Charlie Wenzlau’s architectural fingerprints are all over downtown Winslow.
His firm, Wenzlau Architects, designed the San Juan building near the ferry terminal, the Ericksen Cottages and The Winslow on the corner of Winslow Way and Ericksen Avenue, which features a mix of housing and shops.
But it’s a design just off the edge of downtown that’s getting him some attention.
One of Wenzlau’s 1,900-square-foot Wood Avenue Townhouses was recently chosen by the American Institute of Architects’ Seattle branch as one of the six homes to tour this year. Wenzlau said the detached home, which sits side-by-side with seven other similar units, typifies his style of creating compact living spaces in the urban center.
“I’m interested in how you provide higher density housing solutions in a small town,” he said this week. “Because small towns, like suburbs, are having to deal with growth issues, yet they want to maintain the character and livability for the community,” he said.
While Wenzlau applies this principle to all his designs, he still wants each project to fit the character of the street. An example of that can be seen in the Wood Avenue development, which was completed in 2004, where the units facing Winslow Way are smaller and stacked on top of each other, while the units facing the less-traveled Wood Avenue are more traditional homes set back from the street.
Wenzlau has carried this idea with him since his days as an architecture student at the University of Oregon. He learned that the design of the buildings is important, but the architect must also consider the function of the building within the community. Just because zoning of the Wood Avenue area allows for a commercial development, doesn’t mean it should be there, Wenzlau said.
“Each project is unique partly because of its location, and it’s really important to blend it into the surrounding community,” he said.
A number of Wenzlau’s designs have earned green building certifications, but his focus on the downtown core fits a different kind of sustainability model. He believes the proximity to services, and the reduction in automobile traffic that creates, will prove the greatest benefit.
“Living close to town in a small footprint home is probably one of the best things you can do in terms of green living,” he said.
But with the economy struggling and construction slowing down on Bainbridge, Wenzlau has taken his designs off-island to other areas of Kitsap County.
Wenzlau’s firm and Bainbridge-based Fairbank Construction Co. were chosen from 17 teams to design and build the mixed-use Jackson Village in Port Orchard. The project will feature eight affordable rental homes and a 6,500-square-foot community services building.
Wenzlau said the firm is also designing a cluster of seven waterfront cottages in Silverdale.
These projects off the island have helped keep the firm afloat during a tough period, and Wenzlau believes when things get better the firm will be ready to pull in a lot of business.
“Our focus is going to be on the smaller-scale, medium density housing solutions when the market starts to recover,” he said. “I think there will be a growing demand for people who want to live closer to town for shopping and other services.”
Townhouse for sale
At the same time the Wood Avenue townhouses are receiving regional attention, one of the units has come up for sale. The home at 132 Wood Ave. SW is being listed by Buckley & Buckley Real Estate for $799,000.