Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses - apartment houses

Designers: Chin-Ley/Reche Associates, Architects (firm); Weber + Thompson, PLLC (firm); Sergio Chin-Ley (architect); Reche (architect); Scott E. Thompson (architect); Blaine Jeffrey Weber (architect)

Dates: constructed 2012-2014

7 stories, total floor area: 103,100 sq. ft.

1530 11TH Avenue
Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA


Seattle architect Weber + Thompson PLLC designed this apartment building for the real estate private equity firm, The Wolff Company. Wolff purchased the former Sunset Electric Building in 2012 for $6.9 million, removed the interior, and put up a glazed seven-story tower behind the existing brick facade.

Building History

The current Sunset Electric Apartment building was named for the preceding two-story brick building, a multi-purpose commercial block, the Sunset Electric Building. The latter was erected after a Halloween 1925 fire destroyed the three-story Winton Building that stood on the site for nine years. Sunset Electric was the first tenant of the new building designed by the Seattle architectural firm, Stuart and Wheatley. Sunset stayed here from 1926 into the 1930s, when it was replaced by several other businesses. By the early 2000s, the building had become a marginal property. Seattle development firm Pryde + Johnson, very active in the early-to-mid 2000s building apartments, bought the property for $2.9 million. They proceeded with plans to erect a 6-floor, 89-unit apartment building on the site, obtaining a master use permit (MUP) to build, when the 2008 Recession caused their business to collapse. They were forced to sell two properties to Scottsdale, AZ-based developer, The Wolff Company, the Sunset property and the former BMW Seattle dealership on Pike Street. Wolff paid Pryde + Johnson $6.67 million for the Sunset site and received their still viable MUP.

In 2012, Wolff demolished the interior of the Sunset Electric Building, and commissioned Weber + Thompson, PLLC, to design a new apartment tower to fit in behind the remaining brick facade. Weber + Thompson has had experience designing facadescrapers before, having produced the Cristalla Condominiums at 2021 2nd Avenue in Downtown Seattle. At Cristalla, Weber + Thompson created a discordant combination of a looming 23-story, 197-unit, steel-and-glass high-rise with the small-scale and delicacy of B. Marcus Priteca's Crystal Swimming Pool facade. Facade and tower fit together better in the Sunset Electric Apartments and blended more capably into the existing context, because of the smaller scale of the added tower, its very muted color, and its fenestration which mimicked the warehouse/commercial vernacular of this part of Capitol Hill. The windows of the new tower emulated in proportion metal sash windows of 1920s warehouses and factories.

To their credit, Wolff and Weber + Thompson produced a LEED Platinum building, the highest and most stringent rating within the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)certification program. Achieving this standard would help the developer sell units in the liberal and environmentally-conscious Capitol Hill neighborhood and would lessen resistance to gutting a possible landmark. They achieved this rating through a variety of means. The reuse of the facade provided extra points and the employment of a courtyard plan allowed for single-loaded corridors that could enable natural lighting and cross-ventilation for all units. A stairway was situated prominently to encourage walking up stairs rather than using elevators. The architects also utilized other technological, energy-saving features, including a reverse-cycle chiller system drawing on the underground garage's thermally-insulated air temperatures to supplement electric water heaters. Additionally, LEED points were racked up using drought tolerant plants instead of more conventional sprinkled landscaping choices.

The developers utilized various green-building financial incentives offered by the city and other government entities. The Wolff Company participated in the City of Seattle's Priority Green Pilot Program, that offered developers fast-track permitting and inspection timelines and better communication with city government officials. The architect and developer also utilized grants from the Seattle municipal power company, Seattle City Light, and the Bonneville Power Administration.

In 05/2014, restaurateur Paul Reder announced his plans for a new brew house restaurant, Stout, that would open in the 5,700-square-foot retail space on the Sunset Electric Apartment's first floor. He was the operator of the successful Tap House Grill at 1506 6th Avenue. He commissioned the architectural firm ofChin-Ley/Reche Associates to design Stout's interior.

Building Notes

As built, the Sunset Electric Apartments contained 92 units, with an assortment of studio, 1- and 2-bedroom configurations. Average size of each unit was 580 square feet. (According to King County Assessor records in 2015, five apartments contained a tiny 358 square feet while the majority of the units (87) were 1-bedroom, 1-bath apartments with 600 square feet. This contradicted Weber + Thompson's web site that indicated the building also contained 2-bedroom units.)

The Sunset Electric Apartments occupied a 14,404-square-foot (0.33-acre) site, and contained 103,100 gross square feet, 61,390 net. A first-floor retail space had 7,400 feet of space. The sub-grade garage contained space for 34 vehicles.