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June 29, 2017
This spring, 40 low-income seniors moved into Western Avenue Senior Housing, a new housing development at Pike Place Market.
Many have been long-time members of the Pike Market Senior Center or vendors at the crafts market. Others are new to the Market community and hold low-wage part-time jobs in the broader community. A quarter of the residents moved into the new housing from homelessness.
For all, securing affordable housing in the Market means stability, access to walkable amenities, and the wide variety of support and services that the Market provides.
Pike Place Market is a longstanding Seattle landmark, beloved by locals and visitors alike for its produce stands, fish markets, bakeries, crafts market and restaurants. What many people don’t know is that the Market is also home to nearly 500 residents, many of whom are low-income seniors.
The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) governs the 9-acre historic district that makes up the Market and is responsible for supporting and preserving the Market and its small businesses. In addition, the PDA is a developer and manager of rental housing, much of which seeks to address the increasing need for affordable housing in the city center.
Fitting into the project
When the PDA embarked on its $74 million redevelopment project, MarketFront, a critical piece of the vision was to expand downtown housing opportunities for low-income seniors in the community.
The project includes 40 housing units serving seniors ages 55 and older earning no more than 30 percent and 50 percent of area median income, currently $20,200 and $33,600 respectively. Seven of those units are designed as live-work spaces to accommodate low-income senior artists working in the Market.
The complexity of developing affordable housing was magnified by the need to fit the project into an already multifaceted, large-scale civic project. Western Avenue Senior Housing is only one of many elements of the larger MarketFront, which redeveloped a surface parking lot into 30,000 square feet of public open space and 16,000 square feet of new space for vendors, as well as expanded facilities for the Market’s social service agencies and over 300 stalls of public parking.
These different elements have unique parameters and constraints around funding, design and construction. The affordable housing was challenged to fit into this larger framework, requiring flexibility and creativity by the entire development team.
The PDA brought on Beacon Development Group, an affordable-housing consultant, to ensure the smooth integration of the housing within the larger project. Beacon worked to secure financing, manage the design process, and oversee construction in conjunction with the commercial portion of the project. This included securing public funding and low-income tax credits for the housing, providing feedback on the design of senior units, ensuring adherence to the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard criteria, and monitoring overall construction progress.
The PDA broke ground on MarketFront in May 2015 in order for construction to begin on the underground public parking and commercial portion of the building. Construction on the housing began in February 2016, after the closing of financing for the housing and the parking was complete.
Services for seniors
The ground floor has roughly 2,000 square feet of program space fronting Western Avenue, where residents will be able to access services on-site at the future home of the Neighborhood Center. Other nearby services include the Pike Market Food Bank, Pike Market Senior Center, and Neighborcare Health at Pike Place Market.
The building also includes common areas and a shared terrace for residents with sweeping views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. Construction was completed in January and the project quickly leased up to full occupancy, including the live-work units, which are now home to senior artists working in the market.
The development cost for the housing was $9 million, including low-income tax credits, permanent funds, and construction financing provided by U.S. Bank Community Development Corp., the Seattle Office of Housing, the state Housing Financing Commission and King County Community Services Division.
Western Avenue Senior Housing helps to address a vital need in downtown Seattle and the city at large, where homelessness and a lack of affordable housing have reached an unprecedented level. By including affordable housing in the MarketFront expansion, the PDA is providing seniors with beautiful new affordable homes in the city’s core with easy access to transportation, services and employment.
Western Avenue Senior Housing ensures that Pike Place Market will continue to support its local community into the future, not only with fresh produce, beautiful views and crafts markets, but also with safe and secure homes for the most vulnerable in our community.
Brian Lloyd is vice president at Beacon Development Group. He has over 23 years of experience in affordable housing development.