2120-2128 NE 12TH

Street View.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Irvington Year Built: 1931 Typology: Cryptoplex Units: 7 Stories: 2 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 3,524 FAR: 0.70:1 Parking: On street Density: 60.9 du/net acre Zoning: R1 (1 Dwelling/1,000sf) Is it Legal? NO (but almost!)

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Irvington
Year Built: 1931
Typology: Cryptoplex
Units: 7
Stories: 2
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 3,524
FAR: 0.70:1
Parking: On street
Density: 60.9 du/net acre
Zoning: R1 (1 Dwelling/1,000sf)
Is it Legal? NO (but almost!)


Notes:

We’re going to call this odd but wonderful little building a “megacryptoplex” because like other cryptoplexes, it looks like a single family dwelling, yet it houses not two, but seven(!) separate dwelling units. At a net density of nearly 61 du/ac, this building packs a lot of housing in a very unobtrusive, neighborhood scaled package. Moreover, it does so at a fairly low FAR of 0.7:1.


Viewed from the street, the building presents as a one and a half story cottage. The front door provides access to two mirrored side-by-side units on the ground floor, while a stair leads to an attic unit. The other four units are reached from a friendly looking communal side yard. The building gets wider in steps, with the projections providing several street facing main entries to the back units.  

Detail showing side-loading units.

Detail showing side-loading units.

This axon view represents our best guess of the internal configuration of the building. It’s actually a testament to its subtle design that it is not readily apparent how the interior is partitioned when looking at the building from outside.

Axonometric diagram

Axonometric diagram

Axonometric aerial from Google Earth

Axonometric aerial from Google Earth

In our experience, this building is unique in Portland. It most closely resembles a one-and-a-half wing courtyard segment, but even then, its stacked configuration has no analog in any other typology we have documented. This building exceeds the density in the R1 zone, but we can envision several code hacks in which it could legally be replicated.

Site Plan

Site Plan

 

2701 SE Clinton St.

27th and Clinton.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy Year Built: 2014 Typology: Walk-up Apartment Building Units: 12 Stories: 3 Site Area: 10,000sf Building Area: 8,825 FAR: 0.88:1 Density: 52.3 du/net acre Zoning: R2 (1 Dwelling/2000sf)Is it Legal? Apparently

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy
Year Built: 2014
Typology: Walk-up Apartment Building
Units: 12
Stories: 3
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 8,825
FAR: 0.88:1
Density: 52.3 du/net acre
Zoning: R2 (1 Dwelling/2000sf)Is it Legal? Apparently

We were very excited to find this new building a block north of SE 12th and Clinton. 2701 SE Clinton is a 12 unit walk-up apartment building with four units per floor. It is an L-shaped building on a corner (double) lot with two wings parallel to the street sides. Access to upper units is provided by a shared stairway on the inside of the L, with exterior walkways leading to the upper units. Because of this configuration, it is very efficient, with most of the building area used for units instead of circulation. Additionally, every unit has at least two exterior facing walls. End units have three.

This building represents the lower bound of the “apartment” typology. Smaller buildings with fewer units are usually subsumed within the typology of “plex.” The boxy form, flat roof and brick cladding clearly say “apartment building.”

Clinton 27 stoops.jpg

Architecturally, this is a terrific design, with clean rigorous symmetry, quality materials, intentional façade composition and a terrific relationship to the street.  Ground floor units feature stoops and semi-private terraces. These are accommodated by a setback of approximately 8-10’ from the street lot lines. This sort of buffer is very valuable for making ground floor units tolerable by creating some privacy for occupants. Additionally, they integrate the building with its surroundings by mimicking the form and function of its neighbors. The project was designed by local architect Hillary Mackenzie.

Neighboring Stoops

Neighboring Stoops

Elevations Composite.jpg
SE Clinton.png
 

705 E Cherry Street, Seattle, WA

Courtyard Inside.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Central District, Seattle Year Built: 1925 Typology: Courtyard Apartment Units: 12 Stories: 1 Site Area: 15,646sf Building Area: 8,200 FAR: 0.53:1 Density: 34.8 du/net acre Zoning: LR2 RC: Lowrise 2 Residential/Commercial Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Central District, Seattle
Year Built: 1925
Typology: Courtyard Apartment
Units: 12
Stories: 1
Site Area: 15,646sf
Building Area: 8,200
FAR: 0.53:1
Density: 34.8 du/net acre
Zoning: LR2 RC: Lowrise 2 Residential/Commercial
Is it Legal? YES

Until now we’ve presented only Portland case studies, but having lived in this wonderful Seattle building, I feel compelled to present it to you. This 1920s courtyard building is located at 24th and Cherry in Seattle’s Central District. This building exemplifies the best qualities of the courtyard format, and takes some steps to mitigate some of its downsides.

Courtyard and main entries

Courtyard and main entries

The grade separation of the courtyard from the sidewalk on the gently sloping lot allows for some additional security and privacy for residents. This building’s owner has really outdone himself with the landscaping, creating a Tuscan garden complete with a six foot high cast iron fountain. In a fairly typical arrangement, the building was constructed with a line of garages facing the side street. One of these has been converted into a laundry room with storefront glazing. The owner has rented the remaining garages to microbusinesses, including a letter press, a community supported agriculture distributor, a wooden canoe builder and a kombucha brewer. The basement of the building, which occupies the space beneath the end of the U is occupied by a makers space coop, which also has its wood shop and metal shop in two of the garages.

