May 30, 2017
These U District apartments have a unique amenity: an old parsonage

Journal Construction Editor

The banner on the construction fence reads, “Live with 146 of your closest friends.”

That may be the first clue that The Parsonage, an apartment project rising at 4138 Brooklyn Ave. N.E. in Seattle’s University District, is geared to college students. A visit to The Parsonage website validates that hypothesis, promising “an unparalleled student experience” when it opens in September.

The dorm vibe comes on strong in the quad-bedroom layout, where groups of four will share two bathrooms, a full-size kitchen and living room. Bedrooms will come furnished with a bed, desk, chair and modular drawers. Shared living space is also furnished.

Mira Mui at Schemata Workshop, the project architect, says there will be 21 quad units, ranging from just over 1,100 square feet to just under 1,200 square feet. Individual bedrooms are about 150 square feet.

Sixty-three studios are available if you don’t want roommates. Mui said they won’t be furnished, but each has a full wall of casework with an integrated desk. Studios range from 237 to 330 square feet.

A rooftop deck will be outfitted with barbecues, a television and fire pit. A community room with kitchenette will open onto the deck. Bike storage will be provided in the basement.

The real jewel of the project is the 1907 parsonage that once served the adjoining church at Northeast 42nd Street and Brooklyn.

Mui said the parsonage will house about 3,000 square feet of amenity spaces. The basement will have a laundry, lounge and two study rooms. The ground floor will house the leasing office, and large and small study/meeting spaces.

Folding doors will allow the larger meeting space to open onto a courtyard between the house and the new 52,000-square-foot apartment building. The small study space can accommodate four people while the large space can handle 12.

The second floor of the parsonage will have a kitchenette and living room, plus three study spaces. The attic will contain three additional study spaces.

Maria Barrientos took over the project in 2015 after another developer passed on it. The old house was in terrible shape: It leaked, had an attic full of pigeons, a basement full of junk and broken skylights covered with tarps. A large tree and vegetation hid it from the street.

Barrientos said the other developer had the property under contract and planned to demolish the parsonage, but didn’t know that it was landmarked along with the adjoining church. She said that developer walked away from the deal after the city Landmarks Preservation Board said the parsonage had to stay.

Barrientos said she heard about the property from a broker friend and ended up negotiating the sale directly with the owner. Later, she approached the landmarks board with the idea of keeping the house, but moving it closer to the street so it could become the main entry for the complex.

Barrientos said the board loved the idea, so she had the house lifted and built a new basement to prepare for the move. “The landmarks board was very supportive during the whole process,” she said.

Adam Schaeffer Construction renovated the house while Exxel Pacific built the L-shaped apartment building that surrounds it on two sides.

Barrientos said both contractors have been great to work with, especially Adam Schaeffer. “He wowed the socks off of us,” she said.

Mui said the new building is designed to look like two structures — with a six-story front and seven-story back clad in different materials — to reduce bulk and scale. The site was regraded to bring the house nearly level with the sidewalk.

“We celebrated the fact that we did an adaptive reuse,” Barrientos said. “I appreciate what an old building can bring: history and charm.”

The project is expected to finish in August and students will arrive in September. About 40 percent of the space is preleased, with studios and quads equally popular.

Blanton Turner will manage the building, and helped in designing the units and amenities. The firm manages other student housing projects and knows what students want, Barrientos said.

Demand for apartments in the University District is just as strong, if not stronger, than in South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, Barrientos said. She said nationwide students are wanting to live closer to campus, but there often is not enough housing to meet that demand. The UW has more students than it can handle, she said.

Barrientos and equity investors own the project under Parsonage LLC. The church next door houses Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Seattle, a small Sunday school in the basement and several Asian restaurants.

Barrientos’ development team is led by Ryan Stoller and John Links Jr. Here’s the rest of the design team: KPFF Consulting Engineers (civil engineer), Karen Kiest Landscape Architects, Jennie Gruss Interior Design, Coughlin Porter Lundeen (structural) and Rushing Co. (sustainability consultant).


Photo by Benjamin Minnick
The 1907 parsonage was renovated and moved toward the street. It is flanked on two sides by a new apartment complex called The Parsonage.

Copyright 2017 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce