A Changing Way of Thinking Leads to New Residential Spaces

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorAs environmental consciousness, economic prudence and social responsibility become ways of life for many, more developers and builders are drawn to the trend of New Urbanism to suit residents’ lifestyles. In Seattle’s Queen Anne Uptown neighborhood, Landstar Real Estate LLC has considered the principles of New Urbanism and applied them to its Lumen Condos. The 94-unit mixed-use development includes Scandinavian-inspired lofts, condominiums and townhouses, ranging from 500 to 2,000 sq. ft., a 40,000-sq.-ft. QFC grocery store and 35,000 sq. ft. of restaurant and retail space.Alan Winningham, principal for Landstar and project manager for Lumen, explains how this development fits in with many New Urbanism tenets. “There is a demographic trend of smaller households in our country year after year. The result is that the kind of space people are looking for is changing,” he says.1. High Density “Lumen is a catalyst for transforming this neighborhood into a much more dense and livable urban environment,” says Winningham. At Lumen, Landstar has developed a compact living space with moveable walls and beds with large storage spaces built into the frames. The floor plans of the development are small yet space-efficient, but because of Landstar’s focus on high ceilings–18 ft. in some units–tremendous storage and closet space and use of glass throughout the units, the homes feel more spacious than they are. “The floor plans are generally very linear, with flexible space and lots of sliding glass doors that can add to another bedroom or an additional living room. The kitchens are discrete, clean-lined and crisp, without a lot of ornamentation, so the backbones [of the units] become the background for buyers’ customizations,” explains Winningham. “The units have the ability for buyers to change the way they live in the space over the course of time.”Because of the high density of the units, the development itself is extremely compact.  “If this were a traditional suburban neighborhood, we would be consuming about 20 acres in a single-story environment,” says Winningham. Instead, the development is located on one city block.2. Mixed-Use Located in the development is a grocery store and other retail shops that serve not only the residents of Lumen Condos, but also the entire neighborhood. Additionally, Landstar built retail shops on the first and second floors and Winningham notes that plans are in the works to open an Office Max, restaurants and other neighborhood retail stores.3. Urban DesignUrban design principles can be seen in both the development itself and the surrounding neighborhood, particularly in terms of creating a sense of place. In the center of Lumen Condos exists a large open-air interior courtyard, hidden from the street, which Winningham describes as “an urban oasis.” The homes that face the courtyard have either private outdoor living spaces or decks. Those units on the ground floor of the courtyard include moveable glass walls, effectively transforming the living room into additional outdoor space.By keeping the design of the units minimal, Landstar allows for buyers to custom-design their units to their personal tastes. “People who have purchased these homes come with a strong sense of personal design…These homes serve as palettes for residents,” Winningham says.With an emphasis on beauty as an urban design principle, Landstar’s use of glass throughout the building allows it to easily integrate into the established architecture of Seattle Center. “Each street façade [of Lumen] has a different energy and function, built to interface with the neighborhood, and [the project] seems like it belongs there,” Winningham notes.4. Convenience: Walkability and Easily Accessible Public TransportationAdjacent to the Seattle Center and in close proximity to the Space Needle, Lumen Condos is located in the heart of the neighborhood. The planned location of the world headquarters of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is across the street from the development, and the city of Seattle is in the process of redeveloping the block adjacent to the Seattle Center–considered the cultural and community heart of the city–into a new theater district. A large number of residents at Lumen are tech and/or Microsoft employees. To that end, Microsoft is in the process of building a new campus just a few blocks away from Lumen. Google and other tech companies are creating a new technological hub in downtown Seattle, with the result being that residents will be able to walk to work.Additionally, Lumen Condos is located a half block away from the Monorail, which brings commuters to Seattle’s central business district, and two blocks from the streetcar line. Both services will feed directly into the new light rail, and bus lines run directly in front of the building. “This is the most highly serviced residential bus corner in the city,” Winningham says.