ALKI APARTMENTS: Local family’s proposal for 3015 63rd SW, back side of a site with history

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.

20 Replies to "ALKI APARTMENTS: Local family's proposal for 3015 63rd SW, back side of a site with history"

  • chemist January 20, 2018 (10:44 pm)

    The new code requirements being worked on by the city council would require 11 weather-sheltered bike lockers/a bike cage for 11 long-term bikes as well as 3 spots for short-term bikes.  That looks to be over double what is in these blueprints.

    • WSB January 20, 2018 (10:47 pm)

      This is already in the system and not subject to policies not finalized yet – the parking proposals haven’t even gone to a committee vote yet.

      • chemist January 20, 2018 (11:41 pm)

        Sure, but for a building that’s providing beyond-the-norm parking in the alki overlay, it’s pretty illustrative of one city-wide bike parking MFH being off-target when the project as is being proposed significantly misses the future minimum bike parking being discussed.

        I have no idea if projects already in DR would be required to meet the new parking minimums if they were voted and signed into law before the reviews complete.  Maybe that’s a difference between building code changes and things like churches and HALA fees.

        • Mike January 22, 2018 (7:26 am)

          We have building codes to provide bicycle parking?  Hope they also require vehicle parking for each unit.

          • chemist January 22, 2018 (11:59 am)

            Current codes appear for MFH looks to be 1 long term bike parking spot per 4 units.  The revisions being considered would be 1:1 and further refine long-term bike parking as far as weather protection/security/separating bike parking access from vehicle access, etc.

            The alki-overlay has a 1.5 vehicle-space per unit requirement, as WSB gets at when mentioning parking spaces.

  • David Townsend January 21, 2018 (10:18 am)

    We had more bike storage in a previous drawing, but the city suggested we make the garage more “open”.   When we get into engineering, we will definitely look at where we can put more bike storage, as well as tenant storage.

    It is always a trade-off for space.   Many similar projects are criticized for having too little parking.  We could replace one parking stall with more bike racks, but that puts one more car back on the street.

    Dave Townsend

    • Diane January 21, 2018 (4:34 pm)

      yes, THANK YOU for parking; the majority of us still need parking, do not ride bikes; especially elders; very excited to learn more about this project

  • Mike January 21, 2018 (1:04 pm)

    Thank you to this Family for spending what seems like heart felt thought into a space that someone might actually be able to afford and not another luxury townhouse like everything else going up in the city.

    • Diane January 21, 2018 (4:36 pm)

      yes yes yes; agree; thank you

  • Jill January 21, 2018 (1:53 pm)

    I do appreciate the family giving real thought into the replacement housing. I wish at some point soon that development will be more amenable to family sized housing where 3 bedroom flats would be available. 

  • AnotherAlki January 21, 2018 (3:20 pm)

    Mr Townsend. Do you have any preliminary rent amounts for the 2bd 1ba apts. THANK YOU for providing parking.

    • Diane January 21, 2018 (4:37 pm)

      also curious about rents, for 1 bedroom; and THANK YOU for providing parking

      • David Townsend January 22, 2018 (10:08 am)

        We are only in the first inning of the permitting process with the City, so we cannot predict rents at this time. 

        But we are trying to keep costs down to keep rents affordable: 

        1. Interest rates are attractive, but rising.  So any delay in the process will add costs.
        2. An earlier layout included half of the required amenity area on the roof — a BBQ, lawn chairs, sink, picnic table, and green space, but the City said that would require ADA access which would require an elevator.  We got an estimate from Thyssen Krupp for such an elevator:  $150,000 plus $300 a month for maintenance.   That would raise the rent by over $100 per month for all units.  Too avoid that, we downsized the building to allow all of the amenity area on the ground level.  That eliminated at least one parking space, made a tighter garage, and reduced bike and tenant storage, but that is probably better than the expense of an elevator.
        3. A previous proposal also looked at an underground garage, instead of open garage.  The soldier piles and deep excavation added nearly a million dollars in cost.   So we nixed that.

        We appreciate all your comments.  Keep them coming.

        Dave Townsend

  • the truth January 21, 2018 (3:46 pm)

    Thanks you for the thoughtful development.  I would worry about the bike storage.  You can’t walk around Alki without tripping over a bike share obstacle :-) 

  • Mike January 22, 2018 (12:50 pm)

    Mr Townsend one thought about still providing a space for bike parking and an outside gathering space is talking with the city about building a PARKLET  in front of the building which would be a welcome sight. They seem to be popping up all over the city except West Seattle which seems to have a strong case of nimbyism. 

    • David Townsend January 23, 2018 (11:58 am)

      Hi, Mike.  can you post a picture of what you envision?


      Dave Townsend

      • Mike January 23, 2018 (1:42 pm)

        The best thing about this is it can be anything you want it to be and in a small space. Add a charcoal grill or a chessboard/table. Maybe a birdbath and feeder? Covered? not covered? made of wood or maybe even a shipping container. Creative or Simple. 

        • HappyToBe January 25, 2018 (7:32 pm)

          This dialogue is so cool and refreshing! Glad to see property owners and neighbors/people interested in the proposed development engaged in civil dialogue about proposed development. Thank you Mr. Townsend for being aware that exercising your private property rights affects your neighbors, near and far, too. Thank you Mike for the parklet idea.

  • IheartBPP January 22, 2018 (3:40 pm)

    Kudos to this family for striving to offer affordable housing on Alki, which adds to the diversity of the neighborhood.  All other developers take note, if you love Seattle, then follow the Wise’s & Townsend’s lead.   The spirit of “old” Seattle is alive and well with this family.   I wish them much success.  

  • Milo January 23, 2018 (11:13 pm)

    Yes, well the Seattle City Counsel will tell you that you have to do all this stuff such as 1 bike space per unit, so many bird baths per bird, no carbon emissions etc. and then they will say make it affordable for the homeless.; Ya right… In fact they will probably want you to provide enough green space for a homeless encampment.

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