Ashworth Cottages – what went wrong?

In today’s edition of The Seattle Times, Eric Pryne examines how the recession is affecting Seattle’s premier Green Lake neighborhood. For the most part, the article focuses on apartment and condo complexes. But it also mentions that Pryde Johnson’s LEED platinum Ashworth Cottages is in the process of foreclosure.

According to the article, only two of the 20 homes have sold though it also mentions that another four of the houses are in various stages of possible sale.

Of course, the obvious reason for the project’s current state is the economy. But

Curt Pryde and Fawn Johnson at the grand opening of Ashworth Cottages in August, 2007
Ashworth Cottages came on the market in the summer of 2007 – before the economy really tanked. So my question is why is it where it is today?

First, some background: Ashworth Cottages opened to a lot of media attention. They were the first LEED platinum residential project in the state (seventh in the country), and thus received a press conference attended by Mayor Greg Nickels. The 20 cottages are on a lot originally zoned for six houses. To get it rezoned for 20, Pryde Johnson waited an extra 6 months, and had to get it approved by Seattle City Council.  I wrote an article about the project’s grand opening. It’s available here.

At the time, Curt Pryde and Fawn Johnson said they were confident Seattle buyers would appreciate the quality and health benefits of the platinum projects and pay between $739,000 and $950,000 for the ultimate green two-to- four-bedroom home. Apparently, that has not been the case.

But why?

The interior of an Ashworth Cottage, August 2007

I live on the other side of Green Lake – and what many people would say is the more expensive and disireable side. Even in this recession, houses around me are for the most part being snapped up. Sure, they might be on the market longer than usual but it seems like they’re still selling. Heck, even a gross ex-college party house I toured with rooms that smelled of urine sold for a pretty good price. If Ashworth Cottages were on the other side of the lake, would they have sold? Is it location, location, location?

By the way, you dear readers, have voted Ballard/Fremont the greenest neighborhood in my poll at right, followed by Capitol Hill, followed by Green Lake/ Wallingford. Maybe this project would have done better in a different neighborhood?

Maybe it’s a question of what people want for their $750,000. The Ashworth Cottages are very quaint but they don’t really have yards (the argument here is that Green Lake is basically a person’s yard). At the July 2007 grand opening, they were touted as a model example of what the city should be striving for in density. But could it be that people want more space for their money and don’t really want to spend $750k for “the model” of dense living?

Or is it the elephant in the room …. that people just do not put that high a price on green features yet and aren’t willing to pay a premium for them?

Was it the recession after all?  What do you think the problem was? If you had $750k, is this the house you would spend it on? Comment below and tell me what you’re thinking…..

By the way, the project’s Web site now says homes begin in the mid-$500s.