Case Studies

The Murray Franklyn Family of Companies

Constructing Terravita Luxury Apartments

The Murray Franklyn Family of Companies’ (MFC) team has been building dream homes and communities in highly desirable neighborhoods for over 46 years. While MFC may be best known for its single-family developments, the company is also active in the multifamily sector, leveraging decades of experience and a reputation for thoughtful design to deliver high-flying style to urban areas.

Terravita Luxury Apartments (Terravita) is one of MFC’s latest developments, combining a wealth of amenities with efficient living spaces to become an anchor of Seattle’s Capitol Hill community. Terravita is a mixed-use development with 108 apartment units on six stories sitting atop two-and-a-half levels of underground parking, totaling over 110 spaces. Construction lasted a little less than 16 months, with the property’s development beginning in late 2006 and its grand opening for occupancy the first of June 2012. The existing building on site was demolished in late 2007, and sat unused until February 2011 due to the economic downturn.

Finally after over four years of vacancy, a few community-organized garage sales, a number of community meetings and one guerilla dance party, MFC modified its design slightly to ensure Terravita would meet the community’s requirements. Terravita’s façade was modified with more brick, metal and cement paneling along with cast-in-place concrete for the structure’s base to achieve better scale with the surrounding buildings. An outdoor piazza was added to create additional communal gathering space. The project’s architect, Weber & Thompson, also boosted ground-level planting volume and revised the design to include a small garden pathway leading to a two-story glass walled lobby with a gatehouse feature to clearly delineate the building’s entrance.

Ground floor units will share an outdoor green space with a small path leading to a secured metal fence leading directly to the sidewalk, which also serves as a buffer between Terravita and the adjacent buildings. A second-floor rooftop terrace with ample plantings will provide additional gathering space as will a separate rooftop deck that will also ensure the building’s uppermost levels scale back appropriately.

Seizing the Opportunity

The pressure was on for MFC to move quickly once the new design had been approved, but it’s far from the company’s first rodeo; the project’s team took multiple precautions to ensure construction stayed on schedule. MFC owns the development and leveraged its team of construction professionals to provide project management services; the company also acted as the general contractor for the project as well. “The key for us is to always hire professionals who can perform on the schedule we need and we had some really top-notch teams for this project,” admits Paul Buchanan, project manager at MFC.

The key for MFC’s projects is finding a balance between qualified and cost-competitive subcontractors. Every MFC project involves a handful of specialists with long histories of success on MFC projects that set the tone for the influx of qualified newcomers. In the case of Terravita, the extra attention to assembling the right team allowed the earliest stage of construction to be one of the most challenging.

“We knew that the water table was just two feet below the lowest level of our excavation from our preliminary soil reports,” says Buchanan, “but we took many precautions to make sure everything went well,” he continues. The team essentially built the underground parking levels as a self contained and watertight unit, or concrete boat. Extensive soil nailed shoring was employed to stabilize the site during excavation and a layer of waterproofing was sandwiched in between layers of soil nailing and waterproof concrete. The waterproof concrete created a tightly sealed parking area, but the constant flow of groundwater around the underground parking structure ultimately called for a permanent pump to be installed, as a precaution.

Style, Substance and Sustainability

Above ground the apartments are finished using a mix of high-end amenities and highly eco-conscious materials. Residents have access to a fitness center on the ground floor as well as a game room with a pool table and an Xbox 360 with Kinect. The facility also has two 60-inch plasma screen televisions in the clubroom down the hall and five other televisions in the amenity spaces, providing a multitude of streamed viewing options through Apple TV.

Many of the studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units 9-foot ceilings, private balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows. All the units come with in-unit washers and dryers as well as stainless steel kitchen appliances that are all Energy Star rated. Additionally, granite tiled counters provide the high-end, durable finish of granite with less waste generated.

The development’s proximity to major public transit lines and local commercial enterprises – like the famous Stumptown Coffee Shop – allows residents to drive less and live more. In fact the property snagged a rating of 95 from Walk Score, which rates properties based on its proximity to shops and services, including public transit and bike paths.

The multifamily market is heating up for the Seattle area, as over 50 percent of Terravita’s units were preleased ahead of occupancy and many of the most desirable units being gobbled up after hard-hat tours. “Apartments are hot right now and we’re definitely not done in the multifamily market,” admits Buchanan. “We have one other development in the pipeline already and sales even on the single-family side seem to be picking up.”

Bolstered by 46 years in the homebuilding industry, MFC has the experience, patience and flexibility to tweak developments according to changing market needs. As the economy continues to show signs of improvement, The Murray Franklyn Family of Companies and Terravita Luxury Apartments will set a new standard for thoughtful design that breathes new life into the surrounding community.

Published on: March 13, 2013


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