Case Studies

Revolve Development

Merging classic features and cutting-edge design in Seattle

Revolve Development was born out of a unique partnership between John Schack and Dugan Earl. An architect and financial expert respectively, the two came together in 2011 to realize their vision of creating more design-forward real estate developments in the Seattle area.

“The idea is to drive value between our collective skillsets and do something that’s developed in balance between both of those worlds,” says John Schack, principal at Revolve.

The Revolve team utilizes a value-first approach to development projects that emphasizes cost-savings considerations right from the outset. “We’re trying to bring value back to the very inception of design and have developed a lot of in-house tools and methods to be able to understand value in the extremely early stages of a project,” says Schack.

Revolve Development

Revolve is on pace to deliver three projects within its first five years in business, including one hotel and two multifamily developments. So far the firm has developed mostly smaller, boutique-type and urban in-fill projects, but hopes to scale up the scope of its efforts in the near future.

“Smaller projects are challenging because you don’t have the scale to offset certain costs, so you have to be more efficient in the resources you use,” Schack says.

At just five employees, the Revolve team is still relatively small, though that could change as the company looks to expand into new markets.

“We’ve been looking at some opportunities in Portland, Oregon, but we try to invest a ton of time understanding the location we’re dealing with to get that level of comfort before starting,” says Schack. “One of our employees currently works in Portland, so we’re trying to establish a foothold and then let that grow organically.”

Peep show to show piece

Revolve’s first project, a 35-unit multifamily development called Yardhouse, was completed in late 2014. Located in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, the LEED Gold-certified development’s unique design is centered on a landscaped courtyard. This is all part of Revolve’s development approach, which emphasizes the merging of modern sensibilities with classic design elements.

“The courtyard-centric design is a great example of how we’re going to define ourselves; we’re going to do projects that take concepts that worked in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s and pair them with modern applications,” Schack says.

While many metropolitan, multifamily developments once featured central courtyards, the layout fell out of favor over the years. Today Seattle’s large millennial population is driving developers to reverse that trend as they increasingly demand more communal space in their accommodations. That approach was borne out when the development was recently sold to an outside investor, breaking the record for real estate sales on a per-foot basis for wood-frame construction in the Seattle market by almost 10 percent. “It’s just a classic example of what we can contribute,” Schack says.

Among Revolve’s more distinctive initial projects is The Seven Seas hotel in downtown Seattle. The 43-room hotel will feature a ground-floor restaurant and speakeasy bar, and a rooftop bar and event space with views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

The Seven Seas is both Revolve’s first foray into the hospitality industry and its first reconstruction project. The hotel is an adaptive reuse of the building that formerly housed the Lusty Lady peepshow, a downtown Seattle landmark that dates back to the turn of the century. “It was a challenge that a lot of other developers didn’t want to take on,” Schack says.

Building for the future

In an effort to keep close control over the nascent company’s brand, Revolve keeps all design work in-house. Schack and Earl initially formed a sister company called Schack A+D that handled all design work, and folded into the larger Revolve operation in 2016. The company subcontracts engineering work and hires sustainability consultants to help projects attain valuable LEED certification.

With a slate of unique projects to its name, Revolve has quickly made a reputation for itself in the Seattle market. Despite this early success, Schack says it can be challenging to spot exceptional development opportunities in a market as crowded as Seattle.

“You have to be pretty creative in finding deals because the market for land is highly competitive,” he says. In response, Revolve has made a concerted effort to explore more opportunities in the hospitality market, starting with The Seven Seas.

“We’re bringing our multifamily experience to the hospitality market and trying to find deals that work,” says Schack. “That is one area where we are definitely trying to build a brand and expand that brand.”

While the record-breaking sale of the Yardhouse was a strong endorsement of Revolve’s development prowess, the company measures success by a number of factors. “We focus on the triple-bottom line making sure that our projects are not only economically successful, but that they have a positive impact on the community and environment,” Schack says.

The design-forward approach to development is sure to garner attention the city’s aesthetically-driven housing market, positioning Revolve Development for success and growth in the Seattle market and across the Pacific Northwest.

Published on: September 13, 2016

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