Local company gives shipping containers a new lease on life


Kai Schwarz and Anne Corning are business partners and co-founders of ShelterKraft Werks, a unique Ballard business venture that manufactures homes, food-storage units, retail pop-up stores and more from reclaimed shipping containers.

The company takes shipping containers that no longer meet the proper qualifications to be used on a ship—this usually happens after about 10 years, when the container has been banged around one too many times—and refurbishes them into something practical and livable. Some companies, such as Hamburg Süd, keep the containers for nearly half that time.

“We only keep them for five years,” a representative for Hamburg Süd said. “(The way)they stack them, the rivets get worn out.”

Corning said that for their purposes, “We pick the best ones that are still in good enough condition to be used for housing … and then we build the units all right here in Seattle.”

According to Schwarz, the original container company does the majority of the metal fabrication and painting. From there, the container is brought to ShelterKraft Werk’s yard in Ballard where it gets retrofitted for its new purpose.

If a container is destined to become housing, “that’s [when] we put in all the framing,insulation, the wiring, the plumbing,” Schwarz said. These items all go into the walls of the container.

“It’s not just that you’re saving [money]. You’re re-using the steel container, we’re using a lot of green building materials, and recyclable materials … in the construction of the units,” Corning said. “As (an) ongoing living situation it can be very eco-friendly, very affordable.”

The company offers four stock home models, in addition to custom storage containers and backyard workshops. The containers come in two lengths, 20 foot and 40 foot. Although every container is 8 feet wide, the containers can be linked together in a number of ways.

ShelterKraft Werks offers many different ways to customize the compact homes,including solar panels, decks, carports and other design modifications.

The stock homes range from having just a sleeping nook to a full master suite, and start at $35,000 for something called a “CargoCottage,” which is their base model with one bedroom. The biggest container home is $68,000 and is a two-bedroom “CargoHaus” with a master-suite. Here’s the full rundown of residential home options.

ShelterKraft Werks was incorporated in January 2011. Since then, Schwarz and Corning have developed their business to include doing custom projects and working with local nonprofit companies, including Clean Greens, a business dedicated to growing and delivering healthy, fresh produce to low-income families.

Schwarz, who worked as an architect for Starbucks for three years, had a ninth-floor office that looked out toward the shipping docks in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood.Countless shipping containers came and went in those yards.

“I kept starting to fantasize about if I snuck inside one of those Hamburg Süd containers,I would be 5 kilometers from my grandmother’s house in Hamburg in a couple of months,” Schwarz said. “But I’d need a bed, and a toilet and a TV.”

When Schwarz met Corning about three years ago, her keen business instincts complemented Schwarz’s vast architectural knowledge, and ShelterKraft Werks was born.

As for ShelterKraft Werk’s next venture, Schwarz and Corning hope to create a hygiene station that can be used by homeless and low-income individuals living out of their cars.The station would appeal to those with day jobs whose income covers gas, food and other supplies, but doesn’t leave enough for housing.

“They’re hardworking folks who deserve to take a shower before work,” Corning said.

(SARAH DEVLEMING is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

Reports of shot seal in Ballard untrue

By Danielle Anthony-Goodwin

Reports over the weekend  about a dead seal found at Golden Gardens that was apparently ‘shot’ and decapitated have proven to be false. The dead seal was found to be in a decomposing state that is, according to the NOAA, normal with no signs of unusual circumstances. The story was reported without confirmation, sparking concern in the community.

The dead seal was found to be significantly decomposed and in a state that is similar to many seals that are responded to by the NOAA’s NW Marine Mammal Stranding Networks. The Seal Sitters Blubber Blog reported that it is not out of the ordinary for other animals and birds to attempt to eat the carcass, often leaving marks that can appear to be in shape of a bullet wound. Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters wrote yesterday that “it is extremely difficult for expert biologists, much less laypersons, to determine if a marine mammal has been shot.”

The seal carcass was removed from the beach yesterday afternoon by volunteers from Sno-King Marine Mammal Response. As no unusual circumstances have been found, the seal will not be necropsied and will most likely be returned to the Puget Sound to cultivate the marine environment. Lindsey wanted to emphasize that NOAA and the stranding networks would like to let people know that there’s nothing to worry about.

As we are approaching seal season, if you find an abandoned or deceased seal at Golden Gardens, call the NOAA Stranding Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. If you happen to find a seal on the West Seattle beach, call Seal Sitters assistance at 206-905-SEAL (7325).

Click here to check out the Seal Sitter’s website for more information on what to do if you come across an abandoned seal.

A look at the new Ray’s Boathouse

Ray’s Boathouse’s downstairs restaurant is now reopen after their four-month closure for remodeling. The space has been completely revamped, and now features a large glass-enclosed bar that breaks up the restaurant into two separate dining areas. On top of the full renovation, the menu has been completely changed.

North dining area

Rory Kelleher with design company Mallet Inc says the idea was to open up the dining area so more tables could enjoy the view of the water. They ripped out the old booths that ran down the middle of the restaurant, and now have several small tables scattered around two large dining areas on either side of the bar.

South dining area

The south dining area now has an outdoor deck that wraps around the side of the restaurant. (Correction: The outdoor seating area has not yet been approved for public use)  The outdoor area should be open by spring, and will seat up to 40. The glass enclosed bar has stunning views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, and the cocktail list features several nautical-themed rum drinks, such as Anchors Aweigh, Two if by Sea, and the Captain’s Grog. The restaurant featured cocktails before the remodel, but previously, the bartender was in the kitchen, mixing cocktails behind closed doors. Now, the bartenders are perched next to the best view in the house.

The bar is intimate, with a red glow under the Chris-Craft boat deck-inspired bar top, a theme Kelleher says is constant on each table throughout the restaurant. Glass walls on the north and south ends of the long bar help eliminate some of the noisy bar sounds.

View of the glass-enclosed bar from the north dining area

On top of the big structural changes, the restaurant underwent a complete menu overhaul. Keeping only the “sacred cow” dish, the Sablefish in Sake Kasu, Executive Chef Wayne Johnson says the menu has been changed to be “more global.” In that vein, new dishes include the Butter Poached Lobster Tail with lobster paella, a Braised Lam Osso Bucco with root vegetables and cous cous, and an Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin with beet salad. They’ve incorporated a small plate menu with crab cakes, chowder, and salads, and now have a five-course tasting menu that will be changed every couple weeks.

Ray’s closed in October for the remodel, the first big structural change in a few decades. A fire in 1987 burned the boathouse down to the dock, ten days after General Manager Maureen Shaw took over. She says there hasn’t be a major change like this since the rebuild in the 90s 80s, and is thrilled with the new look. When asked why they chose to add a bar, Shaw said it was time to catch up with the rest of Ballard and reach a younger demographic. The bar hours will be 5 to 9:30 p.m. during the week, and open until 11 on Fridays and Saturdays.

To check out the new menu, visit Ray’s Boathouse website.

Two Ballard parks vying for city grant

Two Ballard parks are making their final presentations to Seattle Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund tonight in the hope of gaining funds to improve their parks. The two applicants will make their presentations, along with other local park applicants, at the Oversight Committee Open House and Presentation tonight at Northgate Community Center (10510 5th Ave NE) from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

The Whittier Heights Community Council is hoping to score a grant to expand and makeover Baker Park (8341 14th Ave NW) and are presenting at around 7:30 p.m. The East Ballard Community Association (EBCA) and Friends of 65th are hoping to be awarded a grant to purchase land and transform the rundown area at the corner of NW 65th St. and 7th Ave NW into a park for the local community.

The meeting is open to the public and both groups would welcome local support during their presentations tonight from 6 p.m. To learn more about each submission click here for the Baker Park upgrade and click here for the EBCA and Friends of 65th Project.

Reminder: Design Review Board meeting tonight for Ballard Lofts project

Tonight, there will be a Design Review Board meeting for the Ballard Lofts project at the corner of NW 65th St. and 24th Ave NW. The development will be a 72-unit apartment complex, split between two buildings, with a green courtyard in between and retail space on the ground level. The project has gained attention for its plan to tear down the longstanding Viking tavern.

The meeting is scheduled for today (Monday, Jan. 28) at 6:30 p.m. at Ballard High School. At the meeting, the developer, Bill Parks, will present information about the proposed design and how it responds to the priorities highlighted at the previous design meeting. The public may offer comments about the design, and then the board will offer their recommendations about the design to the director of the Department of Planning and Development.

Read more about a recent meeting about the Ballard Lofts here, and click herefor the full DPD notice about the Design Review Board meeting.

LIHI senior housing building gets green light from DPD, with guidelines

The Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI)  has the go-ahead to build the senior housing development at 2014 NW 57th St., but the city’s Department of Planning and Development has outlined some guidelines in their decision that must be met for the project to move forward. The building has gained significant public attention as it is the site of a proposed Urban Rest Stop, a hygiene facility for low-income and homeless people.

Sharon Lee, director of the Low-Income Housing Institute, says the guidelines were all agreed upon in early design review meetings, and she’s happy with the decision. Among the specific conditions include a reduction in the setback of the building, a waiting area for the proposed Urban Rest Stop, and privacy implementations. There also must be separate entrances for the proposed rest stop and the building occupants. In talking with neighbors, Lee says they asked for an opaque fence to line the west side of the building.

LIHI will put in an application for the Urban Rest Stop sometime in the next few months, says Lee. Before then, she plans to meet with neighbors and community members to address questions and concerns.

Screening of “The Line” at Our Redeemers tonight

On Friday, Jan. 25, Our Redeemers Lutheran Church (2400 NW 85th St) will be screening the film “The Line,” a documentary with stories from people around the country who live at or below the poverty line. The film is 40 minutes long, and will be followed by small-group discussions on the stories that are told in the film.

The screening is at 7 p.m., and the event is free and open to the public.

Property tax levy renewals would mean upgrades, maintenance for Seattle schools

By Mwiza Kalisa, Schools First

On February 12th, Seattle voters will be asked to renew two property tax levies. The levies would bridge state funding gaps and support facility improvements for Seattle Public Schools. If the levies are renewed, Ballard High School would receive technology upgrades and building improvements; without the renewal, BHS could face program cuts and teacher layoffs.

The operations levy, Proposition 1, will provide funding for about 26 percent of Seattle Public School’s operating budget. Over the next three years, the $551.9 million school levy will provide funding for textbooks, teacher’s salaries, transportation, security and special-education programs, among other day-to-day costs not fully funded by the State.

The $694.9 million Capital Levy (BEX IV) will provide funding to maintain, improve and expand school buildings.

“What makes this country great is that everybody can get an education,” said Heidi Bennett, a parent advocate and PTA leader. Bennett has children in Ballard High School and Ingraham High School, where she says there is a lack of smaller classroom sizes, elective choices and academic counselors to help motivate and keep students engaged.

“It’s wonderful that Seattle’s population density has increased, but we need schools to accommodate our growing communities,” she said. “The capital levy provides that.”

Bennett believes that the renewals are the key to the cities success. “If we want jobs we need educated kids to fill them,” she said. “Failure is not an option, without the levy we would have to lose one out of every four teachers and we can’t let that happen.”

Julia Hanson is a student at Ballard High School and a former Whitman Middle School student. The latter is one of five schools that will receive funding for roof work. At Ballard High School, she says that it’s hard to get funding for programs. “I know Ballard has an amazing drama and music program, but that’s all self-funded,” she said. “It’s made us a strong community, but if we already had the money it would make those groups more fantastic than they already are.”

Hanson, who is ASB President, attributes her success as a student to the school’s leadership class. Hanson’s sixth period for high school is ASB Leadership, which is funded by the operations levy.

“It’s an experience that has completely shaped my life and my values,” she said. “The school levies have given me an opportunity to experience leadership and I don’t know where I would be without that class. It helped keep me out of trouble and it turned my life around.”

Recently there were funding cuts for clubs and extracurricular activities at Ballard High School. Additionally, the computers in the school are outdated. If the BEX IV Capital Levy is approved, all schools will receive technology upgrades that include wireless internet access and improved accounting systems.

Ballard High School principal Keven Wynkoop said that if the levies are not renewed, programs would be cut and the school would lose multiple teachers and counselors.

“The idea of losing 26 percent of the budget would have far-reaching impacts and there would be massive cuts across the board,” he said. “Without funding keeping pace, we will fall further behind.”

