Build Urban makes the most out of a limited amount of land in Seattle by delivering creative developments.
AS MANY homebuilders were struggling to survive the Great Recession back in 2009, Ed Gallaudet was busy taking advantage of decreased prices on distressed sites throughout Seattle after launching Build Urban LLC. It wasn’t easy, but by weathering the storm in those lean early years, Gallaudet and his startup homebuilding firm were ready with product for new homebuyers once the economy returned to normal in 2011.
“I formed Build Urban in 2009 to take advantage of the downturn in the market,” Gallaudet says. “Certainly in 2009 and ’10, the biggest challenge was access to capital. Back then, we had a ready supply of land to do small infill sites, but everyone was selling and no one had the capital available to purchase. In 2011 and ’12, we crossed the hurdle with greater access to capital for land acquisition and business started to get going.”
Before launching Build Urban, Gallaudet worked in mortgage banking, construction financing, commercial and retail development, land acquisition, and infill development. Gallaudet began building with a small Tacoma, Wash., remodel before moving into new single family homes, townhouses, row homes and apartment buildings.
Build Urban provides real estate development services from land use consulting through final sale or stabilization. The company works with clients from the initial planning and design of a project through the completion of construction.
The company’s design department delivers organic site planning and massing, simple and open floor plans, an abundance of natural light and locally sourced materials. Build Urban’s projects are sustainable, local, urban and contemporary.
Today, Build Urban’s construction team builds the company’s projects with a predictable cost and a consistent schedule. Lean building practices also give Build Urban strong relationships with a small number of trades. The company also has skills in real estate transactions, zoning analysis, site analysis, permitting, financing, budgeting, design and construction management to assists its clients.
“We go through regular training as a group, which keeps us on the same page and allows us to have an understanding of
how each team member contributes to the project as a whole,” Gallaudet says.
Right in the Wheelhouse
Wheelhouse is a small urban infill project in Seattle that best exemplifies what Build Urban can deliver. Named for a baseball term because the site once was home of the training facility for the Seattle Rainiers minor league baseball team, Wheelhouse has four detached single family homes in the Mount Baker neighborhood of Seattle.
Wheelhouse’s layout is similar to an older cottage cluster with a pedestrian pathway and lush landscaping but with a contemporary edge. Each unit was custom designed to take advantage of views and relation to the landscape corridor. Third-floor decks take advantage of views of Rainier Valley and downtown Seattle, and on-site parking is provided for each unit.
When Build Urban purchased the site, the existing house on it had been used as a duplex and the back half of the site was zoned for dense, low-rise structures.
Build Urban revamped the existing structure to make it a legal duplex. The company also ehabbed the home by adding new plumbing and wiring. The company also bought and developed five new detached homes ranging in size between 1,300 and 1,450 square feet.
“We started out with one house and ended up with seven units to sell when it was finished,” Gallaudet says. “This was unique as the site was split zoned and you don’t see two different codes on one site very often. Also, it was unique in that it is the only time we were able to get five detached houses in a spot like that.”
Wheelhouse caught the attention of the homebuilding industry – it earned a Gold design award from Professional Builder magazine in fall 2014 for its distinctiveness and creative design. Gallaudet says the highest praise the earned was a comparison to the work of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
“If we’re considered following Frank Lloyd Wright, I’ll always take that comparison as a compliment” Gallaudet says. “A dense layout combined with detached homes was well received. It is not easy to do in Seattle, so if we could do it in another project, we would certainly do it again.”
For the foreseeable future, Gallaudet would like to see Build Urban continue on its current path while moving into the apartment side of construction.