Side view with garages (now used for micro-businesses) and entry to basement makerspace.

Side view with garages (now used for micro-businesses) and entry to basement makerspace.

Site plan

Site plan

 

3955-3957 NE Mallory

Street Front View.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Boise Year Built: 2017 Typology: Townhouse/Duplex Units: 2 Stories: 3 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 3,882 FAR: 0.53:1 Density: 17.5 du/net acre Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2500sf) Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Boise
Year Built: 2017
Typology: Townhouse/Duplex
Units: 2
Stories: 3
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 3,882
FAR: 0.53:1
Density: 17.5 du/net acre
Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2500sf)
Is it Legal? YES

This townhouse-type duplex was completed less than a year ago, and is one in a row of 4 identical duplexes, totaling 8 units. These are fee simple townhouses, meaning that the original single family lots were divided down the middle into two 25’ X 100’ lots with a common wall dividing the properties. This type of development appears to be the most common use of the R2.5 zone, which allows 1 dwelling per 2500sf of land area. All units have a garage occupying much of the lower level, with the main levels floating above the ground plane, demonstrating a phenomenon we have been calling the floor is lava.

At the ground level, instead of stoops, yards and front porches, we have a large paved area, occupied by vehicles. Each duplex pair shares a curb cut.

These houses were constructed on the site where four single-family houses were demolished, in what was, until recently, a primarily African American community. According to city records, one of these units sold earlier this year for precisely $1M, so while adding housing may help home prices in the aggregate, at block and neighborhood level, we wouldn’t expect any relief from gentrification from this type of development – in fact, quite the reverse!

Row of 4 identical townhome-duplex structures (8 units)

Row of 4 identical townhome-duplex structures (8 units)

We selected this project for a case study to illustrate the tendencies of the market at present, and thus illustrate the likely outcome of upzones without additional controls on building form. The City’s Residential Infill Project says very little about building design, and we believe it is worth noting that without the addition of such controls, projects of this type will likely become much more ubiquitous in our neighborhoods. You’ll pardon our cynicism when we roll our eyes at blandishments such as “Duplexes are beautiful.” Well, some are but those tend to be historic examples, built before a time when accommodating automobiles was a primary driver of building and site design. So be careful what you wish for.

3955-5957 NE Mallory Site.jpg
 

2031 N Watts St

Bldg Photo N Watts.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Kenton Year Built: 1927 Typology: Hybrid Court Units: 12 Stories: 2 Site Area: 10,000sf Building Area: 9,296sf FAR: 0.9:1 Density: 52.3 du/net acre Zoning: R5 (1du/5000sf of site area) Is it Legal? NO

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Kenton
Year Built: 1927
Typology: Hybrid Court
Units: 12
Stories: 2
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 9,296sf
FAR: 0.9:1
Density: 52.3 du/net acre
Zoning: R5 (1du/5000sf of site area)
Is it Legal? NO


2031 N Watts St. is a rare and unusual form of hybrid court, with wings of townhouse units flanking an end bar of four stacked flats. Each unit has its own exterior front door leading to the courtyard. We were quite surprised when we looked this one up on Portland Maps and discovered it was constructed in 1927. The building’s exterior, windows and doors, as well as courtyard paving and landscaping appear to have been installed less than ten years ago. The overall impression of the exterior overhaul makes the building a bit austere, compared to an unaltered 1920s specimen, but it’s still a nicely proportioned, human scaled place.

This building has no off-street parking. With 100’ of street frontage, there is room for 5 cars to park in front on the street.

We’d like to see more new residential projects take this form. The tricky part is making a small rental that is profitable given high land and construction costs. If this were for sale as condo, the project would pencil out, but we haven’t seen may examples of developers willing to risk developing for sale housing without off-street parking.


Kenton Site Plan.jpg
 

2502-2524 NE 11th

Front View.jpg
Building Data:  Neighborhood: Irvington Year Built: 1931 Typology: Courtyard Apartment Units: 10 Stories: 1+ Site Area: 10,000sf  Building Area: 6,086sf FAR: 0.6:1 Density: 43.5 du/net acre Zoning: R5 (1 Dwelling/5,000sf) Is it Legal? NO

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Irvington
Year Built: 1931
Typology: Courtyard Apartment
Units: 10
Stories: 1+
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 6,086sf
FAR: 0.6:1
Density: 43.5 du/net acre
Zoning: R5 (1 Dwelling/5,000sf)
Is it Legal? NO

This courtyard project in Irvington is a fine specimen of the courtyard typology and illustrates one of its common variants. Like most bungalow courtyards, the project is configured in a U-shape with the open end facing the street. This example illustrates a common adaptation of the courtyard when built on a corner lot; the sloping site and side access allows a row of garages beneath the side street-facing wing. This is in very common in 1920s courtyard buildings on corner sites. Additionally, the end of the wing on the corner accommodates a bonus unit. This is possible since the basement level is at street grade here. The main level wings have three units each for a total of nine. The downside to this arrangement is a large blank wall at street level and a long linear curb cut. This creates a less than ideal streetscape.



Elevated courtyard provides privacy and transitional space

Elevated courtyard provides privacy and transitional space

Basement bonus unit

Basement bonus unit

Garages, with catwalk for unit back doors above

Garages, with catwalk for unit back doors above

ne 11 site plan.png