Bremer Apartments: 2022 Outstanding Stewardship Award
Congratulations to The Bremer Apartments!
The Bremer Apartments, located in Belltown at 1st Avenue and Broad Street, was constructed in 1925 for client George Bremer and designed by architect Max Allen Van House. Today, the Bremer is one of a diminishing number of character buildings still standing in the neighborhood.
Van House had worked previously in Tacoma, Washington, and Butte, Montana. He was the architect of many notable buildings in Seattle across several styles, including The Mission Inn, 1743 Boylston Ave., The Ellenbert Apartments, 915 East Harrison St., The Bering Apartments, 233 14th Ave. E., and The Seaview Apartments.
Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing) acquired the 49-unit property for use as affordable housing in 1992 and oversaw a minor rehabilitation at that time, which included the provision of new plumbing systems, plumbing ﬁxtures, lighting, interior ﬁnish improvements, and energy-efficient window upgrades.
In 2018, the nearly 100-year-old apartments were deemed “high-risk” in the event of an earthquake by the City of Seattle. In a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the more recent rehabilitation included a voluntary seismic retroﬁt to address the building’s unique wood-framed, load-bearing structure and double wythe masonry veneer, stabilizing the veneer and the parapet against the effects of a seismic event and protecting the life safety of residents and community.
The project was a substantial alteration, and key life-safety elements of the building were brought into compliance with current building and energy code requirements. In addition to the seismic improvement, the building’s electrical, heating, plumbing, and ventilation systems were signiﬁcantly upgraded. Extensive demolition was required in dwelling units to facilitate the seismic retroﬁt work and to accommodate the required envelope and systems improvements. While this resulted in the loss of some original features within the units, considerable effort was made to maintain or restore the common areas, including the principal stairwell and its 1st Avenue windows which were replaced with wood windows.
The Bremer Apartments rehabilitation illustrates how historic preservation can be used as a strategy for retaining affordable housing while, at the same time, addressing the critical issue of the climate crisis through the utilization of the embodied carbon already extant in the building. Belltown, like so many neighborhoods in the Seattle metro area, is seeing signiﬁcant development and related increases in housing costs. Retention of affordable units through preservation is a vital way to keep communities economically diverse and maintain units proximate to employment, city services, and amenities. Community Roots Housing’s commitment to minimizing displacement through reinvestment in existing structures serves to retain both the character of our neighborhoods and our communities.
Congratulations to The Bremer Apartments project team, one of two winners of the 2022 Outstanding Stewardship Award!
Owner: Community Roots Housing
Architect: SMR Architects
Structural Engineer: Swenson Say Fagét
Mechanical Engineer: Sider + Byers
Electrical Engineer: TFWB
General Contractor: Buchanan General Contracting Company
Images courtesy of Community Roots Housing