2007 MFE Awards
Project of the Year: Apartment Renovation

Back in its 1950s heyday, The Nettleton ruled the West Coast as the largest apartment community west of the Mississippi River. But over the years, the building lost its stature as it failed to keep up with the times. In fact, minimal changes had been made to the building since the '60s. Among its deficits: an outdated electrical system, gangly entry canopies, obtrusive handicap ramps, and dark, unwelcoming common areas. Sensing a golden opportunity, Bascom Northwest Ventures purchased the building in November 2004 and gave the 351-unit community in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood an extensive $9.7 million makeover.

The “before and after” photos of the two 14-story towers, rebranded One Thousand 8th Avenue, are incredible. Natural light penetrates the common area via extensive floor-to-ceiling frameless glazing and glass doors. Existing raw concrete structural elements are exposed and offer a striking contrast to the new modern interior finishes and simple palette of creamy whites, oranges, and bamboo. On the exterior, patchwork site improvements were stripped to reconnect the building to vibrant pedestrian activity; new pavers enhance the existing brick façade; and open entry plazas provide sidewalk seating outside a coffee shop. The units, rehabbed for about $6,000 a piece and $12,000 for the penthouses, sparkle with new appliances, cabinets, and carpeting.

The renovated property attracted a younger demographic than the developer expected. “Our resident profile went from an average age of the mid-50s to the high-20s in just a 12-month period,” says Brian Wirtz, managing director of San Francisco-based Bascom. And the new residents have money to spend. The developer was able to get a 42 percent bump in rents; average monthly rents jumped from $877 to $1,243 when the renovation was completed last year. The average unit size is rather small—just 560 square feet—but residents have plenty of spots to hang out, including a rooftop deck with city views, tanning bed, health club, outdoor pool, and a 30-seat theater perfect for XBox and PlayStation tournaments.

Fast Facts

  • Developer: Bascom Northwest Ventures
  • Architect: Fennie + Mehl Architects
  • Opened: December 2006
  • Units: 351
  • Unit Mix: One- and two- bedrooms
  • Prices: $939 to $2,059

    Judge's Verdict“THE GRAND FLOOR RENOVATION GIVES CLARITY AND LIFE TO THE PUBLIC SPACES WITH AN IMAGINATIVE REUSE OF REMAINING MID-CENTURY DESIGN COMPONENTS.”

    —K.C. Dutton, senior associate, Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects