Real World Seattle

Real World Seattle

I was inspired by a piece on the Zillow blog today, on MTV’s “Real World” show.

In college one of my constant companions was MTV and I always tried to watch it and study at the same time. It’s a wonder I ever graduated. Anyway, when Real World came to Seattle, I was fascinated with their very hip digs down on the Seattle waterfront. Zillow blog has a post about other homes used by the cast, entitled “Would you want the Real World House to be Your Real House?” , and the answer for me is Yes. Yes, I would.

The series was filmed in Seattle at Pier 70, a creaky old pier built in 1902 jutting West into Puget Sound. It had been used by the Liquor Board and the Coast Guard and in 1970 it was converted to retail and restaurant use and was the home to one of my favorite live music and disco venues of the same name, Pier 70. (For anyone interested in local Seattle-area bands that used to play there, check out “Pacific Northwest Bands Tribute Page“. Pier 70 was not the first disco in Seattle, as I think that title would go to Shelley’s Leg (so named because it was named after the leg poor Shelley lost to an errant cannon ball shot off at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square for a celebration there. The cannon ball, or the cannon itself, exploded and ripped off Shelley’s leg. She used the settlement money from the City of Seattle to open the disco under the viaduct, but I digress…. ) anyway, Triad Development bought Pier 70 in 1995 and renovated it into its current use as a restaurant and office/retail space. (I think Shelley’s Leg closed after a truck over turned on the viaduct and somehow caught the disco under it on fire…. if you like obscure Seattle history, be sure to check out Clark Humphrey’s soon-to-be-published book Vanishing Seattle.)

So, Pier 70 would be the coolest place to live, but it would be impossible to get a permit today to build something like this. Residential uses are prohibited on the Pier because of an urban-harborfront overly district. In order for the series to be filmed on the Pier, a special permit was obtained declaring Pier 70 as a “24 hour” film set. The interior design was created by Two Downtown, Ltd. The filming of series in 1998 delayed the planned remodel of the Pier by 6 months. Pier 70 has now been remodeled and the exterior no longer resembles the Pier that was used for the filming of the series.

So, I tried to use Zillow to find out what its value would be. What would condo’s that jut out over the water cost? But, since it’s not a residence, there were no comparable sales nearby. However, I was able to use Property Shark and found out that King County gives it a value of $3,003,300, which seems incredibly low to me. The wharf has 76,000 sq. ft. on 3 floors. With a change in zoning, you could put at least 40 condos there. At a minimum of $500K a piece (with the end units probably going for $1M+, you’d think this pier could be worth a lot more than $3M….. They changed the zoning across the street to build the Marriot, so who knows what could happen with this property. Anyway, building anything over the water here is a challenge. That’s why the Union Harbor Condo’s on Lake Union are so unique. And for an incredible story of City of Seattle politics, zoning, vision and perseverance, read about Rome Ventura and Lake Union Crew. The rowing club, located at 11 E. Allison St., had been at odds with neighbors and city officials since it opened in 1998. Zoning laws ruled against building any permanent structures over the water. So, in a way to get around those regulations, she moved two barges onto the lake and connected them to land by a gangplank. She converted these barges into two Coast Guard licensed passenger vessels and now these “vessels” are the Lake Union Crew Club. You can view photos of these “barges” (wink) and judge for yourself. (Speaking of ways people try to get around rules, did you hear about the couple in Ames Lake who attached an outboard motor to an illegal dock and then called it a boat? Ha ha….)

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  1. jf.sellsius

    Speaking about ways people get around rules, there was a show about little people who wanted to surround their raised outdoor deck with a railing suitable to their size but were told by the local officials the railing would have to be the legal height since their deck was a certain height above ground. Their solution—they put enough dirt under the deck so the height of the actual deck above ground was only inches and they could have their little people railing height.
    If you can’t go through, over or around a wall, dig underneath it.

  2. Marlow Harris

    I just sold a $1M townhome on Queen Anne that was designed by Pb Elemental and was very cool and Dwell-modern. The interior featured an open staircase that had a skylight at the very top. The decision was made by the architects that the prescribed 4″ riser span would make the staircase too dark, so they specified a 6″ span so the light could shine through. The result was that the building got tagged by the Buyers inspector for a code violation. But the 4″ span was an aesthetic violation! The builder can add a lip to the stair to add another 2 inches, but this may not be what the Buyer wants: a safe, but dark staircase…. I imagine the Buyer will decide to live with the gap and sign a waiver of some sort. Decisions like this are made every day.

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  4. Galen

    I actually went to a wedding on the Lake Union Crew barges. I also read about that family who attached an outboard motor to their dock. That was funny, the lawsuit they brought against the agency that denied them their ‘boat’ and all the self-pity they had about it was not funny.

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  6. David Prince

    I was the DJ for Pier 70 from 1986-1990. Miss the old place, had alot of fun workin there and gettin to know all the bands that played there like Boy Toy, Shotz, Dan Reed Network, etc. The old Seattle is fading away.

  7. BigDog47

    i remeber that real world season it was one of my favorites i cant believe its been so long since it aired. I also remeber thinking i liked that house more than any house before or since then.

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