Sold! $2.9 Million Sale Launches First Private Development at Yesler Terrace

by on October 2, 2012

Completely imaginary watercolor of Yesler Terrace redevelopment (Image: SHA)

Back in April of 2010, the Seattle Housing Authority was reviewing public/private development plans for Seattle’s Yesler Terrace, the 22 acres home of some 1,200 low-income residents. “If all goes smoothly,” we said, “construction could start by late 2012.” That wasn’t a given, though, since the redevelopment options involved selling public lands to private developers, and moving existing residents out during construction.

On September 4 of this year, the City Council approved  a land-use legislation package and a Cooperative Agreement for Yesler Terrace’s redevelopment. Broadly, the package calls for the SHA to replace 561 units of very-low-income housing for current Yesler residents (everyone gets a right-of-return certificate), and to add more than 1,200 new, income-restricted units.

But 2,700 new units could be built for availability at market rates. Their inhabitants can take advantage of the up to 900,000 square feet of new office and medical service space, and lodging, SHA is allowed, as well as 150,000 square feet of retail and services. If, in selling its land the SHA realizes more gains than expected, they are directed to build up to 100 more very-low-income units. (Preference in hiring construction workers will be given to SHA residents, as well.)

This morning, a half-acre of former SHA property (official sale price: $2.88 million) at 12th Avenue and East Yesler Way is on the way to private hands–private Canadian hands, in fact, since the new owners are Gracorp Capital Advisors Ltd. of Calgary, Canada. They’re partnering locally with Spectrum Development Solutions, who have been very busy around Seattle providing housing for college students. Projects include a number of University of Washington sites, and The Douglas at Seattle University.

Gracorp says the 116,000-square-foot project will provide about 120 apartments with commercial space on the ground floor totaling some 3,000 square feet. “All of the apartments are intended to be workforce housing, with 25 percent of the units committed for twenty years to households earning 80 percent or less of area median income (AMI).” That is, these 30 controlled-rate apartments could rent for more than the vast majority of SHA residents can afford.

SHA handles housing for more than 26,000 Seattle residents, and about 84 percent earn less than 30 percent of the area median income. For King County, HUD estimates that an 80-percenter can pay $1,232 in rent; a 30-percenter could manage just $463 per month.

But this is by design–the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace is supposed to dispel the image of public housing as creating basins of chronic poverty in the urban demographic topography. The new development’s studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments are supposed to introduce a workforce population (nurses, teachers, policeman, fireman, civil servants) to Yesler Terrace who can afford to shop in the associated commercial spaces. Also, they are believed to be good candidates for ridership on gondolas the new 12th Avenue streetcar.  There will be just 52 stalls of parking for the 120 units.

The project architect is Mithun (who are looking for project architects interested in “dense urban residential”). Here is an example of what they feel to be a “national example for sustainable, mixed-income, urban housing by utilizing an integrated design process”: their South Quarter development in Minneapolis. They’re a bit more committed to sustainability than aesthetics, you could say. Mithun will be pursuing LEED Silver Certification for the Yesler project. “The construction type will be Type V over I with five levels of wood frame over a concrete podium level,” notes a fact sheet.

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