A new 3-story mixed-use building is going up at 100 NE 45th St. Demolition of the existing building (a satellite space rented by Seattle Stained Glass) is scheduled to begin this week. The new structure will be a modern Seattle-style box consisting of 4 live/work units and 2 residential townhomes. Roland Development is spearheading the project.
Live/work units are essentially condos stacked on top of a ground floor that is intended to function as a small office or studio. The idea is to attract small business owners to live directly above their licensed and operational business. This type of setup is attractive to telecommuters, solo practitioners, artists, and the like. The reality is more complicated and controversial.
Seattle Stained Glass Forced to Consolidate
Until last spring, Seattle Stained Glass rented the satellite building for their retail operation and classes. Now all of their business is back in the main building next door at 2510 N. 45th St. Despite the forced consolidation, Seattle Stained Glass is committed to providing all of the same retail services, classes, and workshops that used to span between the two buildings.
Live/Work or Just Live?
Development of live/work spaces on commercial blocks is a new trend with dubious results. Ideally, the arrangement creates density, eliminates commutes, and encourages establishment of small businesses in walkable neighborhoods. Think about going full circle to the old days of a shopkeeper living above their store. However, the reality is that nowadays there is no shop. New live/work spaces rarely create a business that are open to the public and oftentimes function only as expensive apartments. Developers like this model because they get to sell commercial space while canceling out the risk of dedicated retail storefronts sitting empty.
In 2011 the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee expressed serious concern that many live/work spaces didn’t contain any business at all.
Live-work units must include a business with a business license. However, in a 2011 survey of live-work units my office performed, it was revealed that few units have a valid business license. Most were being used as apartments, generating no business activity that could activate the streets upon which the units were located. Council Connection Blog
45th Street Loses Retail Space
It’s concerning that this development eliminates a commercial retail building along 45th Street. Yes, this project will increase density. Yes, a few people will get a good setup for working from home. But this comes at a price. Interrupting commercial flow along the street is not in the community’s interest. It’s inevitable that 45th Street will face heavy redevelopment as the city grows. However, we should at least expect new buildings on the main drag to include commercial retail space at the sidewalk level.