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October 15, 2021

176 units leasing at Othello Square, with new elementary now open too

Real Estate Editor

Photo by Sky-Pix.com [enlarge]
Looking southwest, with Othello in the foreground, the new elementary school is visible behind Orenda; the bare patch at left is the site for the future Opportunity Center, also with apartments over commercial space.

Now called Orenda, the new mixed-use, mixed-income building at 3939 S. Othello St., right next to Othello Station, received its temporary certificate of occupancy last month. HomeSight is behind the broader Othello Square development. Its partners Laird Norton Properties, Spectrum Development Solutions and Seattle Children's Hospital own the seven-story, 176-unit Orenda. The Odessa Brown Children's Clinic will occupy the bottom two floors.

Pre-leasing for the apartments has begun, the developers announced on Monday, and 59% of the apartments have thus far been claimed. For 72 units, rents will be affordable to households earning 65% to 80% of area median income. That provision comes via the city's multifamily tax exemption program (MFTE), which in this case will sunset after 20 years.

Spectrum's Jake McKinstry said in a statement, “At a time when many cities across our nation continue to face housing affordability crises, this project demonstrates how we can create new models for the delivery of middle-income housing which continues to disappear in our cities. We have termed it the missing middle.”

Thrive is managing the apartments, which range from one- to three-bedrooms. Market-rate rents look to run from about $1,650 to $3,000. Sizes range from around 517 to 1,206 square feet.

Planning for the larger four-building Othello Square project began about four years ago. The L-shaped, 3.2-acre property is on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. It's being sold in chunks to HomeSight and partners by Seattle Housing Authority. (It was once targeted for development by convicted EB-5 developer Lobsang Dargey.)

Weber Thompson designed Orenda. General contractor Absher Construction broke ground at the very end of 2019. That was not long after the $5.4 million land sale from SHA. Orix Real Estate Capital arranged a $43.2 million HUD loan; and a $33.7 million financing package came from a syndicate including JPMorgan, Townsend Capital, Craft3 of Portland and the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Othello Square is in a federally tax favored Opportunity Zone and — conveniently for residents — directly south of a Safeway.

Laird Norton's Jim Reinhardsen said, “With Seattle Children's Hospital investing with us, it takes the next step in modeling how creative partnerships can effectively deliver housing for those who earn too much for subsidized housing, but not enough to afford market-rate rents.”

Orenda is targeting LEED gold certification. Amenities will include a deck with barbecue stations, tenant lounge, pet area, gym and bike room with 158 tenant stalls. Wrapping around the building, there's a large and colorful new 50-foot-tall mural by Emily Eisenhart. Spectrum's Kaitlin Boyce said that, “The mural was inspired by the history of the Othello neighborhood, and part of a community engagement dialogue” with Eisenhart.

The Odessa Brown Children's Clinic will have a slightly different team: NBBJ designed the 35,000-square-foot clinic, which Children's will own. Absher is again the builder; no date has been set for opening. Also on the ground floor will be a Tiny Tots childcare center. One level of underground parking will have 100 stalls, likely to be used by clinic patients and families dropping off and retrieving their kids.

Total project size is about 325,000 square feet, including the parking, for what began life as Building C. The Orenda team also included Lund Opsahl, structural engineer and shoring; Bush, Roed & Hitchings, surveyor; and ArchEcology, LEED consultant.

• Immediately south of Orenda, Building B is apparently finished at 3900 S. Holly Park Drive, with a temporary certificate of occupancy issued in August. That's a project by Washington Charter School Development, which acquired the land from SHA last year for $2.6 million. NAC Architecture designed the three-story, 37,416-square-foot future school. Marpac Construction was the general contractor. Green Dot High School dropped out of the project two years ago, and the operator is now Salish Sea Elementary School (part of the local Impact Public Schools). The plan there is to enroll 252 students this fall in grades K through two, then add a class a year over the next three years.

• Directly east of Orenda, Weber Thompson and Barrientos Ryan are planning the Opportunity Center (aka Building A) at Othello Square. That seven-story, 213-unit building will go on the corner at 7315 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. The mixed-use, mixed-income project has passed through design review, but not yet received a master use permit. Nor has SHA yet sold the property. Rafn Co. is indicated as the general contractor.

• South of that will be Building D, aka the U-Lex Co-op, at 7343 MLK. That's being developed by Barrientos Ryan and SLK Architects as a five-story, 68-unit project with units to be sold to buyers with incomes not exceeding 80% of AMI. Applicants will also have to be first-time homebuyers or not have owned a home in the past three years.

There's no schedule there yet, nor is there any indication of pre-sales, though HomeSight did conduct a potential homebuyers' workshop this summer. To simplify, a limited-equity co-op, or LEC, means that future sellers have to agree to a price cap determined formula to ensure units will remain affordable in future decades.

In a co-op, relatively uncommon on the West Coast, you own shares in the building — not the individual unit. No general contractor is indicated for U-Lex, but it does have a MUP.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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