I just drove by it today and they're to floor 19, the core that is...
The skinny on `pencil tower'
by David A. Grant
It's been dubbed ``Euro tower'' by city planners, ``point tower'' by the architect who designed it and ``pencil'' or ``wafer'' tower by others.
Whatever the name, a 20-story condominium tower proposed for downtown Bellevue is one slim building.
How lean is it?
It's so skinny that the lot on which it may someday be built is just 5,682 square feet in size, smaller than a typical single-family house lot in Bellevue.
It's so skinny there will be just one condo per floor -- a total of 18.
It's so skinny that instead of a conventional underground parking garage, there's only room for a robotic parking system that does everything for car owners but warm up the engine.
Jeffrey Hummel, the Seattle architect who designed the building, said tall, thin buildings and automated parking systems are more common in Asia and Europe, where buildable land is scarce.
But it's a first for Bellevue, said Hummel, who has located only two such parking systems in the entire nation -- neither of them on the West Coast.
``It's driven a lot by its constraints,'' Hummel said of the project at Northeast 10th Street and 110th Avenue Northeast. ``It's a small site. To bring it to its highest and best use we had to figure out how to get value out of it.''
``We wondered how to make high density work on a little tiny site. You do it with the parking system. Also, by pushing the tower up you get high value out of the upper floors'' with better views.
An underground parking lot with a ramp takes up too much space, Hummel said, so he decided on the mechanical system that will accommodate 32 cars, requires no ramp and no employee to park the cars.
He described the underground parking system this way: A condo resident drives his or her car into an elevator ``portal,'' gets out and uses a key card to activate the system.
The car, sitting on a ``pallet,'' descends to a parking garage where the ``mechanical parking system,'' as Hummel describes it, lifts the pallet and car out and deposits them into a ``cubbyhole.''
To retrieve their car, the owner simply swipes the key card and the vehicle appears at street level, ready to roll.
``It's like a candy machine where you push the button and you watch while it delivers the snack. You push A3 and out pops your car,'' Hummel said.
Located at the corner of a narrow block, the tiny site is now occupied by a small single-family house that contains a dental practice.
The first floor of the building will contain a lobby, Hummel said, with an exercise room on the second floor and condos beginning on the third.
Units will range in size from 1,260 square feet on the lower floors to 1,600 square feet on the top five stories.
Prices will start at $400,000 and rise to $1.4 million for a penthouse with roof access.
Hummel estimates the total cost of the project at $8.7 million, a modest amount for a 200-foot tall, concrete frame building.
In contrast, a proposed project a few blocks away known as Bellevue Towers calls for 480 condominiums in two 40-story towers at an estimated cost of $325 million.
The owners of the property are a Russian developer named Igor Gershman and his son, Eugene, who lives in Bellevue, Hummel said.
A partnership headed by Eugene Gershman purchased the lot in April for $1.3 million from David Myaskovasky, who bought it for $400,000 in 1998.
Hummel said the new property owners are willing to try something different, even though some people have expressed skepticism about the skinny building.
``They don't immediately jump to the conclusion it can't be done,'' Hummel said of the Gershmans.
David Grant can be reached at [email protected]