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Centennial Tower
Seattle, Washington

An Editorial

This site details our experiences with Centennial Tower Apartment Building, located at

4th Avenue
Seattle, Washington

The building is presently managed by:

APEX Realty Management, Inc.
4020 Lake Washington Blvd NE
Kirkland, WA 98033

This site contains and includes our opinions.

Purpose of this site:

There are few issues more central to the human experience than the concept of HOME.

Psychologists tell us that humans have certain needs. At the top of the list are these two: To survive and to procreate. In order to accomplish either, a stable, safe and livable home is of the greatest importance. When all the world is out to get us, where's the one place on Earth we can retreat to, to seek comfort, safety, rest and peace? Home. Indeed, there's no place like Home. International wars have been waged, won, and lost over the concepts of "home". Millions have sacrificed their lives to protect their home. Untold hundreds of thousands have gone to jail or are in prison currently because they violated the sanctity of home. Tens of thousands have been killed, rightly and legally so, by a homeowner defending his home.

The concept of home is intensely emotional. A person's home is of the utmost, the utmost importance to the very survival of that person, and there's not a government, society or people in the world which doesn't recognize that fact.

Much of the population of the United States lives in apartments. Unfortunately, the very concept of the apartment experience means that the resident is more or less at the mercy of the good will of (a) his/her neighbor, and (b) his/her landlord. When good neighbors go bad, there is often some recourse. You can call the building manager; you can call the police; you can call building security (if available). These remedies may or may not work to restore the peace, safety and sanctity of your home, but at least you can try them and see. This leaves the resident feeling as though there is at least a chance that his problem will get solved, and that the security, livability and value of his apartment home may be kept intact. The sanctity of one's home, regardless of its arrangement, location or construct, is of paramount importance. Few apartment managers even begin to understand the trust which is placed in them when they contract to provide space in which someone will make their home. Managers handle the responsibility with varying degrees of success. Some managers don't handle the responsibility at all. And some managers are such a clear and blatant detriment to the well-being of their apartment community that they should be evicted themselves.

This site endeavors to help the millions of apartment dwellers avoid problems in the communities in which their apartment-homes are located, and to understand what kinds of problems can occur when bad managers are in control.

Read if you think you might like to live in Centennial Tower...
This website contains and includes our opinions

Like to Party?

Welcome to Seattle's Hottest Party Building!

Like to Get Really Good and Drunk, Threaten Your Neighbors, Throw
Beer Bottles, Scream and Yell Obscenities All Night, Crank Up the Ol'
Boombox, Fizz Your Beers All Over the Elevator Walls, Start Fights, Vandalize
the Building, Vandalize the Cars in the Garage, Wreck Your Apartment, Pay Your Rent Every
Other Month... Does This Sound Like "Your Kind of Place"? Well, Of Course it Does!

Pretty-Much Anything Goes Here, So Come on Down...
We Promise Not to Cramp Your Style---
In Fact, if Anyone Complains, We'll Evict 'Em for You!


If you are out apartment hunting and think you might like to live in Centennial Tower, a small downtown Seattle hi-rise, this website may help you decide.

The Centennial Tower building is located in "Belltown", another of Seattle's wanna-be "trendy" neighborhoods. Why should it be considered trendy? No one is really sure, but the landlords, Realtors and developers figure that if they can just convince enough people it is trendy, it might become trendy---and they'll make some loot by jacking prices even higher than they already are. --No matter that there's little or nothing here to drawn anyone.