The renewal of the BEX Capital Levy will replace or renovate school buildings, many of which are more than 50 years old. Additionally, the levy will provide funding for new schools and school expansions in response to increased enrollment in recent years. Within the past year, enrollment in Seattle schools has increased by about 1,400 students and an additional 7,000 students are anticipated over the next decade. Wynkoop predicts that enrollment in Ballard schools will continue to grow. Currently, 1,625 students attend Ballard High School.

“Neither one of these levies is a new tax,” Wynkoop said. “We have to continue to educate our students as best we can. If you look at schools that were rebuilt in the last 15 years, they have all been huge successes.”

Wynkoop, who is also a third generation Ballard High School graduate, would like to see changes in the school’s security system and learning facilities. “To be able to have well-maintained buildings and to have access to technology and lab facilities makes a huge difference,” he said.

Wynkoop believes in the power of public education and he said that his beliefs and values are reflected to students at Ballard High School. “When I come to all evening events and see the powerful things our students are able to produce, with guidance from teachers and staff, it blows my mind,” he said. “It makes me believe that better times are ahead of us and anything is possible when our children mature and continue to grow.”

Both propositions are renewals of existing levies. If approved, these levies would cost the owner of a$400,000 home approximately $13 a month over what homeowners pay on the existing expiring levies.

Schools First is a grassroots, citizen-based organization that has conducted Seattle school levy campaigns since 1995.

BHS baseball team selling Mariners’ tickets for a chance to play on Safeco Field

The Ballard High School baseball team has kicked off a fundraiser with a pretty cool goal in mind: if they can sell 1,000 Mariner’s tickets, they’ll get a chance to play on Safeco Field. The tickets they’re selling are $12, and are for the Mariner’s game on April 11. If they reach their goal, BHS will get to play on Safeco Field on Saturday, April 6 against the Kentwood Conquerors. The BHS game is free and open to the public.

BHS Coach Doug Montgomery says his players are pretty excited about it. “They’ll be fielding grounders on the same infield as Dustin Ackley, and slinging fastballs from the same mound as King Felix!  They’ll also get their names displayed on the largest video screen in Major League Baseball, which the Mariners are proudly installing as you read!” Montgomery writes on the BHS baseball website. “The annual High School Baseball Classic is not only a great fundraising idea, but an exciting and everlasting experience for any young baseball player, and we’d appreciate your support!”

For more about the fundraiser or to get tickets, click here.

Big turnaround in 2012 for Northwest Seattle housing market (sponsored story)

(This is a sponsored story written by John Madrid, Managing Broker with John L. Scott Real Estate).

What a difference a year makes … sale prices continue their climb and time on market continues to drop. It is definitely turning into a seller’s market.

For the 11th consecutive month the median sale price for single-family homes sold in Northwest Seattle, including Ballard, Fremont, Green Lake, Phinney and Wallingford, met or exceeded the sale price for the same period a year prior. Much of this trend can be attributed to a decrease in the supply of homes for sale in 2012 compared to 2011.

In addition to a shortage of inventory, record low interest rates, continued strong hiring by Amazon, Microsoft and a slew of smaller to midsize companies and a general belief that the market has hit bottom has resulted in strong appreciation for most Seattle home owners and sellers in 2012.

The median sale price for single-family homes sold in 2012 in NW Seattle was $425,000 compared to $399,000 for 2011, a 6.5% increase. The average time on market decreased to 32 days in 2012 from 42 days in 2011.

A less than a 3 month supply of homes is generally considered a Seller’s market. The overall supply of NW Seattle homes averaged around 1.4 months of inventory for 2012 compared to a little less than a 3 month supply for 2011.

Expected trends for 2013 include continued low interest rates and inventory as well as multiple offers situations for competitively priced homes in popular neighborhoods including most of NW Seattle with its great walkability, popular schools and proximity to downtown.

More stats on other Seattle neighborhoods can be found here.

Tip: Even in a strong home Seller’s market amazing photos and professional marketing materials (including a custom website and full color two sided flyers) can result in a quicker sale and the best sale price.

John Madrid is a Managing Broker with John L. Scott Real Estate – University Village and is a 2005-2012 Seattle Magazine “Five Star” Agent. His clients include both home buyers and sellers. He can be reached at 206-498-1880, john@live206.com or www.live206.com.

(Statistics are deemed reliable but are not guaranteed. All information should be verified to the users own satisfaction.)