Selecting a project of the year from the crop of already-chosen winners is often the toughest task of a design awards jury. Not this year, though. With little debate, the judges boosted Poulsbo Place in Poulsbo, Wash., from grand prize in the single-family production, detached, category to project of the year. Its smart land planning and charming cottages won them over handily. "It has a collective quality that's wonderful to see," said one judge.
Developer Security Properties wanted to create a community with an old-fashioned feel on this former military housing site. They'd pinpointed an underserved market: empty nesters and retirees who didn't want or couldn't afford to live in pricey Seattle, a half-hour ferryboat ride away. And they knew that, in order to keep prices down and to comply with the state of Washington's new growth management laws, they'd have to make the project fairly dense. So they turned to MITHUN, the venerable Seattle firm famous for its innovative treatments of high-density housing.
For the overall master plan of Poulsbo Place, the team at MITHUN--architects Bill Kreager, AIA, and Dick Bruskrud, land planner Bryon Ziegler, and landscape architect Margarett Harrison--designed a site plan that would allow nearly 14 detached units to the acre. Their secret? Efficient land use and innovative parking solutions. Phase One, for example, the only completely built phase, contains 45 cottages that are grouped around six pocket parks. The parks give each household direct access to common green space, eliminating the need for large yards. Some of the units face the parks; the residents of these courtyard homes park their cars in nearby three-to-six-car garages. The rest of the cottages face the street and contain an attached single-car garage.
Kreager acknowledges that designing an aesthetically appealing community at a density this high isn't easy. "There are a lot of things you can do that actually end up emphasizing the density," he says. "If you have too much variety in the elevation styles and colors, that can happen. Or, if you have too much uniformity, it starts to look almost like an attached product." He followed his own advice, designing two elevations and two floor plans for the cottage phase. The detailing on both elevations is simple, in a New England Cape Cod fashion rather than the more intricate Craftsman-style character that's prevalent in the area. "I like the restraint shown here," said one judge. "When you keep it simple like this, you can repeat the elevations again and again and it doesn't get old."
Thanks to MITHUN's careful planning, Poulsbo Place prices have remained within reach of its target market. The cottages sold for $149,000 to $180,000 per unit, and Kreager estimates that the same units would go for $300,000-plus in Seattle. Phases Two, Three, and Four will include larger courtyard homes, duplexes, and alley-loaded units for a total of 164 units.
project architect: Dick Bruskrud, MITHUN
land planner: Bryon Ziegler, MITHUN
developer: Tom Curran, Security Properties, Seattle
general contractor: Tom Curran, SP Poulsbo GP1, Seattle
landscape architect: Margarett Harrison, MITHUN
interior designer: Karen DeGrace, Little Secrets, Seattle
project size: 870 to 1,265 square feet per unit
site size: 17.3 acres (total project)
construction cost: $73 per square foot
sales price: $149,000 to $180,000 per unit
units in project: 45
Note: all figures are for phase 1 only; except where indicated