City Hall

We Tour Seattle's Alturra aPodments

We take a tour of Capitol Hill's Alturra aPodments.

By Carryn Vande Griend March 29, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, I took a tour of the Capitol Hill aPodment building, Alturra. One resident was gracious enough to let me take a look at his place, and sure enough, it wasn’t the cramped cubicle living I had expected.

In fact, Alturra resident Jason Jacobs lives in the building’s very top loft space, which makes for a great view of the city. 

His aPodment isn't cheap (at $1,250 a month, it's the building's most expensive unit; the cheapest go for about $700), but given the convenient location, and the fact that the rent includes utilities, WiFi, and a very short-term lease, the short tour got me thinking—maybe there are other options for 20-somethings who don’t want to sardine themselves in old, dilapidated houses with a ton of roommates (and are savvy at using limited space well).

Alturra is a bit different from the other aPodments. Its location makes it pricier than other developments. In all, eight people live in Jacobs' tower, and 60 people live in the aPodment complex overall. That makes eight people using the same common area, deck, laundry room and kitchen (which a janitorial service comes by to clean weekly).

“Not everyone uses the [shared] space at once,” Jacobs said. “Usually I don’t have to share the kitchen at all.” Jacobs, who has his own refrigerator, microwave, and kitchen sink in the room, spends most of his meals in his suite.

Jacobs previously lived in similar housing in San Francisco and most recently lived in Centro, another Capitol Hill aPodment building.

“There’s a sense of community [at Alturra]. Everyone’s very respectful. I see people pretty often. We look out for each other,” he said. “I often have a glass of wine on the deck with my neighbors, it’s great.” And the views aren’t half bad.

Jacobs' apartment is small—about 350-400 square feet—but he uses the space efficiently. “I did have to buy some new furniture [before moving in]”, said Jacobs, “But it’s good to downsize.”

For instance, his couch turns into a bed for guests, and although the aPodment came with two chairs and a table, Jacobs opted for a more space efficient tall-table option.

The formula seems to be working. Calhoun Properties, owner of the aPodment buildings, have a vacancy rate of basically zero, Jacobs said, The three months down, then month-to-month rent also means it’s a flexible option for people in transition who don’t want to be pinned down by a year’s lease.

And despite the narrow stairway, Jacobs said he had no problem on move-in day. “The landlords are flexible with moving,” he said. When he and his neighbors moved in, the landlord blocked off the street for moving trucks. The building also has 24-hour surveillance and security access.

There isn’t any on-site parking, but Jacobs says that’s not an issue. “Ninety-five percent of residents don’t have cars,” he said. Alturra’s proximity to Broadway, bus lines, and the light rail tunnel make it easy to get around. “And I usually see about 10 Car2Gos on my block.

APodments are a lot like Car-to-Go, actually. They’re small, convenient and accessible, especially for people on the move.

But Seattle residents haven’t fully gotten on board with either. As we've reported, some neighborhood activists have opposed aPodments, arguing that they displace existing single-family housing and skirt city laws requiring design review for large new multifamily developments. 

But despite that opposition, the demand for aPodments remains high for young city-dwellers looking for relief from notoriously high Seattle rent. Jacobs’ only complaint: “Not enough cupboard space."

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