By 2008, Springwood Apartments Kent's East Hill had seen nearly 40 years of use as a low-income housing complex. Almost 1,000 people – including more than 500 children – lived in dark, worn out, functionally obsolete housing.
Two years and $55 million later, the largest public housing community in South King County was reborn. Now known as Birch Creek, the site features bright, energy-efficient apartments. Built around a central park, it offers outdoor recreation and play areas for children. Its two state-of-the-art community centers support healthy families and provide programs that help children succeed both in academics and in life.
Birch Creek’s 262 units show dramatic differences inside and out. Redesigned exteriors draw on modern design and materials, using varied facades, roof lines, textures, and colors. The result is a distinct, attractive group of buildings. Inside, fully renovated units feature new wall finishes, fixtures, doors, cabinets, and counters. Each home also offers a full-sized washer and dryer. Plumbing and electrical systems were upgraded, and a fire sprinkler system in every home affords additional safety.
New landscaping and front yards have reshaped the look of Birch Creek. Open areas now feature more trees and shrubs and broader lawns. Outdoor spaces also provide for play equipment, teen activities, family recreation, and a P-patch garden. A central park, picnic spots, and separate toddler, youth, and teen play areas complete the transformation.
A Supportive Community
The redeveloped campus is bookended by two community centers. Local nonprofits work at these facilities to address the needs of Birch Creek residents and the greater Kent community.
The Kent Family Center houses Head Start classrooms, a job counseling center, and a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinic managed by Public Health - Seattle & King County. The nearby Birch Creek Youth Center offers a gymnasium, classrooms for after-school homework help, an arts classroom, and a computer lab. The Youth Center also has a commercial kitchen for snacks, a summer lunch program, and healthy cooking demonstrations.
The combination of housing and community centers fosters education, health, job training, and recreation. Together they offer children a safe, supportive place to live, learn, and play. They also give parents the chance to improve their skills and become more self-sufficient.
Birch Creek incorporates Built Green features into affordable housing. Its homes offer improved insulation, new heating and ventilation systems, and Energy Star appliances. By increasing the energy efficiency of its structures, KCHA reduces utility costs both for itself and for residents.
One of Birch Creek’s residential buildings takes sustainability even further. It uses additional energy-saving measures, such as dual flush toilets, triple pane windows, and roof-mounted solar panels that pre-heat each home’s water supply.
Contractors recycled 2,100 tons of wood, vinyl, and piping, along with 2,000 tons of concrete, during redevelopment. As a result, 8.1 million pounds of construction materials never reached the landfill.
Birch Creek’s development used an innovative financing structure. Its $55 million in funding included long-term bonds backed by future expected receipts from rent, along with the sale of low-income housing tax credits to an equity investor. Additional public funding came through a combination of federal, state, and county programs.