It will be months before YouthCare knows exactly what it will do with the building at the corner of Broadway and Pine Street; right now they’re happy they get the chance to do something.
“We are just breathtakingly excited to figure it out,” said YouthCare’s Jody Waits.
The building in the 900 block of E Pine, owned by the state since 1995, has been used by Seattle Central Community College. The school no longer wanted it, and it seemed the building might have ended up going up for sale until state Rep. Frank Chopp stepped in. Chopp, Speaker of the House and one of Capitol Hill’s representatives in the legislature, convinced the college to wait and see if there might be a group that might use the property for homeless services.
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YouthCare was the only bidder. The group, started in 1974, operates 11 sites across the area and focuses on providing emergency response, housing, employment and education services to people ages 12-24. They also run a facility assisting homeless youth who are LGBT, and a facility assisting youth who have been sexually exploited. They typically serve about 1,200 youth per year, Waits said.
The bid process ran through December 15th and then was extended until January, according to the state’s Department of Commerce. Details of the bid are not available until a contract is signed.
The way the application worked, Waits explained, allowed her group to be a bit vague in exactly what they hope to do with the property, mostly because they’re not entirely sure themselves. They expect to spend the next six-nine months working with the state and Capitol Hill Housing sorting out just what they might be able to put in the project.
In broad terms, Waits said they hope to be able to focus services on employment and education opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness, likely focusing on people ages 18-24. Currently, the group houses those services at the Orion Center, at the base of the Hill in the triangle bounded by Denny Way, Stewart Street and Yale Avenue.
They hope to move those services to the new building, which will allow them to expand the services which will remain in the Orion Center, typically focusing on short-term needs, within that building.
The Broadway and Pine building, Waits said, will not be focusing in things like sheltering or crisis intervention.
The group also plans to work with the neighborhood as it develops its scope.
“We’re obviously not new to Seattle, but we’re new to that neighborhood,” she said. ‘We want to explore in a responsible way.”
They expect to include housing on the property, which is where Capitol Hill Housing will come in. The upper floors of the building are mostly classroom spaces, Waits said. Exactly how many housing units those classrooms could be turned into is an open question which will depend on the mix of services and needs, which still hasn’t been fully developed.
“What we’re doing isn’t working and incremental steps won’t help,” Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons said in a statement on the project. “We can’t keep up with the growth of homelessness, let alone chip away at the enormous number of people without a place to live.”
Persons said CHH is planning something on the scale of “more than 50 permanently affordable homes,” calling it “welcome news for the neighborhood.”
Capitol Hill Housing will also be busy across the street with plans to develop an affordable housing project in the 1500 block of Broadway on land acquired in a three-way property swap between it, Seattle Central and Sound Transit. The trio signed a memorandum of understanding late last year laying out Sound Transit’s plan to swap their Site D next to Capitol Hill Station’s western portal near Denny for Seattle Central’s Atlas property — a block South on Broadway. Sound Transit will then temporarily hold the Atlas property during negotiations with Capitol Hill Housing, ultimately handing it over to the developer for affordable housing.
Back at Broadway and Pine, the project is getting started with a small amount of seed money. Waits noted that the building comes with a $1 million grant from the state. City Council member Sally Bagshaw was able to secure $1.5 million in funding for whichever entity ended up taking over the building, so YouthCare will have $2.5 million to help get things off the ground.
Waits said the group realizes the bigger challenge, money-wise, will come in future years when they need funding for ongoing operations of the facility.