Belltown project seeks to be a ‘timeless anchor on the block’

Four years ago, GEM Real Estate Partners paid about $1.75 million for a midblock site at 2218 First Ave. in Belltown. A proposed new apartment building has a design recommendation meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., Room L280.

Caron Architecture has now replaced Heliotrope Architects, which took the project through two early design guidance meetings in 2017.

The eight-story building would have 59 units on the upper floors: seven small efficiency dwelling units; 28 efficiency dwelling units, which are a little larger; and 24 one- and two-bedrooms, which would be larger still. (Individual sizes aren’t specified.)

A restaurant is indicated for the 3,635 square feet of commercial space, which includes the basement.

No parking is required or provided. A bike room at grade would have 30 stalls, with its entrance on the alley to the east. A bike- and dog-washing area is also indicated.

The 6,570-square-foot midblock property has an old warehouse, once home to the nightclub Tia Lou, now used as an events space. It’ll be removed. The site is on the west side of First, between Bell and Blanchard streets. Its near neighbors, north and south, are the restaurants Local 360 and Amber.

The design for 2218 First, with its regular grid pattern of windows and bays, hasn’t changed much with the new architect. Caron says the mullioned windows refer to historic warehouse style seen on other old Belltown structures.

Caron writes, “Many of Seattle’s finest historic architecture is schematically quite simple, while excelling in quality of material, execution, and the craft of detail. Our proposal follows the tradition of these ‘fabric’ buildings but with contemporary expression, a keen eye for proportion and shadow, and elegant detailing. Rather than chasing the elusive cutting edge, the proposed building is designed to be a timeless anchor on the block.”

The two floors include four recessed bays that create deck space. A landscaped roof deck for all tenants would have about 400 square feet.

Total project size is about 47,000 square feet. The Mandatory Housing Affordability fee is currently calculated at almost $605,000.

GEM is run by Erich Guenther, Dan Ederer and Collin Madden. Their team for 2218 First also includes KPFF, civil engineer; Site Workshop, landscape architect; and Bush, Roed & Hitchings, surveyor. No general contractor is indicated, and no application for a construction permits is listed. The project isn’t publicly listed for sale.

GEM has, to date, been more of an investor than a builder. Last year it paid some $42 million for the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in Belltown. In 2017, it paid about $16.6 million for the mixed-use Fremont Village Square, where a new 50-unit infill apartment building is planned on a parking lot.

GEM’s hotel plans for the old American Meter building, acquired for $5 million in 2016, were complicated by its subsequent landmarking. After Heliotrope Architects’ tear-down plan for a new hotel at 1001 Westlake Ave. N. was thus prohibited, it created a new preliminary design for an addition; that plan hasn’t yet entered design review.

Brian Miller can be reached by email at or by phone at (206) 219-6517.


Caron Architecture


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