SEATTLE—The $44 million Seola Crossing at Greenbridge, developed by King County Housing Authority (KCHA), is a planned community that looks anything but. Where once stood a drab row of identical gray duplexes, now stretches a happy mix of architectural styles in bold colors.
Completed in June 2007, the 187-unit development is the first of four rentalhousing phases to replace institutional housing originally built in 1942 to house Boeing workers during World War II. All but 14 units are low-income housing tax credit units. Seventy-seven are public housing units, and 39 units have occupants receiving project-based Sec. 8 rental subsidy assistance.
Once the $350 million project is completely built-out in 2012, the masterplanned community will offer 927 units— 448 rental and 479 homeownership units.
Scott Lavielle was raised in the public housing project, Park Lake Homes I, that was redeveloped into Greenbridge. “I grew up there in the mid-1960s, and it was a great experience for me,” says Lavielle, the fire chief and past president of the chamber of commerce for the White Center neighborhood, where Seola Crossing is located. “KCHA eventually took it over and did their best to give it facelifts and keep it going. But it got so dilapidated over time, that it was no longer cost-effective to keep it up.”
It took some 130 meetings with residents of the former public housing development— the discussions translated into Vietnamese, Cambodian, Somali, and Ukrainian—to come up with a plan.
The redevelopment of the Greenbridge HOPE VI project will almost double the 97-acre site's density, from 569 units to 927 units. The site will include a branch of the King County Library, a community college classroom, and an early childhood learning center. Just south of Seola Crossing is the White Center Heights Elementary School, built on land owned by KCHA in 2004.
“When you walk along five blocks, you now see a tremendous variety of architecture,” says Deborah Gooden, the project's general manager. “We transformed a suburban arterial into a small urban place— a Main Street. With retail, live/work units, and family and seniors housing, there will be a heart of a town when it's done. There's a large plaza and a community center. And instead of a unified design concept, we went for variation that gave the impression of many builders contributing over time. There were work plans by three architects, who were directed to create variable facades with different roof colors and window styles.”
Forty-eight buildings use townhouse, flat, and cottage construction, and 30-plus paint colors were used. Residents feel a greater sense of ownership when they can “identify their home by saying it's the one with a purple door,” says Gooden.
Seola Crossing also includes six parks and $400,000 worth of art from five artists, according to Steve Clagett, Greenbridge project manager for finance and development at the KCHA.
Being part of the process that replaced the former public housing development was sad, but satisfying, says Lavielle. “It now provides better and safer housing. A lot of immigrants lived there because it was one of the few places they could afford. So this was a good grassroots thing for them to get involved with.”
“Now people are back in the neighborhood, and the project has breathed life back into the businesses,” continues Lavielle. “It has been fun to watch it transition to a thriving community.”