September 6, 2013 @ 11:11am | Tim Kelly ~ KPBJ Editor The aim of the Housing Design
The aim of the Housing Design Demonstration Project on Bainbridge
Island was to create incentives for developers to build subdivisions
that offer green and/or affordable housing. Four projects taking
advantage of incentives such as “bonus density” offered by the ordinance
are in different stages of development. Ferncliff Village has completed
24 homes that are now mostly occupied, and the first homeowners are
moving into the GROW Community, which will be the largest of the four,
as it works toward completion of its first phase.
the HDDP, which was adopted in 2009, is set to expire at the end of
this year, but a committee has been working on revisions that will be
presented soon to the City Council, and a reworked ordinance could be
extended for a few more years or made permanent.
“The HDDP’s intent is to allow for clustered housing and preserving
open spaces,” said Mark Blatter, executive director of the nonprofit
Housing Resources Board, which developed Ferncliff Village.
Community land trust
Ferncliff’s first phase showcases that concept, with the two dozen
cottage-style houses on small lots, with a community garden and an open
grassy area in the center of the development. Besides being shared
recreational space for residents, the grassy area also handles
The six-acre site — off Ferncliff Avenue half a mile north of Winslow
Way — was donated to the Housing Resources Board by former City Council
member Lois Curtis. The HRB developed Ferncliff as a community land
trust, which means the nonprofit builds and sells the houses but retains
ownership of the land, with homeowners paying a low-cost, long-term
“That’s part of the way we make it work as affordable housing,” Blatter said.
The two — and three-bedroom houses range from 846 to 1,138 square
feet, and are priced from $195,000 to $220,000. The Ferncliff Village
website says the home prices are more than $50,000 below market value.
Blatter said qualified buyers are those with 80 percent to 120 percent
of the area median income in King County, and additional subsidies are
available for potential Ferncliff homebuyers with incomes below
It’s the only one of the four HDDP developments that meets the affordability goal of the ordinance.
Charlie Wenzlau, a local architect who is Housing Resources Board
chairman and also helped develop the HDDP for the city, explained that
the ordinance has development standards structured in tiers on either a
green building track or an affordability track, though they’re not
“When you go with the affordability track, the green
building requirements are still there but not as onerous,” he said.
So even though Ferncliff put more emphasis on providing affordable
homes, Blatter said the houses also include various energy-efficiency
elements such as ductless heat pumps, Energy Star appliances and
“We think these houses are going to live comfortably and large, even though they are fairly compact,” Blatter said.
Changes at GROW
The GROW Community, located at the corner of Wyatt Way and Grow
Avenue just a couple blocks from downtown Winslow, is on the green track
and has incorporated more extensive sustainability measures, such as
rooftop solar panels and a charging station for a shared electric
vehicle available for residents to use.
Jonathan Davis, the architect who designed the first phase being
built on three acres of the eight-acre GROW site, worked with developer
Asani to create a project meeting One Planet Community standards of
sustainability. BioRegional, the global sustainability organization that
founded the One Planet Living program, announced GROW’s endorsement at
last year’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
had the land and knew we had to do something interesting with it,”
Asani president Marja Preston said. “We came up with this concept for a
One Planet intentional community. The HDDP ordinance the city had fit
very well with that.”
The GROW Community’s first phase will have 44 housing units, with 24
free-standing single-family homes or duplexes that are currently under
construction, plus two buildings each with 10 apartments to rent. A
park/play area space will be at the high side of the site near the Wyatt
Only three houses had residents in August, but Preston said builder
PHC Construction is finishing about three each month, and should have
all of them done early next year. She and Davis are both buying houses
in Phase I.
“Our intent is to create a tight-knit community,” the British-born
Davis said. “We created a place for that to happen. We have the
potential for community here.”
As for the HDDP, he said it’s “a brilliant ordinance” and “what it
allowed us to do that’s most beneficial, is create fee-simple lots for
the homes,” so they could be sold as single-family houses instead of
condominiums, for which it’s harder to get construction financing.
“Our density is no higher than what could have been built here” as apartments and condos, Davis noted.
While he’ll soon be living in the community, Davis won’t be as
involved as the second phase at GROW starts to take shape next year.
Asani decided to rework the types of housing and the site plan for the
other five acres, and held a community meeting this summer to explain
Instead of homes built mostly on small but separate lots, many of the
new units will be in rows of townhouses on the sides of a large central
plaza where a community center will be built.
Davis isn’t critical of the developer’s changes, although he said “I
think Phase 1 and Phase 2 will be two very different communities, with a
different feel to them, and I think different population types.”
He also said that “supposedly what they’re proposing will be more profitable.”
Preston said the rowhouse-style arrangement was adopted in Phase 2
“so we could make better use of the space, to have more usable public
There will also be more garden space, she said, and a wider variety
of unit types and sizes, including single-level homes that will meet the
needs of people interested in an aging-in-place design.
There will be 87 units in Phase 2, the same as in the original design, and the redesigned project will still meet HDDP criteria.
To draw up the new Phase 2 plan, GROW worked with Jim Cutler, a
renowned architect whose office is on Eagle Harbor but whose work for
much of his career has been on projects in distant places.
“For a number of years I eschewed doing any work on Bainbridge
Island,” Cutler said. “The only thing we’ve done was Grace Church.”
The builder he worked with a decade ago on the distinctive church
with its high walls of windows was Marty Sievertson, president of Asani
partner PHC Construction that’s building the homes at GROW. He suggested
bringing in Cutler, who taught a University of Oregon 2012 summer
program in Portland focused on environmental stewardship through design.
Cutler said the challenge at GROW was “I had to generate a site plan
that fulfills all the requirements for family, and for community.”
With a five-acre site to work with, he wondered, “would it be possible to leave three acres open and still fit 87 houses?”
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