People first get the notion they'd like to live in Belltown because they hear something somewhere that plants a seed in their minds, making them think there's some reason to live here. Developers like to try and say there are lots of "cool" restaurants in Belltown. Well, there aren't. In a short time the Belltown resident learns that the restaurants within walking distance offer poor to fair fare only, and even then, often at high prices. Within a few months the Belltown resident also learns that it can sometimes be more trouble than it's worth to walk six blocks to a cafe, because of the gauntlet of street people one must run. Our neighbor was mugged exactly one block from the Centennial late one afternoon (well before dark). Two girls were stabbed exactly one block in the other direction; again, well before dark. I was walking home early one evening when two street punks sitting on the curb noticed I was talking on a cell phone. They began loudly exchanging the desire to own a cell phone themselves, and presently they jumped up and ran at me. I turned and stood to face them. When they realized I wouldn't run, they decided to find other activities to amuse themselves. I once watched a woman standing at the corner of 5th and Vine at 2 p.m., waiting to cross the street. She was well-dressed, with a bag of what might have been groceries in her arms. A man on the opposite corner suddenly erupted into a primordial scream, then charged the woman and hit her at full run. She went sprawling on her butt, the contents of her bag flying in all directions. The man simply kept on running and screaming. There was no clue to his motivation, other than that he was insane---an affliction shared by most of the hundreds of residents of the 17 or so homeless missions in perhaps a five block radius of the Centennial Tower. Some residents will say, "I've lived here for two years and nothing like that has ever happened to me!" We say, "It will."

Conspicuously missing from this neighborhood are children. The above offers a tiny, microscopic insight into why there are no children here. The 2000 census say there are only 145 children out of 5,019 or so households in the Belltown neighborhood. You'll never see them on the sidewalk because, simply, it's not safe for them to be there. Here's an excerpt from the Seattle Times talking specifically about Centennial Tower:

"Any given evening, at various intersections, groups of rough-looking characters hang out, dealing drugs or carousing. Social-service agencies [homeless missions and halfway houses] have been allowed to let their patrons form long queues along sidewalks, blocking walkers and creating a threatening atmosphere, even to adults."

Renters thinking of living downtown imagine the close proximity of shopping centers, events and all sorts of interesting things to do. In point of fact, it's ten or fifteen blocks to the nearest shopping, running the proverbial street-punk gauntlet all the way. There are no supermarkets downtown---just a plethora of little corner grocers which offer poor selection at ridiculous prices. One might think these family-owned, mom-and-pop stores are "quaint", harking back to the days when you knew the grocer and they knew you, and you might hang around for a minute engaging in pleasantries and gossip. Unfortunately, the independents that plague downtown aren't pleasing flowers that enhance the neighborhood---they're leeching weeds which choke and dehumanize it, and you'll never once be tempted to get to know your local grocer or discuss the weather over a cup of coffee and a donut. You're more likely to strike up a chat with the owner of the local porn shop or strip club. Belltown ain't a neighborhood, it's a wasteland where, if not one single other thing ever happens to you here, you'll sooner or later get tired of tracking the bodily fluids of strangers into your home, and trust us when we say there's not a single bodily fluid you won't sooner or later step into in Belltown. It's a gritty, rowdy, half-baked place, but to live here you'll pay probably the highest rents in the city. What justifies and validates the Belltown allure? It's. Just. Hype.


Renters imagine magnificent views. And the views from Centennial Tower are truly that. The "leasing agent" (office worker) who shows apartments in the Centennial makes sure the windows are clean and the curtains are wide open when any prospective tenant walks into a new unit. They know that the view alone often makes the sale, right then and there. This is an honorable tactic---the views are spectacular, and the staff has every right, moral and legal, to capitalize on the fact. What they won't mention is that after a few months, 80% of renters have closed off their blinds for good---because (1) the view doesn't change, and they one day realize they no longer look out the window, and (2) when they realize there are 5 or 12 or 23 very powerful telescopes counting the moles on their eyelids, and a whole host of web cams sending their every movement to the Internet world, they decide they value privacy over scenery. Some learn to stop caring about being voyeur'd. That's the New York City way. Most, however, even the stylishly immodest, do care and get tired of being ogled. There's another reason residents close off their views: On the south and west sides of the building, the sun will broil yer brains. Even in the winter, when it might be 50F. outside, a sunny day can raise temperatures in these sun-facing units to 80F., and there's little if anything you can do about it. Example:

13:50 hrs., February 12, outside temp. exactly 48F., balcony door wide open, two layers of white blinds covering all window areas -- inside temp. exactly 77F. --not the best conditions under which to entertain a business client).

