. We need to fight to save buildings like this. I’m very saddened by this. The city needs to realize that this property was “nice enough” it should have been saved

  • Jw May 24, 2015 (12:03 am)

    So how many more nazi gun turret style boxes do we have to buy until they throw in a free mega mall? You know just like the ones they have pooped out in every neighborhood in California.

  • WSince86 May 24, 2015 (8:54 am)

    WS4life – Sadly ( and hysterically) the video is spot on!

  • EKS71 May 24, 2015 (12:49 pm)

    NK “architects” are single handedly destroying West Seattle. Of course they are the one behind this development.

    • WSB May 24, 2015 (1:16 pm)

      EKS – No, NK is no longer involved with the project. They were hired for the 2008 project that would have preserved part of the facade (as credited beneath the rendering below) – which in turn was different from the 2007 proposal that would have just meant outright demolition then (I’m sorry I don’t have a rendering for whatever that was going to be). The architects for the current plan are identified immediately over the current rendering – S&H Works – TR

  • Eric May 24, 2015 (1:12 pm)

    West Seattle is loosing all of it’s class and historical charm at a breakneck pace. I’ve never seen so much characterless transformation happen to a city. By the way, this is not what “West Seattle wants”, it’s what they get with the City Council and Design Board behind the transformation. Judging from 99% of the feedback on this blog, there is a big disconnect between what West Seattelites want and what they are getting.

  • ricker May 24, 2015 (2:28 pm)

    @diane: dont take this so hard!!!life goes on and who knows you might like the end result.

  • Monica May 24, 2015 (2:41 pm)

    First, my sister and I flee Ballard because the gorgeous house we lived in was going to get an “upgrade” ( we were living in a craftsman’s house, built 1921 ) Then we come to West Seattle, and move into..yes, you guessed it, the Charlestown court. All this OVERDEVELOPMENT is killing the charm, and the distinct character of each neighborhood. I love it here in WS, and yes, those apartments needed some work, but they were beautiful inside, and it makes me sick to see all these hideous box units going up.

    Winter is Coming for you…evil greed driven developers!

  • G May 24, 2015 (6:31 pm)

    Just for some perspective, having grown up in West Seattle during the 70’s and 80’s, the Junction and other area’s were rather gray and dull, despite all the old quaint buildings. Yes, West Seattle has become a little precious, but I don’t think I’d want to go back.

  • Neighbor May 24, 2015 (7:48 pm)

    I wonder how many of the commenters who hate pretty much all construction, design decisions, architectural features, etc. have ever built or remodeled a home in Seattle to code? What may be beautiful is often a total hazard and the moment you go to fix something (legally, with permits – which are required for everything in this city, including planting or removing a tree, replacing a toilet or sink, changing a window, etc) the city will require you to bring the dwelling up to code, adding tens or hundreds of thousands to renovation/building expenses. But anyone who has renovated their dwelling would know that, and the rest of the commenters haven’t a clue. What is it people want – everything to stay exactly the same… lead paint, single pane windows, newspaper insulation? Or do all apartment buildings need to look like giant Craftsman homes? I mean seriously, how much can you do with apartment building design? Brick facades that will fall on pedestrians in the next earthquake? Architectural “features” that drive up the rent prices… which would give people in WS yet another thing to complain about. How about we complain about the developers (and renters in new build apartments) getting a 10 year property tax waiver while all of us homeowners get hosed with levies to pay for everything. When do people around here realize they should pick their battles?

  • Twerp May 24, 2015 (10:27 pm)

    Well, the new owners can shove it. Disgusting. We moved to West Seattle 25 years ago because of the “small town” feel. No more. This city has made me a very unhappy camper. That 2008 design was a decent attempt, but this new design and all of the new apartment buildings are very sterile and lack imagination. Which university is cranking out these so-called architects?

    P, S. I disagree with ^^^.

