By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the southwest corner of 63rd SW and Alki Avenue SW, that small plaque notes what’s believed to be the site of the legendary Denny Party cabin – the one that wasn’t finished by the time the settlers arrived, at which time some of them were reported to have sat down and had a “big cry”:
The site was later home to the Stockade Hotel (below) and currently holds the 11-apartment Pioneer Homes-Alki complex, built in the 1940s by Robert S. Wise, and still held by his family.
What you might not know is that the family also owns a parcel right behind it that holds two wood-sided duplexes and a house, also dating back to the 1940s.
And they’re looking to redevelop that parcel – 3015 63rd SW – into a new 11-apartment building, replacing those three structures.
Just as we spotted their project on the city Department of Construction and Inspections website, with its first Southwest Design Review Board meeting tentatively set for March 1st, we were contacted by two members of the family offering a chance to meet and review the project.
We sat down two blocks from the project site with Oly Wise and his nephew Dave Townsend at the Log House Museum, home to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, whose executive director Jeff McCord was there too.
Wise and Townsend brought photos – and stories. Wise is Robert Wise’s son. “My dad was a historian and that’s why he wanted that particular piece of property” (the old Stockade) and bought the property next door … the property’s been in the family for 70 years.”
They refer to the to-be-demolished buildings as “the old cottages – they’re well beyond worn out.” Townsend says the units are past the point where rehabilitation would be feasible. So they have worked with JC Raptis Architects to come up with the plan for what they’re calling the Alki Landing Apartments.
It wasn’t a snap decision. “We’ve studied it for the past five years – and we had an opportunity to put something really grand there” – in other words, much bigger – “but it violated two of our family rules … retain in the family without getting outside people involved … far too expensive … we wanted to provide affordable housing. … We had the opportunity to put 39 luxury condos on the site and said NO … just not where the family is at.”
Pending Design Review, which sometimes leads to changes, here’s the packet for what Wise refers to as a “woody walkup”:
It’s proposed for three stories – an ADA-compliant one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor along with parking for 19 vehicles (two more than the Alki Parking Overlay rules requires, five 2-bedroom apartments on each floor above it. Seven of the apartments would have one bathroom, and four would have two bathrooms. The land alone has been valued at $1 million; they’re hoping to bring the project in for $2.5 million. That meant decisions such as no underground garage, which they say would have cost $1 million alone. “We’re not fancy people or rich people,” Townsend said. “We don’t want to make this for rich people.”
The extra parking spaces might enable them to offer offstreet parking to some residents of the adjacent complex, by the way. And when asked by McCord if they were thinking about offering equipment for charging electric cars, they replied quickly that it’s planned for five spaces. They’re looking even further ahead, thinking that if transportation evolution makes parking all but unnecessary at some point in the future, the ground floor space could hold a few more apartments.
Meantime, as it stands now, the project is not requesting any “departures” – exceptions – from what the site is zoned for, the owners say. And besides the extra parking spaces, they’re planning a few other extras, such as a historical photo display in the lobby, not just about the settlers, but also about the Native people who were here for centuries before them. The project name is inspired by Wise’s father as well as by history: “I was thinking of my dad, too – every bit of his pioneer spirit and grit to turn the (complete corner site) into housing, and that’s what we’re trying to preserve.”
And just to be clear – NO changes are proposed for the Pioneer Homes apartments fronting Alki SW. We walked over after the conversation at the LHM, to take the photo above. Wise noted that more than 50 years ago, he had lived there as a resident manager. Now he’s immersing himself in development details (he and Townsend even attended the SW Design Review Board’s meeting about an unrelated project last Thursday).
The Early Design Guidance meeting for 3015 63rd SW is scheduled for 6:30 pm Thursday, March 1st, at the Senior Center/Sisson Building (4217 SW Oregon) in The Junction. Watch this page for the formal notice, which will include information on how to comment.