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Oct. 12, 2012

New Workforce Apartments Planned for Half-acre Seattle Site

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Seattle—A half-acre site at 12th Ave. and East Yesler Way in Seattle is to be home to a new 120-unit multifamily community featuring workforce apartments. The announcement was made by the developers, Gracorp Capital Advisors and Spectrum Development Solutions, who purchased the site for $2.88 million from the Seattle Housing Authority.

Twenty percent of the apartments at the new development will be reserved for 20 years for households earning 80 percent or less of Area Median Income (AMI). The project is participating in the city’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption program for 12 of the 20 years.

The mix of rental units will include studios, one- and two-bedroom apartment homes.

Developing this project at this time and place was the right decision for several reasons, Spectrum Development Solutions officials report.

“Seattle is in the midst of becoming a 24/7 live-work-play city,” Jake McKinstry, Spectrum Development Solutions principal, tells MHN. “Downtown residential density has more than doubled since 1990, and outpaced San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and San Diego. Providing downtown housing for our mainstream workforce is critical to balanced growth. In fact, less than 15 percent of the downtown rental housing supply is affordable to people making between $36,000 and $50,000 annually.”

A 2011 University of Washington employee survey indicated proximity to work was rated one of the most important factors when choosing to live in a particular neighborhood. More than half of respondents reported they would rather walk to work, and just more than a quarter preferred to bike to work rather than drive.

The 12th and Yesler Apartments are on the southern slope of the first hill adjacent to downtown, within walking distance to the central business district, Harborview Medical Center, Swedish Hospital, Seattle University, Capitol Hill and the International District. New 12th St. streetcar service will link residents with Little Saigon and Capitol Hill.

As the first phase in the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, the project is designed as a showcase for the full Yesler Terrace project.

It features many of the aspects and amenities of the overall design, including a mix of low-income, workforce and market-rate housing, interconnected green spaces, a playground and a green roof.

“Ensuring the redevelopment of greater Yesler Terrace is done in an organic sense will be important to investors and developers alike,” McKinstry says. “The challenge is fulfilling the redevelopment vision in a strategic manner that doesn’t outpace market demand. It needs to be phased and developed in congruence with market growth.”

This is a neighborhood in transition, and 12th and Yesler is certain to emerge as a critical example of effective, well-located, transit-oriented workforce housing projects. “Spectrum Development Solutions in partnership with Gracorp Capital Advisors is just one project,” McKinstry says. “But we hope the we can be leaders in both promoting the overall vision and modeling a successful formula for workforce housing.”

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