All Articles on Lakeview Townhomes


Construction started on the Lakeview Townhomes community in the summer of 2008. Architect Sean Bell helped developer Justin Bloch find the ideal site—a large hillside lot overlooking downtown Seattle and Lake Union. The 0.18-acre lot had a single house on it, but was close enough to commercial properties that getting approvals for subdividing the site into five residences was no problem. Taking advantage of a location near the central business district and spectacular views, Bell designed multilevel houses averaging around 1,500 square feet with open, flexible public spaces and steel-framed window walls to soak in sun and vistas. The target buyers were young professionals, so high-end yet hip industrial materials such as concrete, steel, and natural wood adorn interiors and exteriors.

“A few months after we broke ground, Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 and, well, you know the rest,” Bell says. “It was clear that the housing market was going to be substantially different than what Bloch had planned, but to his credit he stayed with most of the original design intent, making only a few adjustments to finishes and downsizing the workforce to cut costs.” That original intent was to create a community of homes that offered buyers stunning views, easy commutes, indoor/outdoor living, energy efficiency, and an edgy look built with low-maintenance, natural, nontoxic, and durable materials. Sticking with those goals and refusing to value engineer the uncommon design benefitted Bloch. He was able to survive the downturn by renting the uncommon dwellings until the market picked up.

One of the ways that Bloch was able to maintain innovative features within a more restricted budget was by hiring Bell to fabricate them. “I had an intimate knowledge of many of the details and construction methods,” Bell explains, “so I, along with an assistant, built the very complex poplar stairways, installed the kitchen cabinetry, and even did finish welding.” Bell also designed most of the outdoor spaces. The steep site demanded a lot of hardscaping while Seattle codes require a yard of at least 300 square feet that’s not within direct sightlines of any other unit. Bell used the sloping geography to generate private outdoor areas that exceed codes in size and function as extensions of indoor living. He continued the warm industrial look throughout exterior spaces using metal cages filled with smooth stones to define terraces. Hidden among the rocks are cedar planters with ornamental grasses and other tall plantings as screens. “I wanted to produce the effect of plants floating in a sea of stones,” he describes.

Bloch’s choice to stick with the lofty design, lush yet durable materials, and custom elements was worth the investment. Once housing prices started to climb again and the market turned around, he placed the units up for sale. Those slightly more expensive finishes like concrete floors, stainless steel cabinets, bamboo countertops, and wood walls also survived the downturn by maintaining their natural good looks. All five townhomes quickly sold out.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.