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Groups announce First Hill plan for Seattle’s ‘largest’ affordable housing building

Nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group announced Monday morning that they are moving forward on an affordable housing project on surplus Sound Transit land on First Hill. The project will be “the largest building constructed by any affordable housing provider in Seattle, with 12 to 15 floors of housing over a floor of retail, service, and community space.”

Sound Transit has agreed to transfer to the two organizations at “zero-cost” following a November decision on what to do with the land originally acquired for a never-built First Hill light rail station at the corner of Madison and Boylston.


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“The Madison/Boylston Project in an inspiring example of how two nonprofits can come together with a welcoming neighborhood and supportive local government to help make Seattle a livable city for all,” Paul Lambros, executive director of Plymouth Housing Group, said in the announcement.

“We knew this site needed a bold, creative proposal,” said Susan Boyd, chief executive officer of Bellwether. “We are leveraging density, a mix of affordable housing types and the strengths of two great organizations—Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group—to accomplish something very special in this critical, central location. And we are incredibly grateful to Sound Transit for the opportunity and to the First Hill community, who has been so supportive of our proposal.”

“We thought in viewing their proposal that their numbers were reasonable,” Sarah Lovell of Sound Transit said last year about the plan. “It is an expensive project. It’s expensive to build a high-rise. But stacking two housing project increases their ability to get subsidies. They’re trying to be really efficient with their design.”

The highrise will have two condominium interests. Plymouth Housing will manage one with its own target population and Bellwether will manage another. The Plymouth component will include around 111 furnished studio apartments for seniors who have experienced homelessness with onsite property management and social services. The Bellwether component will include approximately 200 rental apartments affordable to low-income households, with a range of unit sizes accommodating individuals, couples, and families, the organizations say.

The properties were purchased by Sound Transit in 2001 in anticipation of building a light rail station near Madison and Boylston. That plan was axed, the First Hill Streetcar was born, and Sound Transit leases 1400 Madison to a Moneytree payday loans store and 1014 Boylston as medical office space. The block is now poised for major change as a Whole Foods grocery store and 16-story apartment tower are under construction at Broadway and Madison.

While the light rail station was never built, there is a renewed push for a new station  planned as part of the planned West Seattle alignment to be shifted onto First Hill from downtown. Meanwhile, 2021 is the planned start of service for new RapidRide bus service on Madison.

According to Monday’s announcement, Bellwether and Plymouth will apply for funding beginning in the fall of 2018 and plan to start construction in 2020, with an anticipated completion in 2021.


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