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JRJ Development is an innovative developer of in-city Seattle neighborhood properties committed to excellence.

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Five houses designed by four architecturual firms cluster

Five houses designed by four architecturual firms cluster around a cobblestone lane in complement to the existing neighbhorhood charm. Each of the houses to the left has an unobstructed view of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains out of the back windows. The shared grounds and streetscap were designed by  architect John Bernhard.

open-plan configuration

As was the intention of the open-plan configuration, the main dining area communicates directly with the action in the kitchen. Small square windows provide pattern-and light.

A community grows within a community, giving (read original article in the Seattle Times, Pacific Northwest Magazine - note: they require registration)

By Victoria Medgyesi

The city-child within me found the sprawl of abandoned property at the edge of Mount Baker an irresistible draw - especially just before dusk when things are at their spookiest.

There, across the street from a stretch of well-tended homes, was a modernist wreck of a building with broken windows and battered-in doors. Tossed outside the low-slung structure were refrigerators, desks and piles of unidentifiable junk. Overhead, tall trees caught the breeze and swished menacingly.

It was the kind of place that gave you a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, as if prowling around was somehow forbidden - which it probably was. Still, you'd go back to it again and again with your buddies just for the thrill of whispering: Do you think there's a body in there?

Better yet was this mystery: How had this block-sized plot of in-city land stayed vacant so long?

Of course, the real story is as convoluted as can be.

Since 1995, the acre-and-a half parcel of pricey land overlooking Colman Park and Lake Washington sat deteriorating, thanks in part to vandalism and to community challenges of the property's long-standing zoning status. According to real-estate professional Michael White, the structure originally housed a private group home for people with disabilities. When the owners decided to sell, a community-health group made known their intention to expand the number of beds from less than 10 to almost 40.

JRJ is Jason Kintzer,  Jim Kam, Dora Haworth, and Bob Kackman

An 18-foot plus bank of windows anchors the space

An 18-foot plus bank of windows anchors the space; a small outdoor deck opens up off the dining area. The lighting is by Lightwire. Above is one in a series of interior windows off the main bedroom suite on the second floor.

At the end of the main living space, a cluster of family-friendly furniture

At the end of the main living space, a cluster of family-friendly furniture takes in the view-a view protected on two sides by "no-build greenbelt" zoning. The coffee table was fashioned from an antique barn door in China; the art at the center of the mantle is an abstract paint-on-metal sculpture by artist/anthropologist Heather Myler.

The neighbors howled. Soon after, the property went back on the block.

Brightwater School was next, entering an agreement to establish a 200-student facility. Again, the neighbors protested, saying a school wasn't an appropriate fit with the area - or with the cul-de-sac turnaround at the end of the street. With a long fight brewing, Brightwater School went looking for a residential developer to take the deal off their hands.

When White contacted developer Jason Kintzer, Kintzer was fresh from another project where neighborhood preference was an issue. He wasn't interested in a tussle but was intrigued enough to propose a solution. "Let's have a town meeting," he said. "I'll show the neighbors what I'd do and, if they'll sign a letter saying they won't fight us, we'll do the project."

With that, some 40 neighbors came together, signed a "no-fight" agreement, and the planning began.

That was in 1999, and this year, five families moved into five architect-designed homes that came to be through a truly collaborative process. Instead of building virtually identical homes as is developer custom, Kintzer commissioned four architectural firms to create five distinctive designs. He chose two - Johnston Architects and Krannitz Gehl Architects - after seeing their work in publications. Abrahams Architects, with whom Kintzer had worked in the past, was asked to design two homes. Stock and Associates came with high recommendations.

Kintzer's firm, JRJ Development, took over general-contractor duties as well as responsibility for making sure all environment-friendly "build green" standards were met. Even the process of dividing the land into buildable lots was a challenge. Given the steep slope and erosion issues, only 40 percent of the 66,000-square-foot lot was usable.

Kintzer was interested in creating, at its most basic, a varied streetscape minus the cookie-cutter look. Without a doubt, he says, it wasn't the most economical way to develop, but he was committed to doing something different, and doing it well.

Victoria Medgyesi writes about houses and the interesting people who live in them. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

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