Scott Allen Architecture

Specialty: Private homes, residential communities, civic work, commercial projects

Management: Scott Allen

Founded: 2009

Headquarters: Bainbridge Island

2009 revenues: About $100,000

Projected 2010 revenues: About $100,000

Major projects: Private residence on Calkins Point on Mercer Island; an affordable housing mixed-use project in Los Angeles; weekend homes for Horizon at Semiahmoo; master-planning for an East Wenatchee mixed-use project

Photo courtesy of Scott Allen Architecture
An Allen-designed private residence on Calkins Point on Mercer Island was completed about a year ago.

Architect Scott Allen compares the current market to a block of ice. Frozen solid in the depths of the recession, the block is now thawing albeit slowly in what seems likes a 34-degree room, says Allen, who left Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen two years ago.

At OSKA, he was the long-time managing partner. He wanted to get back to what he calls his “core passion” of working directly with clients and designing buildings.

“On balance, it has been wonderful,” he said. Going independent at such a difficult economic time allowed him to “sit back and think about the larger issues of architecture and his practice.” He decided a goal of his new practice is delivering high-quality, contemporary design work to populations that have been unable to access it due to cost.

“I think there’s a niche of people who understand and appreciate good design, and would be attracted to more contemporary architecture language if it were available to them,” he said, adding good design doesn’t have to be more expensive.

His work at Horizon at Semiahmoo, a master-planned community north of Bellingham, is an example. Allen is designing smaller houses. Each is under 1,500 square feet. Originally, houses at Horizon were going to be for people who would start using them as vacation residences and later make them their primary homes. Now it’s shifted to them being more weekend homes, and they’re geared to the Canadian market, whose real estate collapse was not as severe as in the United States.

Allen is working on some other private residences locally, and owners are wanting smaller projects. “The trend for small is definitely on. I’m not seeing reduced demand for quality, and that is terrific.”

“Sweet spot” is now

In past downturns, people who needed a new house and had their own capital would proceed. The private homes “carried the day,” but now people are holding back, said Allen. “There’s this interesting hinge point between fear and greed,” he continued, explaining that some people could miss the “sweet spot” before prices “go bananas.”

An affordable housing mixed-use project in Los Angeles and an East Wenatchee mixed-use project on property that his family owns are dependent on funding. Even though the real estate market seems to have bottomed, equity requirements of lenders remain high. Allen believes the credit markets will open up after the election when tax rates are clarified.

“I think 2011 is going to be much different,” said the Bainbridge Island-based Allen, who thinks his practice will gain more exposure in Seattle as the economy recovers.

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