It’s not every day that a building gets built with attention and care to not only the environment but also to the community in which it resides. But for Elaine Nonneman, pursuing these values was a priority from the start. “Everything is tied together,” Elaine said, referring to her vision to create a building that was affordable and accessible to a range of people as well as having a small impact on the planet. Her vision came together in Julia Place, a five-unit apartment building located in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle. When Elaine began the project just over a year ago, her niece, Julia, was battling cancer. Elaine was able to share her vision and the designs for the building with her niece before she passed away. The project became Julia Place, a legacy and honor to values and life.
Elaine’s background is in non-profit work so Julia Place was her first commercial venture. When the economy shifted, Elaine recognized the need to diversify her investments and began to consider real estate as an asset that would hold its value. Her original idea was to create a center for non-profits where resources and ideas could be shared but she had a difficult time finding a suitable lot to fit this project. She was however able to find a lot well suited for a multi-family project and Julia Place emerged.
As the design phase began, Elaine looked back to drafting classes that she had taken several years ago. She fondly remembered lessons in designing for solar and renewable energy and began incorporating some of these elements. She was also interested in rain harvesting and solar hot water. With the vision beginning to formulate, Elaine began working with Mark Wierenga and David Vandervort of David Vandervort Architects to design the building and the systems. She then chose Dovetail General Contractors to execute the design and craft a building Elaine would be proud of. Imaginenergy, a Portland based company, has worked to optimize the performance of the mechanical and heating systems. Julia Place will achieve Built Green 5 Star rating. Elaine was grateful for the expertise of the team that was put together and knowing that she could rely on their knowledge
and innovation to fulfill her vision.
While the environmental component of the project was integral, Elaine saw the importance of the social impact of Julia Place as well. As more and more gentrification occurs in Seattle, Elaine wanted to make sure that she considered the history of the area in order to build a building that aesthetically fit into the existing neighborhood as well as was affordable to the original residents of the area. To reach this goal, three units are intended to rent at 30-50% of median income. She is also designing the building with one fully ADA accessible unit. Elaine has attended neighborhood meetings where she has introduced the project to the community and so far, the response has been very positive.
Julia Place is scheduled to open its doors in early summer. Five fortunate people will have the opportunity to live in a building designed and constructed with intention and care throughout every step of the process. While it’s unlikely that Elaine will pursue any more development projects, she is looking forward to Julia Place’s potential, for both the residents living in the building and the neighborhood in which it belongs, which happens to be her neighborhood as well. Elaine lives within walking distance of the building so don’t be surprised if you walk by the building and see Elaine working out in Julia Place’s garden.