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Along the Mother Road
caption: A worker in Boise puts together an apartment bound for Seattle. 
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A worker in Boise puts together an apartment bound for Seattle.
Credit: Guerdon Modular Design

These Seattle apartments are being built in Boise, Idaho. Here’s why

The apartment complex at Aurora and North 109th Street in Seattle was built on the cheap.

That’s because Daniel Stoner, the developer, outsourced the building to Boise, Idaho, where labor and material costs are cheaper.

“This entire building was built in Boise,” he said, gesturing to the large block building on one of Seattle’s most infamous highways.

Seattle has boomed in recent years, but Aurora Avenue North has remained stagnant. That's why city planners hope to build many new apartments buildings here.

The problem: It’s expensive to build in Seattle, and developers can’t charge high rents on Aurora. So they have to find clever ways to keep their costs down.

Stoner said this unorthodox method of building allowed him to lower rents by 15 to 20 percent. Some of these tiny apartments will go for $850 a month.

The apartments were built in a factory. “They were shipped on semis from Boise to here over about three weeks last June,” he said.

The manufacturer, Guerdon Modular Buildings, loaded 93 apartments on 36 semi-trailers.

KUOW's Region of Boom team is spending the spring on Highway 99. Hear more stories from our series "Along the Mother Road"

The trucks came over Snoqualmie Pass. They didn’t stop driving even when they got flat tires (the trucks had enough tires that Stoner said they could afford to lose a few along the way).

“Then we brought out a large crane out in front and assembled the building in about nine days,” Stoner said.

“So you put it together like LEGOs, basically?” I asked.

“Absolutely, very much like LEGOs. And thank god it fit together,” Stoner said.

There was still work to do once everything was in Seattle — you don’t want the stacked apartment units to split apart in an earthquake.

“Right here for example," Stoner said, pointing out a joint in the ceiling. "This was one box, and this was another box that we connected up and then structurally attached together.”

In May, he’ll start work on his next modular project, near Othello Station in South Seattle.