Cottages in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood make more intuitive sense than the cottages in Belltown I wrote about here. Built in 1920, Greenbush Court located on Capitol Hill, west of Broadway, consists of eight cottages clustered on a 5,000 square foot lot. The lot is divided by a central promenade, with four homes located either side. John Feit/Schemata Workshop has an interesting post about these cottages here on the CHS blog.
Among other things, the author notes:
The close clustering of these homes, and the rich, native landscape that envelopes them, make them a compelling model for those who want to live densely, yet still in a detached dwelling.
He also asks the question: could this project be built today? And comes to the rather depressing conclusion that it would be unlikely because:
Today’s mass-produced, uniform building materials … do not lend themselves to the informality and casualness that is one of this community’s charms … and … the skill in design and execution is, I am afraid to say, beyond the grasp of most architects and builders today whose skills are learned in a different environment. And finally, the cost would most likely be prohibitive, at least for a speculative venture …
Feit’s post addresses this as a largely academic concern, but for a lot of Seattle neighborhoods that are zoned for density this is a major issue. In most cases, density at the single lot scale takes the form of the townhouse “four-pack:” tight-knit clusters of skinny townhouses that are ugly, poorly constructed, and out of proportion with the surrounding homes. What are the lessons from Greenbush Court and other similar developments that can be applied today?
Among other things, a quick online review suggests that these cottages sell for $300,000 or so, even in the current downtown, and there are eight of them. Compare that to the average sales price of a new townhome (four per lot), add in recent changes to Seattle’s Multi-Family zoning code, and it seems that even for a developer smaller, more thoughtful, site-specific design might be worth a look.