16:40 hrs., February 12, outside temp exactly 59F., balcony door wide open, now all windows open, two layers of white blinds covering all window areas -- inside temp. exactly 79F.

There's almost no cross-breeze in these units, the building doesn't have built-in air conditioning (they'll loan you a tiny, 110v. unit which provides almost no cooling effect at all), and when residents simply can't take one more degree of heat and stuffiness about all they can do is open their doors. --And listen to the traffic in the halls. It ain't very sophisticated. In the summer, the heat build-up in the south and west facing units is an absolute phenomenon. Too bad management doesn't mention that when they're extolling the virtues of the west and south-side views. Luckily, the east-side exposures don't have the afternoon heat build-up problem. Instead they have the morning heat-build-up problem (which is bearable). But they have the siren problem, as one of the busiest fire stations in Seattle is virtually across the street. The north side is probably the best side of the building. On the north side you can listen to the amplified protests at Seattle Center which are, actually, somewhat entertaining. --Unless you have a critical brief to get out by 8:00 a.m., then it's not so amusing.

Parking here is somewhere around $100-$150 per month. You can have unreserved parking for a lower rate, or "reserved" parking for a higher rate. Unreserved means first-come, first-served. If it's a holiday and 40% of the residents have sneaked their friends and relatives into the available parking slots, you may come home from work and find that you have no place to park. If you've paid for reserved parking, you may find yourself in exactly the same situation! We've personally had unauthorized cars sit in our reserved spots for three days straight, while management wrings their hands and refuses to take action, afraid it might "offend" the owner of the offending vehicle. Every new manager that comes in to the building will say something like "There's a new Sheriff in town" (with regard to enforcing the parking problem). But instead of there being a "new sheriff", what we get is a new Daffy Duck, and the same old parking problems persist year after year after year, manager after manager. And for that you pay $150 per month.

Centennial now makes residents pay their own utilities. This was not the case when we moved in, and it was not in our contract. Management apparently decided that if it raised the rents any more than it already had, the tenants might band together with pitchforks and torches and run them off. So they simply stopped paying the utilities. We were told at first that the amount tacked onto our rents would be about $40 per month. That was still wrong, but not wrong enough to go to court over---just wrong enough to be slightly angry over. Then our first bills hit, and we were all "dismayed" to suddenly be paying a $160 per month increase, over and above the regular rent increase that had already been imposed. This kind of arrogance and greed begins to wear on your sense of fairness, and makes other, subsequent, smaller transgressions by management that much harder to swallow. Many managers seem to think that if they can pull one outrageous stunt and get away with it, then it must be okay to pull another outrageous stunt, and another and another. What they don't seem to realize is that their outrageous stunts are not forgotten, and the irritation and anger builds up in the minds of their tenants cumulatively. That's another reason managers these days seem to like to keep things stirred up and the turn-over rate high; that means fewer long-term residents who will remember the outrageous crap they made their tenants endure last year or the year before.

The building includes an impressive array of amenities---there's a small lap pool, a very nice exercise room, sauna, hot tub, BBQ deck and "community room". You can pay for the community room if you want to use it. Or, you can suffer through the absolute drunken rock-out parties on the second floor, to which you're not invited, sponsored or sanctioned by management, featuring a hundred people who don't even live here and feel perfectly comfortable treating you like crap if they meet you in the elevator or in the halls, who often somehow feel invited to take a drunken tour of the upper floors at ten p.m., who know they can spill their beers and drinks all over the place with impunity because even though open alcohol outside of the community room is prohibited, management will do nothing to stop it.

