Abbott’s Alley: Sustainable living in Skagit

Martha Rose Construction

304 Metcalf St.


(206) 406-4395

In downtown Sedro-Woolley, a green arch greets residents and visitors to Abbott’s Alley—a portal to the future with a window to the past.

Just across the street from City Hall, the six mixed-use buildings beyond the sign comprise an ambitious net-zero project by Martha Rose Construction. Merging the longtime company’s “standards of the future” with elements of a time gone by—an era when people often lived above or adjacent to the places they worked—Rose’s trademarked “City Cabins” go above and beyond what people typically think of when it comes to sustainable living.

All six of the “work downstairs/live upstairs” buildings that are finished or in the final stages of completion are certified in the Built Green Washington program at a five-star level. As well as having full solar arrays and next-level insulation, water is managed on-site, wiring is in place to charge electric cars, and fresh air is constantly circulated through the structures thanks to a heat recovery ventilation system.

“It’s a matter of using very efficient equipment, and a very simple system,” Rose explains. “Insulation keeps the cold out in the winter, and the heat out in the summer. People don’t want to believe that’s true, but it is.”

Since she first walked onto a construction site in 1972, Rose has been passionate about making a difference when it comes to people’s standards of living, and Abbott’s Alley is a prime example of how her life’s work extends beyond the structures she oversees.

In addition to moving into affordable, energy-efficient homes with built-in business space, those who purchase the remaining three-story, loft-style homes will also find themselves within walking distance of Sedro-Woolley’s stores, restaurants and natural habitats. Hopefully, they’ll also connect with their alley-mates, and share time around the fire pit, or watching a movie on the outdoor screen.

One of their neighbors will be Martha Rose herself. She and her partner—a Work Force trainer who’s presently using the lower floor as his office, with plans to include a conference room Rose will share—have already taken up residence in Abbott’s Alley, and are settling in for the long haul.

Since she’s living on-site and knows the spaces inside and out, Rose says she’s happy to show prospective buyers around. Interested parties can contact her directly, or bring along a realtor. Either way, a conversation with Rose is sure to spark interest in living a net-zero lifestyle.

“It’s part of my action plan,” Rose says. “This is how I—and whoever else moves here—become part of the solution to the problems of the day. That’s at the root of why I do what I do.

“Some people think when you add these features to the home, you’re paying a premium,” the Skagit and Island County Builder member adds. “You’re not. It’s in the same ballpark. It’s changing how we live, and accepting the fact that homes can be healthier and super-efficient.”

To find out more about Abbott’s Alley and Martha Rose Construction, email martha@martharoseconstruction, or go to

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