— White Center
The final 87 low-income apartments at Seola Gardens in White Center have opened, bringing to 177 the total number of apartment homes at this new mixed-income, master-planned community. All site development including utilities, roads, trails, playgrounds, fences, and community gardens has been completed. Construction and sales of single-family homes is well underway. The remodeled Head Start center has reopened and the community center, with after-school, job assistance and ESL programs, is alive with activity.
A new community has been born!
The King County Housing Authority, residents and partners will celebrate the rebirth of this neighborhood at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. The community-based event will be held outdoors at Seola Gardens, west of Fairwind Park and north of the community center, located at 11215 5th Ave. Southwest, in White Center.
Congressman Jim McDermott, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Councilmember Joe McDermott, and others will be on hand for the festivities.
"Seola Gardens is the beautiful fusion of new housing and low-impact development with the abundant amenities and diversity of White Center,” said King County Housing Authority Chair Doug Barnes. “More than 1,400 workers, along with banks and private investors, nonprofit service providers, and King County, state, and federal agencies have collaborated to realize the collective vision for this transformed community.”
Formerly, Seola Gardens was a 165-unit deteriorating public housing complex called Park Lake Homes II. Its redevelopment, in tandem with its sister property Greenbridge, is part of the Housing Authority’s strategy to support the overall revitalization of White Center, one of the poorest areas of King County. The redevelopment of the two sites will create homeownership opportunities for 480 families, significantly altering the income mix in the neighborhood and generating an estimate $2.03 million annually in property taxes.
The redeveloped Seola Gardens features 177 new units of subsidized rental housing, extensive amenities and 108 for-sale homes scheduled for completion by early 2016. Housing types include single-family homes, attached townhomes with front porches and mid-rise senior apartments. The community was redeveloped to serve a broader mix of income levels, while providing one-for-one replacement of federally subsidized units for low-income households. All previous tenants who were in good standing were provided the option of returning to the site.
“This marks an important milestone for this community,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Our vision – and the White Center community’s vision − is a neighborhood where homeowners and renters share public spaces and services. Where low-income seniors live in dignity. Where on-site and nearby educational opportunities provide a future and a path to a success for our young people. It’s great to welcome all of these families to their new homes.”
The development has received a 2013 Green Hammer award from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, recognizing Seola Gardens for its environmentally sustainable design, construction and operations. These sustainable practices were developed and permitted under an innovative demonstration program in partnership with King County that was sponsored by then Councilmember Dow Constantine.
KCHA used an array of environmentally friendly approaches, including rain gardens and a water quality pond that cleans surface water before it leaves the site. All rental housing units take advantage of natural light and are energy-efficient. They’re also wired to be solar-ready.
“I am grateful for the partnerships among housing professionals, government, private sector and community groups that have created this new beginning for a well-designed community,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I look forward to watching this vibrant community grow and thrive for generations to come.”
In addition, Seola Gardens takes advantage of its terrific location. It’s surrounded by towering fir trees, open space and playfields. The site overlooks Lakewood Park where picnicking, swimming at Evergreen Pool, walking trails, and a disc golf course are conveniently available.
Abundant educational opportunities for infants to high school students are also close at hand. A remodeled on-site Head Start facility offers four classes a day. A 6,500 square-foot community center provides educational opportunities for all residents – including job assistance and computer literacy training provided by the YWCA and Highline Community College ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. Neighborhood House provides after-school homework assistance. The Technology Access Foundation Academy is located directly adjacent to the site. And Cascade Middle School and Evergreen High School are within walking distance without having to cross a street.
Joseph House, a 65-unit mid-rise apartment complex for seniors located in the center of the site, was completed in 2012. Operated by Providence Health & Services, the new senior community offers programs and services tailored to elderly households.
The community now has five parks, three playgrounds, rebuilt roads and utilities, pea patches, and extensive public art.
“Seola Gardens is a model community People living here have access to education, vital services like health care and community activities. This is what we hope for all of our neighborhoods,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. “Seola Gardens gives families a great place to raise their kids –and it’s a great place for seniors to age with dignity.”
Seola Gardens is the latest milestone in an ambitious strategy undertaken by the King County Housing Authority to help revitalize White Center, one of the poorest corners in King County. For the last 10 years, the Housing Authority has been investing private and public funds – about $300 million− to build new housing and expand community services for White Center.
Greenbridge, which broke ground in 2005, now has 472 rental homes, extensive
community facilities and services, and 12 new parks. Construction of for-sale homes is underway.
“Investing in these neighborhoods strengthens our whole community,” said Congressman Jim McDermott. “The White Center projects bring jobs and economic growth to the area and provide significant opportunities to our most vulnerable households. Families find the promise of job assistance and academic support for their children, while seniors access affordable housing in safe, welcoming communities regardless of age or disability.”
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.
Seola Gardens Facts
Location: 11215 5th Ave. Southwest, White Center
Site: 30 acres
KCHA rental housing, 112 units
Providence Joseph House, 64 units for seniors and persons with disabilities + 1 manager’s unit
108 for-sale homes – (First 54 homes are being built by Richmond American Homes.)
Master Developer: King County Housing Authority
General Contractor: Walsh Construction
Civil Engineering: KPFF and Goldsmith
Landscape Design: Nakano and Associates
Financing for masterplan design and all rental housing, roads, utilities, and site improvements
HOPE VI: $20 million
Section 202: $8.297 million
Section 8: 10 project-based units
Housing Trust Fund: $1.5 million
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity: $28 million
ARRA: $1.107 million
King County: $6 million
Seola Gardens replaces Park Lake Homes II, a public housing complex that was built in 1965.
Photos by William Wright Photography