SEATTLE—The visitors outside don’t know what’s just around the corner. They are watching the fish mongers, buying fresh produce, and chatting with the local artists at Pike Place Market, a Seattle landmark that’s one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
They don’t know that the market is home to one of the city’s newest affordable housing developments. The LaSalle, the first major development in the Market Historic District in 15 years, stands near the main entrance to Pike Place, just behind the big “Public Market Center” sign that beckons locals and tourists from blocks away.
Started by local farmers as a way to bring fresh produce directly to city residents, Pike Place celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Built on one of the last vacant properties in the district, the LaSalle was developed by the Pike Place Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), the nonprofit, public corporation that owns and manages many of the district’s properties. The PDA oversees about 350 units of affordable housing for seniors in the area.
“They love living in the market and downtown Seattle,” said Carol Binder, executive director of the PDA. “There’s a social vibrancy here that adds to their well being.”
The newly constructed six-story building contains 32 studio apartments of affordable housing for low-income seniors.
It adjoins the old LaSalle Hotel, which dates back to 1901 and was converted into apartments in the 1970s. The recently completed project also involved rehabilitating the old hotel and three other buildings, which had 40 Sec. 8 units for seniors. Under the renovation, the number of apartments in the older buildings was reduced to 32, so the project has 64 total units for low-income seniors who earn no more than 30 percent of the area median income. Forty of the apartments are Sec. 8 units, so those residents pay only 30 percent of their income for rent.
The central location allows the seniors to shop in the market for groceries and other items or just go downstairs for coffee, Binder said.
Others agree that the location is unique.
“The LaSalle is a great example of both preservation and community building,” said Adrienne Quinn, director of the Seattle Office of Housing. “The LaSalle provides its low-income senior residents ample opportunity to enjoy the historic Pike Place Market. Whether it is access to fresh produce, the Senior Center, or the health clinic located within the Pike Place Market, the LaSalle reinforces the city’s belief that the market is for all people—residents or tourists, rich or poor, young or old.”
The biggest challenge was putting together a financing package for the $16 million project that included multiple funding sources, Binder said.
One of the sources was low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs). A former city council member raised some concern that the use of the credits could result in the transfer of market property to an entity other than the PDA. This fear stemmed from a messy deal in the 1980s when a New York investment group tried to take over the market.
That episode was unrelated to the LIHTC program, which is widely used to finance affordable housing projects. As a result, supporters were able to allay those worries.
The new 6,200-square-foot senior center, which is twice the size of the original facility, is an integral feature of the development, and was a key driver of the project. The center was financed through private fundraising by the Market Foundation, which supports Pike Place Market’s services to low-income people, including the senior center, a medical clinic, a child care center, and a food bank.
The apartments were financed largely through LIHTCs, which generated about $8 million in equity. The National Equity Fund was the syndicator. The development is a mixed-use project, so New Markets Tax Credits were also used and generated approximately $1 million in equity. The city of Seattle’s housing levy funds and Washington State Housing Trust Fund provided about $840,000 each. The PDA contributed the existing building. The city’s Office of Economic Development provided a $7.2 million construction loan guaranteed by HomeStreet Capital. A nonprofit housing development firm, Common Ground, provided its expertise in the development and construction management work. Walsh Construction was the general contractor.
HomeStreet Bank partnered with Common Ground to sponsor a $321,954 grant for the LaSalle from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle’s Affordable Housing Program.