In 1981, a group of broke, but highly motivated Belltown residents (many of them artists) banded together to seek an affordable solution to the rising cost of living in one of Downtown Seattle’s most colorful neighborhoods. Bearing the torch of affordable housing, they began consulting with Belltown business owners and. The end result was that Jim Egbert, owner of snazzy home furnishing store Egbert’s, agreed to sell two floors of the building above his shop to the future Apexers. The 1909 Apex hotel had been vacant for a few years and needed extensive renovation.
Buoyed by loans from the National Consumer Co-op Bank (a Jimmy Carter legacy set up to compensate for lender reluctance to finance co-ops) as well as the City of Seattle and some private parties, the Apex Belltown Cooperative was born.
But difficult times lay ahead for the fledgling organization. Construction workers found huge cracks in the structural walls, a discovery that set the project back two years and cost the co-op and its lenders many, many dollars. While these repairs moved ahead, the transformation inside the Apex progressed, as well. With help from the nonprofit architectural firm Environmental Works, dedicated co-op members revamped the floor plan, transforming the hotel into a group-living space with four shared kitchens and eight shared bathrooms, plus 21 living units with one, two or three rooms. The embellished communal spaces with elaborate mosaics, including the famed “Ode to Celery” mosaic that still graces a kitchen. All told, each member dedicated an average of 100 hours to carving the Apex into its current, cozy, beautiful self.
Finally, in 1984, the Apex was deemed livable (and lovable), the members threw a big party and everyone moved in. Since then, members have come and gone, but everyone who lives at the Apex owes a debt of gratitude to the visionaries who made this happy home a reality.
Read an article by Paul Dorpat about the history of the co-op’s neighborhood that contains some details about the founding and early days of the co-op.