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For immediate release

For more information contact:
Rhonda Rosenberg, Director of Communications
King County Housing Authority
(206) 574-1185

King County Housing Authority Transforms Public Housing: Ribbon-cutting at Birch Creek Celebrates Community's Revitalization

July 7, 2010 — Kent

Congressman Dave Reichert, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Councilmember Julia Patterson, and other community leaders slated to speak at event celebrating the $55 million renovation of South County’s largest public housing complex.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Birch Creek Grand Opening
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Program begins at 11 a.m.)
27360 129th Place S.E., Kent

Excellent visuals - Event takes place in new plaza and central park; renovated units available to view

The $55 million revitalization of the Birch Creek Apartments, located in East Kent, has been completed and the transformation is dramatic.  In place of the dingy, densely-packed and box-like buildings of the former Springwood Apartments stands a vibrant, new community with a central park, multiple outdoor recreation spaces, and cheerful, energy-efficient apartment homes with pitched roofs and patios. The redeveloped campus is bookended by two state-of-the-art community centers that serve the needs of Birch Creek families and the greater Kent community.

To celebrate, KCHA will host a grand re-opening celebration at 11 a.m. on July 9.  The community-based event will be held outdoors in the plaza and the adjoining Central Park at Birch Creek, 27360 129th Place S.E., in Kent.

Congressman Dave Reichert, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Councilmember Julia Patterson, and others will be on hand for the festivities and ribbon-cutting of the completely refurbished community.

“With the revitalized Birch Creek, our vision for a thriving and diverse community that transforms lives has been realized,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Nearly 900 workers along with banks and private investors, nonprofit service providers, and local, state and federal agencies have collaborated to make this possible.”

The project utilized an innovative financing structure that leveraged both investor equity and long-term debt.  A similar approach is now being proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for use by housing authorities across the country.

The contrast between the old apartment complex and Birch Creek is striking. Building exteriors have been redesigned and faded vinyl siding replaced with modern materials and architecture.  Varied building facades and roofs incorporate texture and color into the distinct and attractive building designs.

Step inside to find fully renovated units with new wall finishes, fixtures, doors, cabinetry, countertops, trim and floor coverings.  A half bath was added to all of the remodeled units as well as a full-sized washer and dryer.

Less visible, though perhaps more importantly, each remodeled unit has new heating and ventilating systems, better insulation, and new fire alarm and sprinkler systems.  And 13 of the units have been remodeled to be fully accessible for those with disabilities.

“Bringing together high-quality housing and critical community facilities with services like job training, education, health, and recreation will make a significant difference in the lives of Birch Creek and Kent residents,” Congressman Dave Reichert said.  “This property offers children a safe and supportive place to live, learn and play, and it gives their parents the opportunity to become more self-sufficient.”

But the community buildings and renovated townhouses are only part of the transformation at Birch Creek. New landscaping and front yards have reshaped the look of the site by adding trees, shrubs, and lawn areas.  New outdoor spaces provide for play equipment, teen activities, family recreation, and a P-patch.

In the first phase of the project, local service agencies partnered with KCHA to create Building Better Futures (BBF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of community residents.  BBF was responsible for the development of  the Kent Family Center, a 20,400-square-foot facility that houses Head Start classrooms, a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinic and a job counseling center, and the Springwood Youth Center, a 10,800 square-foot LEED Silver-certified facility with a gymnasium, classrooms for after-school homework assistance, an arts classroom, and a computer center.  The Youth Center also has a commercial kitchen for snacks, a summer lunch program and healthy cooking demonstrations.  Both facilities are located at Birch Creek.

“Birch Creek is really about the rebirth of a community,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke.  “It’s a more wholesome, supportive environment that’s good for children and families and a wonderful asset to the city of Kent.  In these tough economic times, it was great to see so many hundreds of people employed on such a worthwhile project.”

The project, which is enrolled as a 4-Star Built Green™ project, increases the energy efficiency of the existing structures, reduces utility bills of residents, and enhances environmentally sensitive areas on the site, including Soosette Creek, the salmon-bearing stream that bisects the property. The Built Green scale measures the environmental sustainability of development projects.  It was developed by the Master Builders Association in partnership with King County, Snohomish County, and other Washington agencies. When the certification process is completed, Birch Creek will be the only 4-Star Built Green™ affordable housing project of its kind.

“I’m pleased with the leadership KCHA has shown in advancing the greening of affordable housing,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This redevelopment is like trading in your 15 mpg clunker for a more sustainable, energy-efficient hybrid.”

At Birch Creek, KCHA is also conducting an experiment that pushes the envelope on sustainability even further.  One of the buildings in the complex (Building 2) has been provided with additional resource conservation measures including roof-mounted solar panels to pre-heat the domestic water supply, dual flush toilets, and triple pane windows.  The Housing Authority will track the energy and water consumption in Building 2 and compare it with an identically configured building to assess the impact of these measures on consumption.  It is expected that energy consumption on Building 2 will be close to zero.

KCHA administers a range of quality affordable rental and homeownership programs for residents of King County.  The Authority serves about 18,000 families, elderly and disabled households on a daily basis.

Birch Creek Facts:

  • Location: 27360 129th Place, SE, Kent
  • Site: 26 acres
  • 262 units: 5 one-bedroom, 95 two-bedroom, 123 three-bedroom, 36 four-bedroom, and 3 five-bedroom apartment homes
  • Number of units designed to meet Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards: 13
  • General Contractor: Synergy Construction, Inc.
  • Architect: Kovalenko Hale Architects

Formerly known as Springwood Apartments, the low-income complex now renamed Birch Creek was built in 1970 by the Boeing Aeromechanics Union, using HUD funding, but it failed to attract renters.  The complex defaulted on its mortgage and was taken over by the King County Housing Authority from HUD in 1976.  Prior to the renovation of the residential buildings, KCHA in partnership with Building Better Futures built two community facilities on the property: the Kent Family Center and the Springwood Youth Center.

Over the course of the construction project (May 2008 to June 2010) 887 people were employed.

2,100 tons of wood, vinyl, and piping plus 2,000 tons of concrete were recycled – meaning that 8.1 million pounds of construction materials were not sent to the landfill.

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