Sound Transit selects Bellwether Housing, Plymouth Housing Group to negotiate on mixed-use, high-rise affordable housing transit-oriented development on First Hill

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The project seeks to provide approximately 308 affordable apartments to low-income households including families and seniors transitioning from homelessness

The Sound Transit Board today authorized staff to enter negotiations with the joint venture of Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group, Inc., for development of a mixed-used, affordable housing transit-oriented development (TOD) project on First Hill. The project, when constructed, will be the first high-rise affordable housing project to be built in Seattle in 50 years.

"Now more than ever, Seattle is experiencing a critical lack of housing for our most vulnerable citizens," said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. "The ability of Sound Transit to work with developers to use land that is no longer needed for construction for affordable housing presents a tremendous opportunity to combine public and private resources for the greater good."

"The thousands of people moving to Seattle each month makes more urgent the need to address the dwindling stock of affordable housing," said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff. "The proposal by Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group, to create a high-rise affordable development not only takes advantage of the limited real estate available in today's hot market, but also leverages public and private resources to maximize affordability and density."

"We knew this site needed a bold, creative proposal," said Susan Boyd, Chief Executive Officer of Bellwether Housing. "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.

"Plymouth has worked with the First Hill community for the last three years, and we've heard their calls for more affordable housing in their neighborhood," said Plymouth Housing Group Executive Director Paul Lambros. "We're grateful for the warm welcome and support of First Hill, Sound Transit, and of course our incredible partners, Bellwether Housing. We're looking forward to bringing an innovative new housing project to Seattle and, most importantly, to providing new homes and access to nearby medical care to over 100 seniors experiencing homelessness."

The First Hill TOD site consists of approximately 21,600 square feet located at the northeast corner of Boylston Avenue and East Madison Street. On this site, the development team of Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group propose a 13-story building housing two projects. Plymouth proposes owning the first five floors of the building and intends to deliver approximately 111 units that are affordable to households making 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) or less and target senior citizens transitioning out of homelessness. Bellwether proposes owning floors six thru thirteen, adding an additional 197 units for households earning 30 and 60 percent of AMI, with 30 of these units sized for families.

The proposed project includes a ground floor program to accommodate two retail spaces and community rooms serving both tenant populations and the public. The building will be built to meet the Evergreen Standard for sustainable design of a development program.

The Board's action today allows the selected development team to begin their design, financing and due diligence processes needed to advance the project to development. The $92 million development relies on $39 million in public subsidies and calls on funders, including Seattle's Office of Housing, the State Housing Trust Fund, and King County Department of Community and Human Services, to make substantial contributions. To facilitate this ambitious project, the proposal requests that Sound Transit transfer the property at no cost.

Sound Transit adopted a TOD Program Strategic Plan in 2010 and a TOD Policy in December 2012. Two years later, Sound Transit updated its TOD strategic plan, which, used in tandem with the 2012 TOD Policy, provides the foundation for the agency's approach for integrating transit infrastructure and local and regional land use development.

In 2015, the state legislature amended the agency's enabling legislation, directing the agency to advance equitable TOD goals, setting forth specific financial and procedural requirements, and giving new tools to the agency to advance equitable development through prioritizing affordable housing in surplus property disposition. Those statute changes took effect with the November 2016 voter-approved Sound Transit 3 Regional Transit System Plan.

The property now designated for transit-oriented development was purchased in 2001 for use as a First Hill Light Rail Station. It was eliminated from the final station list in the Central Link Light Rail project in 2004, due to the cost and risk associated with the station design. The property was purchased without assistance from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and therefore does not require FTA approval for disposition.

More information on the First Hill transit-oriented development project is available at https://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/Find-a-Project/first-hill-transit-oriented-development.

More information on the Sound Transit TOD plan and policy is available at https://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/In-Your-Community/Transit-oriented-development.