Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the latest affordable housing development to open in Seattle will be extremely unusual — it will take place on the 17th floor, at the top of The Rise, the new set of First Hill structures in a joint project from Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing.
“The new building is the result of innovative solutions to development of affordable housing and strong partnership between local and state leaders and nonprofit developers,” the affordable housing providers said in a statement on the opening. Plymouth’s collaboration has risen on surplus Sound Transit land at Madison and Boylston, “the largest building constructed by any affordable housing provider in Seattle.”
The political and community process to make the project happen is still reverberating. Sound Transit agreed to transfer the land to the two organizations at “zero-cost” following a 2017 community process 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.
While the light rail scars remain raw in the neighborhood, the rise of The Rise is being held up as a positive outcome and has been featured as a core part of former First Hill Improvement Association director Alex Hudson’s campaign for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council.
Officials say Weber Thompson-designed project is comprised of two structures.
Plymouth will operate Blake House on floors two through five, with a total of 112 studio apartments focused on serving seniors and veterans who have experienced chronic homelessness, the organization says.
Bellwether, meanwhile, will operate The Rise on Madison on floors six through 17 with “250 homes affordable to families making 60% or less of area median income with 10% of those homes featuring two and three bedrooms.” The building is “a first-of-its-kind income-restricted, high-rise apartment community in Seattle offering must-have amenities at an affordable price,” the pitch for the new apartments reads. Those amenities include multiple roof decks, a fitness center, and an outside play structure. And, yes, pets are allowed.
Together, the new development provides a total of 362 supportive and affordable housing units, the developers say.
Officials said Tuesday The Rise was funded with tax-exempt bonds, 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity and private debt as well as funding from the City of Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington.
In addition, Bellwether raised $10 million from local philanthropists and private impact-investors to support a series of developments including The Rise. Blake House, Plymouth says, honors the legacy of Blake Nordstrom:
For more than 25 years, Blake Nordstrom contributed his time and energy toward various efforts to end homelessness in Seattle. As supporters of Plymouth Housing, Blake and the Nordstrom family both championed Plymouth’s mission in the community and invested in programs that benefited Plymouth residents, including an economic empowerment program at Nordstrom Rack for residents of Plymouth’s former Gatewood Hotel on 1st and Pine Street.
While the funding effort for The Rise predates the health crisis, the new highrise is being followed by a steady wave of smaller affordable and supportive housing projects that has continued to pass across the Capitol Hill and Central District area driven by the ongoing affordability crisis and renewed investment bolstered by federal, state, and local pandemic recovery funding.
Seattle officials have, meanwhile, shaped a $970 million affordable housing levy renewal for November ballot that could help keep new affordable housing projects coming.
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Just FYI this building costs 117 million dollars to house 200+ families.
You can do the maths.
Plus 112 formerly homeless vets. Well worth the cost (yes, housing is expensive, but so what?)