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Seattle’s Live/Work Oasis

Posted by Johnine Larsen on June 19, 2019
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Urban Trees

Update: We just put one of Urban Tree’s live-work spaces on the market: a 2-bed, 2.5-bath townhouse (1818 E Yesler). It’s a sleek, loft-style home with an open and customizable floor plan, flooded with natural light, double-height ceilings, and 5 levels of multi-faceted living spaces. The townhouse has incredible views of the city skyline, mountains, and Puget Sound and three balconies to make the most of it.

We wrote about live-work spaces last month, and sure enough, we’re now experiencing the “selection effect”—that phenomenon where, for instance, you buy a car and then start seeing other cars like yours everywhere. We can’t get away from live-work spaces. On the street, on the MLS, in our newsfeeds. We see them everywhere. We won’t show you all the live-work spaces throughout Seattle, this new class of home that most people overlook—just the one. The one group of live-work spaces we can’t stop admiring.

These are the quintessential live-work spaces. An AIA award-winning group of homes, featured in both Seattle Met and Curbed, these live-work spaces even have green materials, low energy costs, and a walkable location right on Yesler and 19th. Entrepreneurs, startup owners, self-employed, small business owners, meet “Urban Trees.”

Urban Trees consists of 11 units: five live-work homes and six residential townhouses. A common outdoor space divides the two halves as a sort of private park, and according to the people who live there, the common area succeeds in building community and making people comfortable.

First, the homes. The work-part occupies the ground floor, and the live-part happens above. Each home is unique with different bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, stories, and layouts. Nothing in Urban Trees comes cookie-cutter. The facades blend materials and colors in a striking take on Northwest Contemporary. These buildings stand out in a good way, and they still feel home-sweet-home-y. It’s not just us who think so; the design won the AIA Future Shack Award in 2009. Step inside, and you meet real-world Instagram in the form of hardwood floors, lots of natural light, and some Bauhaus-inspired lines and arrangements. It’s a dream.

Each home has decks and windows that look out on the outdoor common space, which Urban Trees calls a “woonerf” (a term and concept borrowed from the Dutch). The woonerf/courtyard/private park lives in the middle of the homes like an oasis in the city. Sunlight pools amid grass, gardens, and all sorts of trees. Cherry, linden, maple, and black hawthorn trees all beautify the space. It’s a place for kids, barbecues, evening chats, and peace. In the middle of Seattle’s bustle, you get privacy.

Green matters at Urban Trees (it’s aptly named) not just with the woonerf, but with green materials, such as façade panels of seasoned fir boards reclaimed from old buildings, floors made from recycled pallets, and concrete courtyard pavers recovered from a car dealer’s surplus. Solar-heated water and hydronic heat continue that environmental consciousness, as well as giving residents low energy bills.

Urban Trees is located on Yesler Way and 19th Ave. Broadcast Coffee sits half a block away, and in a three-block radius, you can walk to more craft coffeeshops, 5-star local restaurants, a grocery store, and three parks (if you need even more greenspace). Widen that circle slightly, and residents can access Capitol Hill’s nightlife, First Hill and its hospital jobs, Seattle University, the International District, and downtown Seattle without the hassle of traffic and parking. Let’s keep going, beyond walking distance. Myriad bus lines pass near Urban Trees, and a streetcar stops five blocks away at Yesler and 14th. You can get almost anywhere in the city, no car needed.

Am I daydreaming of these live-work homes? You bet I am. Urban Trees, built in 2008 by b9 architects, set the bar for new live-work spaces when it hit the scene. In fact, it’s still the bar. Our live-work “selection effect” has give us lots of other spaces to compare this to in the past month, and… Urban Trees is the best. There’s nothing else to say.

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