In our case, we could only use the amenities late at night because of our schedules, but too many unpleasant encounters with drunks and bands of drunks and smart-asses in these facilities soon cured us of that. We moved here imagining we'd use the pool every day---get in shape, and all of that. When we moved here the amenities were being used fully, yet not overly so. But the owners and/or management of the Centennial built a whole 'nother building across the alley (this building wasn't making them rich enough, fast enough, perhaps), and as an enticement to find suckers tenants for that, offered full use of the Centennial's facilities to those folks as well. So the load on Centennial's facilities tripled overnight. In many cases, those are the people some of us moved to the Centennial to avoid.

The Centennial is a well-built building. We were at home during the earthquake of a few years ago. Walls cracked and molding sprung, but the building didn't come down. Contrary to what you might think, the apartments are still not soundproofed. One might imagine that for nearly $2000 per month for a 550 sq. ft. one-room studio (2003), the walls would be thicker. But just like any month-to-month rental building, you'll hear your neighbor's parrot, you'll hear your neighbors having sex (in fact if you're in the halls late at night you can hear any number of people having sex in their apartments), you'll hear their stereo and their fights and their coffee grinder and their blender--- Most tenants don't seem to realize that their conversations in their own apartments can be heard by anyone in the halls. Maybe management will do something if the noise becomes unbearable. Or, as some have learned, maybe they won't. It must depend on their whim, or perhaps the phase of the moon.

We've lived in the cities, and in the burbs, and in the most remote and desolate places one could imagine. We've lived in the "great white north", where it was 450 miles from our cabin to the nearest dirt road, and we've lived in the desert southwest where we chased cattle rustlers on horseback for six years. We've lived on city water systems, hand-dug cisterns, community well systems, and one place in New Mexico where we had to run a separate gen-set just to pull water up from 1600 feet underground, a trickle at a time. We've lived on ships and even a square-rigged sailing freighter for some years. What we have not experienced, however, is any place, anywhere, at any time where we were without running water more often than what we've experienced in Centennial Tower. We simply cannot count the number of times we've been without water, sometimes for many hours at a time. The count must be in the many dozens. Maybe more than many dozens! We don't believe for one minute this is the fault of the maintenance staff here, who, as we've stated previously, is legendarily good. The problem seems to be (1) that the plumbing system in this building was of the poorest possible quality when it was originally installed, and (2) that management or ownership has been cobbling and patching for decades, when it really should have just FIXED THE G**AMNED PLUMBING. If you're the type of person who must have a reliable source of water for showering and cooking, we guarantee you'll be angered here. Sooner or later you'll have a business meeting in two hours, and you'll jump in the shower to freshen up---only to have naught but a trickle of rust come out of the tap, and when you call down to the office to see how long the outage will be this time, you'll be greeted by a very sweet voice telling you that she's very sorry, but she just doesn't know; maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 60 seconds. If you're retired, this may not be a concern. If you're life is active and you have schedules to keep, this will likely drive you nuts. We haven't documented the water outages here. We should have. If someone has, we ask them to send in a copy to our attorney and we'll post it on this site.

If you don't like intrusions into your home, you may occasionally take issue with the many times Centennial deems it necessary to invade your space. They'll schedule times to simply inspect your home---we're never 100% convinced it's necessary. And the fire alarm tests are especially vexing. They are, however, completely necessary. That doesn't mean, of course, that you enjoy listening to the fire alarm units in you apartment sound on and off, sometimes for hours.

You'll note that the office staff turn-over is frequent. Doormen come and go. Managers turn about as often as doormen. You might suddenly find yourself enduring a thick-skulled oaf in the manager's chair. We've endured door-persons who were caught stealing from tenants. We've had maid-personnel steal from us.. A couple of years ago, one management person so fouled up her life that the cops had to grab her. She stupidly tried to run for it, and was tackled by SPD. Now that was entertainment. The problem is, one might expect to run into that mentality in some government-run housing project in New York. But most of us moved here to avoid that kind of thing. Too bad we still can't avoid that kind of thing.

