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This corner won't have light rail but it could get affordable housing

Light rail runs on the surface in Seattle's Rainier Valley.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
File: Light rail runs on the surface in Seattle's Rainier Valley.

Nonprofit developers plan to build more than 300 affordable apartments in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood. The project is slated to go on surplus land that Sound Transit is handing over for free.

Originally, the property on the corner of Madison and Boylston in First Hill was supposed to hold a light rail station.

Instead, Sound Transit has agreed to transfer the land to Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group at no cost.

“The building 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,” the developers said in a statement.

Susan Boyd, CEO of Bellwether Housing, said the land deal is a key part of their ability to move forward with the project.  

"Without this highly valuable land in the middle of the densest residential neighborhood in the city being available for this project at no cost, we wouldn't be able to do the project," Boyd said.

The development would include two different kinds of housing. The Plymouth component would have more than 100 units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless seniors, as well as on-site social services.

Lynn Beck is the chief cevelopment officer with Plymouth Housing. She said growing the stock of affordable housing with wrap-around services is a key part of addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

“It is critical for projects like this to be developed and brought online so that we can serve the need that’s happening right now in our community,” Beck said.

The Bellwether portion would include roughly 200 units for low-income individuals and families.

Boyd said the Bellwether units would be affordable to households making between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income.

“What that means today for, let’s say a family of 3, is incomes between $26,000 a year and about $50,000 a year.”

Rents would be capped at 30 percent of the family’s income.

Both developers say community members in First Hill have shown great support for the project.

Alex Hudson is the executive director of the First Hill Improvement Association. She said neighborhood members pushed Sound Transit to transfer the land at no cost, and they welcome the opportunity for more affordable housing to be added to the area.

"As we're seeing an increasing amount of market rate development in First Hill, we want to make sure that the investments that are made in this beautiful neighborhood that's so-well served by transit and access to opportunities is able to be shared by all people across the income spectrum," Hudson said.

The project will cost roughly $91 million. Bellwether and Plymouth will apply for federal and local funding later this year. Both groups say they're confident they'll receive the money, and they’ll be doing private fundraising to fill any gaps that may arise.

Boyd said they hope to begin construction in 2020.  

Year started with KUOW: 2015