The Park Seneca from the frontI’ve gotten a little more information on this possible move that I mentioned a couple days ago — and it looks like this could end up being a pretty cool deal. Melvin and I went over to his new building last night to take a look around and discuss some more of what he’s got in mind.

As it turns out, I was a little wrong on one of my understandings — it’s most definitely not a newer building than the one I’m in now, which is part of the reason that Melvin’s so excited about it. He’s got something of a fascination with older buildings, and I can kind of understand that after wandering around in this one for a bit. I don’t have any real way of knowing, but if I were to hazard a guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if this building dates back to the ’30’s or so, from some of the things I saw. I took a couple pictures of the outside of it while I was walking to work this morning and will try to get them added to this post after I get home from work.

The Park Seneca from the eastAnyway, first things first. If all goes well, it looks like I should be moving over there to start residency in April (though there’s at least a possibility of making the move over a couple weeks starting in March). Melvin showed me all the open apartments, and I chose one on the 4th floor of the building. It’s still a studio apartment (the entire building is studios and one bedrooms), but it’s a much cooler studio than what I have now. The actual room is probably about the same size as what I have now (just more squarish rather than rectangular), but there’s a real full bathroom, and an actual kitchen! The windows don’t have much of a view — another apartment building across the street, the street below, and if you look off to the side a bit you can see some of the downtown skyscrapers — but that’s part of city life, right? The kitchen window does open out onto the fire escape, though, and that’s just cool (grin).

One of the neatest things for me is that the building hasn’t had a whole lot of work done to it to ‘modernize’ it. The elevator is great — it would hold about three people comfortably, has a domed roof, and is one of the old style elevators where the outer door is a normal swinging door that you pull open, and there is no inner door, just a grate that has to be manually slid all the way closed or the lift won’t operate. The kitchen has a huge sink with built-in drainage area to the side, tons of cupboards, and it looks to be all original from when the building was built. I don’t remember if my apartment had one of these, but one that I looked at had this funny little cupboard on the floor that was about two and a half feet high and locked closed — then I realized that it was actually the original icebox! Not a refrigerator, as there was no cooling hardware — just an insulated box. Cool.

The Park Seneca from the westWhat I think is one of the neatest things, though, is something that isn’t even used anymore, but it really adds a sense of age to the building. I’d noticed as we were wandering around that directly beside every door to an apartment was a small door, about a foot and a half wide and two and a half feet tall that also looked like it led into the apartment, but had been painted over and was obviously no longer used. I couldn’t figure out what they were for, until Melvin and I were in one of the apartments and I noticed a cupboard on the inside of the apartment that corresponded to the placement of this mini-door, and the cupboard had its own latching door inside the apartment. It turns out that this was the original delivery/mailbox for each unit! When the mailman, milkman, or whoever came by, they’d open the outer door and put the goods in the box. The resident could then come by and open their inner door and take the stuff out whenever was convenient for them — no need to open the outside door, the goods didn’t sit outside the door to be seen and taken by other residents, or anything like that. Pretty nifty stuff, even if it’s not too useful anymore.

There’s a bunch of other benefits beyond just ‘nifty’ factor, though. Last year sometime, the rates for water and waste went up. One of the ways some of the landlords around town (including the company that runs the Shannon Apartments, where I live now) deal with this is that rather than including water/waste costs in the rent, as is standard, they use some arcane formula and divide the costs among all the tenants, based on how many people live in each apartment (because apartments generally aren’t set up to be individually metered). Sounds reasonable on the surface, except that it hits everyone if one tenant or apartment is using excess amounts of water, or fills the dumpster and we need an extra trash run. Luckily, these new apartments aren’t doing that. Additionally, the Shannon Apartments are very electric-based — both the heat and the oven and stove are electric. The new building uses gas stoves and the old style hot water/steam pipe heaters for the rooms — this should drop my electric bill fairly drastically.

So, all in all, things look good as far as living there goes. There’s a few downsides — parking looks like it might be worse than where I am now (which is somewhat hard to believe), and I’m a bit further from Broadway (though closer to Downtown), but I think the pros outweigh the cons at the moment.

I also got some more information about what kind of help Melvin would need. It doesn’t sound like it would be too much — occasional help with some of the tasks around the building, which I don’t have a problem with. Admittedly, it does help that once we worked out a rate of pay, he’d just deduct from my rent for however many hours I worked. Additionally, one of the selling points he used to get the spot is that he wants to set up a website to help promote the building — and he knows I’ve got the knowledge and ability to do this, so I’ll probably be in charge of that. Could be quite fun, and possibly put a little more money in my pocket (or off of rent, depending on how we arrange it).

This all led to another possible side project bouncing around my brain. As long as I’m going to be putting together a website for the building, and I’m somewhat enamored by the age of the building itself, I think it could be a lot of fun to spend some of my off-hours doing a little work digging into public records to see if I can uncover any information about the building — when it was actually built, what it’s been used for over the years — and eventually get that up on the page. I found a page with starting points for just such a search on the website for the Seattle Public Library. Also, when I did a quick Google search, I came up with two bits of information. Buried in the midst of an article about confrontations between squatters and a landlord is a mention that at some point in 1999 the then-current (I don’t know whether it’s still the same) landlord, Wah Lui, had been negotiating with the Low Income Housing Institute to convert the building into ‘mutual housing,’ but he later reneged on the deal. Additionally, that wonderful old elevator is apparently serviced by the American Elevator Corporation, based here in Seattle. Neither of them are really ground-breakingly crucial bits of information, but still kind of interesting to find.

So, that’s everything I know about the deal for now. More when I know more, of course….