If you're a party-hardy kind of person, you may well find that you have considerable leeway to live out your fantasies here. If you're a serious, hard-working type who absolutely must have peace and quiet in order to recharge yourself after a day in the executive meat grinder, the things that go on here will wear on your nerves.....and wear on your nerves.....and eventually, you'll wake up one day and realize that you're downright angry, that you're mad as hell and you're not going to take this anymore. Many people in this building reached that point last summer, and this coming summer shows no signs of improvement under present management.

In summary, here's what we find:

Renters get the idea that, for whatever reason, it might be "cool" to live downtown. So they come and look around. The Centennial is a beautiful building (at least to us), and so it is capable of "making the sale" more often than some other hi-rises. People or couples bite the bullet with regard to outrageous rents, high deposits and a $150 non-refundable "credit check fee" (credit checks can be done for $7), and they move in bright-eyed and hoping for great things. If they are the party type, they have constant trouble with their neighbors, often beginning their very first day, and even if management doesn't kick them out, they eventually move out on their own before some neighbor kills them with a deer rifle. If they're the quiet types, they get tired of the party crowd, and move out before they turn postal and kill their partying neighbors with a deer rifle. Either way, they soon realize that the rent is way too high, that downtown is extremely noisy, that there are no good restaurants, that it's more trouble than it's worth to go out and walk around because you get so tired of the bums, the vast majority of whom are perfectly capable of working for a living just like you or us but who would rather curse and scream and run at you and threaten you if you decline to give them your "spare change"; that there are no parks, that the square footage of their apartments is suspect and was probably calculated by including the space behind the wall plugs and on the ledge outside their balcony, and that pretty-much everyone they know across town is enjoying an environment certainly no more noisy, with 50 or 70% more room, free parking, no street-thugs, all the same amenities, at sometimes literally half the price. So they complete one lease and move out, disgusted. We've seen it over and over and over. This building depends on P.T. Barnum's assessment of the world: "There's a sucker born every minute."

We've stayed something like 6 or 7 lease terms. Why? Because we stupidly believed in management's intelligence and their capacity to learn from their mistakes.

--Turns out, we were mistaken.

New tenants will notice one thing that isn't apparent when they view an empty unit and which management is careful not to mention---that's the "fish bowl" effect of the concrete floors. New tenants won't be aware of it until after they've signed the lease and have moved in, and are trying to arrange furniture against the walls. It appears that the floors are sagging so that everything in the room is tilting inward at a fairly pronounced angle (the image below hasn't been altered in any way---click to enlarge):

Part of this "fun house" effect is due to the carpeting strips that must run along each wall to hold the stretched carpeting in place. But even if you move your furniture away from the wall six or eight inches, the problem is still readily apparent. The floors slope downward toward the middle of each room. In some rooms it's easily seen with the naked eye. In other rooms it's not so bad, and you won't notice it until you try to set a piece of furniture. We've not seen any unit which did not display this. It's simple, if a little irritating, to correct. One just places little wedges or scraps of wood under each leg of their furniture which faces toward the center of the room. It takes some adjusting and tweaking to get each piece of furniture just right, and you'll have to be careful not to lift one corner higher than another, or risk having the furniture "rock" on two corners. And you'll want to take care that you get the two corners wedged evenly or you'll introduce a permanent warp into your prized chest of drawers. Then, of course, once you get it all set up just right, you'll have to re-check or re-do it in a few days or a week after everything settles. None of this is a big deal. It's just one more thing that stacks up back in the recesses of your brain and makes you wonder why you're paying twice as much in rent as everyone else you know, and, increasingly, things like this will help you realize that the "Luxury" in "Luxury Apartments" is just smoke and mirrors. We found ourselves wondering---if the floors have sagged this much, how sound is the rest of the building?

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