'Divine Intervention' Cited in Seattle Adaptive Reuse Project

Set in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, The Sanctuary has given new life to a long-time community landmark.

Seattle—Seattle’s architecturally striking, 106-year-old First Church of Christ, Scientist has been reborn as The Sanctuary, the setting for a dozen townhomes marking their debut on the real estate market starting this month.

Set in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, The Sanctuary has given new life to a long-time community landmark. The “First Church” served as a place of worship from 1911 until 2006, when the congregation relocated. In 1977, it was designated an official historic landmark by the City of Seattle.

“Downtown Seattle and many of the most established residential neighborhoods of Seattle grew up around this church,” Dean Jones, principal owner of Seattle-based Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, tells MHN.

“Churches are often the centerpieces of communities—and located on the most prized real estate. The Sanctuary is right at the crest of Capitol Hill. In the distance, you can see vistas of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle.”

Through adaptive reuse and historic preservation, the structure has been artfully preserved as a local landmark. Many of its most distinctive trademarks, including its Bedford limestone, Concord granite façade and its Classical Revival architecture, have been retained. And to a considerable degree, its perimeter architecture of soaring Corinthian columns, exposed brick walls and art glass has been integrated into townhomes that are otherwise new construction.

It is these details that make the building one-of-a-kind, says Jones, whose company is the property‘s marketing firm. “Adaptive reuse is more common where there are vintage buildings, like museums, office buildings, schools and even churches,” he remarks. “These are pre-war buildings, in which there was a lot more attention to detail than there was in buildings after World War II.”

A number of challenges arose in turning a structure built for one purpose into a building designed for a very different one. One of the major hurdles was excavating a parking garage under the structure. “It may have been divine intervention,” Jones says of the effort that resulted in just enough room for two parking stalls per unit, plus storage and HVAC system.

All the infrastructure for The Sanctuary was contained between the parking structure beneath the building and the church’s original stained glass dome, which is now the grand atrium of the residential building, Jones adds.

The massive historic stained glass windows of the structure presented their own set of challenges. “While they must be preserved, and are beautiful from the outside, we knew for market acceptance there would have to be an increase in vision glass to allow natural light,” Jones says. “Our contractors and construction management team were successful in getting approval to add a slider system allowing the stained glass to be slid to one side to expose brand new vision glass with operable window systems.”

The dozen townhomes range in size from 1,638 square feet to more than 3,500 square feet on three, four and even five levels, including loft areas. Each home has its own individual front door to the street, but during the inclement weather for which Seattle is known, residents can park their vehicles in the subterranean garage and access their homes through the building’s grand atrium, Jones says.

Prices range from approximately $500,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the size of the townhome and its views. Because of the unit sizes, “these effectively compete with single-family homes in the neighborhood,” Jones says.

“Everyone is thrilled that the building will be preserved forever, with the caring and thoughtfulness of residential use,” he adds. “While it’s been a couple of years in construction, there’s been a lot of anticipation for this product, because there hasn’t been any new construction in downtown Seattle since 2007, and because the product is inherently unique.”

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