In 1996, the Northwind Apartments were built — 16 one- and two-bedroom rental units in 4 buildings, with a centrally located laundry building and carports to the side. In 2012, a group of people from the island came together to consider purchasing the property and transforming it into an ownership community. Two couples stepped forward to take responsibility for the purchase and conversion. (Read more at Strategy & Phasing) Fortunately, the existing buildings were constructed well, and the central laundry building was ideally positioned to become a commons building with a south-facing outlook to an open lawn area.
Most of the apartments were sold with minimal improvements to keep the price reasonable. We identified a number of potential improvements to each unit, and are working with owners after purchase to design and build upgrades to meet their needs and budget. These include improvements like engineered wood flooring, upgraded kitchen & bathroom cabinets /counters /fixtures, room-defining dropped ceiling, custom shelving, no-VOC paint in a new color scheme, triple-wall insulating window shades, low-energy use furnace and water heater, enlarged decks and covered porches.
The main improvement we focused on is the transformation of the laundry building into a Common House. The building more than doubled in size to include a community living room, kitchen, dining room, multi-purpose room, bathroom and laundry/storage room. A new lower level has space for additional storage and a workshop with French doors opening out to a large deck. Near the entry and the south lawn will be a community BBQ.
We are committed to making choices for the building with long range life cycle and energy use in mind. One of the first choices has been to replace its short-life shingle roofing with metal roofing and install a 6.4kW photovoltaic solar array. This system, installed by Whidbey Sun & Wind, now runs the electric meter backwards on sunny days. The new addition has R60 insulation in the ceiling and R30 in the walls (code requirements = R38/19), a mini-split heat pump heater, and the most energy-efficient water heater on the market.
A fun side story … Architect Ross Chapin was working on a possible layout for the living room that included an upright piano — thinking that music would be a wonderful thing for this community. The next day, he went to help a friend design a backyard cabin renovation. He walked into the cabin and in the middle of room was an upright piano. His friend asked, “Do you know where this piano might find a home?” … So, there will be music!
The existing apartments lack storage of any significance. Toward responding to this need, two storage rooms will be included in the new Common House. Beyond this, we have identified a number of locations to add storage for both individual and community use. These choices will be left to the owners and community to act on. The north side of the Common House is a stormwater retention basin which will be planted with bio-filtering landscaping. This will be part of a larger permaculture plan for the entire property which will consider stormwater control, food production, low water use, animal control and privacy layering. One of the carports near the entry has been repurposed as a bicycle storage shelter. The carport adjacent to this could shelter a shared electric car and charging station at the discretion of the owners. A couple of the apartments have have potential for added space beyond their existing footprint. And there is potential for a new residential building located over three existing parking spaces.
We are working with the city to reduce the number of required parking spaces so that we can dig up the blacktop paving and contribute the space toward a new neighborhood garden. More to come on this …