Vela Apartments

112 Lake Street S, Kirkland

Continental Properties
Encore Architects
Unit Count
Completion Date

Vela Apartments

The Vela Apartments stand along the shore of Lake Washington in Kirkland, WA, offering residents the kind of waterfront panorama befitting the name (“Vela” is Italian for “sail”). Its completion in 2023 will mark the end not only of a construction project but of a transformation, in which a simple two-story apartment block became something bigger, more functional, and more luxurious.


The Makeover

Vela is technically a remodeling job: the Lake Street Apartments had existed for years as a two-story mixed-use building. But by the time Compass and building owner Continental Properties finish, the building will bear little semblance to its original.

To start, we’ve added three new floors above the existing two, which required a retrofit of the entire building’s support system. We installed new footings, new steel, and new columns to support the extra weight. We also added three levels of underground parking (enough for every resident to have two spaces, or to provide public parking for area shoppers). To achieve this, we excavated as far as 33 feet below Lake Washington. 

A notable feature of the new building is its rooftop deck and private balcony system. Waterfront views were a priority design feature of Vela — Continental was even comfortable limiting the number of apartment units to create more room for expansive views. Both the roof and private balconies use bolt-on decks up to four times larger than the standard 4×5. Thanks to some inventive engineering, residents of Vela’s 141 units won’t have far to walk for a breathtaking view.

Resequencing the build

Many buildings constructed in this period had to deal with shortages and price fluctuations, and Vela was not spared. When the concrete and cement drivers of Seattle went on strike in 2021, Compass had poured only half of Vela’s concrete. The strike would last an unprecedented 140 days.

Our solution: re-sequence the project and finish what parts of the building we could. We split the building into thirds, and then framed, ran mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) through the frame, and then insulated, drywalled, and painted in the first section before the other two were even built. As concrete freed up, we moved on. We took a 110-day delay that was largely out of our control and slimmed it down to 40 days, saving time by keeping the operation running.

Lessons for the future

Another benefit of staging our build in this way is that, once we had the first section finished, we had learnings we could apply to sections two and three. We knew what worked and what didn’t, and how to save time and money going forward. 

And this is how we’ve always worked on Continental jobs. They are a client with extremely high standards, especially when it comes to the building envelope, which requires a general contractor comfortable with a lot of quality assurance/control. But over fifteen projects, Compass has developed a level of trust, mostly by taking what we learn on one phase or project and passing it on as lessons for the future. We know our clients’ preferences and can advocate for them proactively. And then we deliver the quality they expect.