  • Captain Dave May 24, 2015 (11:30 pm)

    The trouble with erasing history is that we loose track of where we’ve been. There should be better tax incentives to help save historic structures that have survived for so long because they provide intrinsic value and historic depth to neighborhoods. Our progressive city council seems to have little interest in leaving bread crumbs to the past. They believe that it is politically more advantageous to re-write history so that it supports the present agenda. I don’t see much difference between our city policy makers and the ISIS hoodlums destroying the antiquities of Iraq. Seattle is becoming one big homogenous sea of corporate franchises and temporary block housing for migrant tech workers–the City will soon have the charm of an airport terminal.

  • Ron Swanson May 25, 2015 (1:59 am)

    Comparing developers to ISIS – we’ve finally reached peak NIMBY WSB comment.

    When you severely restrict what can be built as Seattle does, you’ll get the same result in each new project: a box that fills the maximum available space without falling afoul of the many restrictive setback, height, and design rules that generations of central planning bureaucrats have set up to ‘protect neighborhood character’ and ‘context’. Half the cool old brick apartment buildings in WS would be laughed out of DPD if proposed now.

    Even in our most urban area in the triangle and junction, 85′ height limits constrain what can be built so only the cookie cutter five over two mostly wooden buildings make economic sense.

    The vast majority of the peninsula is single family. As the commentor above said, remodeling or adding a duplex apartment to an existing ‘charming craftsman’ is incredibly difficult. I know mine will be coming down for a nice, energy efficient box house, because that’s what the rules incentivize me to do.

  • Dave May 25, 2015 (3:35 pm)

    It’s too bad the 2008 design was scrapped. At least it would have preserved some of the original architecture. The new design seems to me to be unimaginative and lacks character. But it’s also is up to the property owner/developer to decide which design to go with. This new design is probably easier and less expansive to build.

  • kateo May 25, 2015 (11:47 pm)

    What will all these “upscales” look like in 15 or 20 years?

  • CC May 26, 2015 (8:54 am)

    I seriously question the preservation board and design commission aesthetic, or perhaps they’ve sold out to developers. All I see lately is box after box after box design… We’re going g to regret this in 50yrs.

  • Wes C. Addle May 26, 2015 (9:38 am)

    You may not like the look of the box style houses on the outsdie but they are really nice on the inside and the space is maximized. Many also have nice rooftop decks. Compare that to the standard house with a steep roof you get much more function for the money. You know what they say, “Never judge a book by its cover” Low maintenance is what younger new buyers are looking for as they’re often more out and about and don’t want to spend their weekends/weeknights doing yardwork and maintenance.

  • Jon May 26, 2015 (11:29 am)

    Wow. I have looked at the plans and then read your comments and I truly believe that some of you are a little unstable. First, before I get dismissed, I need to put in my West Seattle street cred. My grandparents moved to West Seattle in 1948, and my mother was born and raised. Now I know that is not as long as some of you who landed on Alki in 1851 but I think it is long enough to have an opinion….West Seattle, along with most Seattle neighborhoods, is changing. Deal with it. It is not 1990 anymore and you don’t live on the suburban island that you used to. I still believe that West Seattle is a great place to live and raise a family and a couple of developments are not going to change that. Some of you people comparing developers and architects to ISIS and other crazy stories about crying sound ridiculous. You should be thankful you live in an amazing neighborhood and that your life is going so well that you have time to complain about one old apartment being torn down and replaced with townhomes. Your lives will continue as usual and the world will go on.

  • Peter May 26, 2015 (2:55 pm)

    Given the choice, I would take one of these new “characterless/matchbox/ugly” or whatever derogatory term the NIMBYs randomly apply to everything new, over a 100 year old house that will have forever escalating maintenance and energy costs. Don’t like my choice in my home? Too bad so sad, it’s not your property.

  • anonyme May 26, 2015 (6:14 pm)

    The 2008 plan was actually attractive and respectful of the neighborhood, as well as being a nod to the charming old structures it was replacing. I’m not anti-modern by any means, but the ‘approved’ design is nauseating. Box after box after box after box. It’s beginning to look Orwellian. In other parts of the city, these structures look run down in just a few short years.

Sorry, comment time is over.