Gentrification of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood over the past few years has shrunk the affordable housing supply and driven out many of the community’s arts and cultural organizations.  Many of those neighborhood needs are now being met in one building. 

Nonprofit Capitol Hill Housing transformed an underutilized Seattle Police Department parking lot into 12th Avenue Arts, a mixed-use development with an ensemble of 88 units of affordable housing, two performing arts theaters, cultural, office, and retail space, and new underground parking for the police department.

“12th Avenue Arts is really a civic edifice. Over the course of 15 years, we earned community support and political will to turn a city-owned parking lot—in an increasingly expensive urban neighborhood—into affordable homes for 100 people,” says Christopher Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing. “We added 15,000 square feet of nonprofit office and meeting space, two flexible performing arts spaces at the heart of the Capitol Hill Arts District, local retail, and underground parking for the police department. What we have now is a community and arts hub and the biggest achievement of our 40-year history.”

The development, which was completed in September 2014, serves its residents as well as the entire neighborhood. Ground-floor retail includes local restaurants Pel Meni Dumpling Tzar, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, and U:Don noodle house. Capitol Hill Housing, as well as other community nonprofits, are occupying office space on the second floor. And the two theater spaces are leased to Black Box Operations, a partnership of three local companies. Their first productions debuted in January. 

The $47 million development was financed with a combination of 4% low-income housing tax credits and New Markets Tax Credits as well as city and state funds. It also benefited from Capitol Hill’s first capital campaign, which received funding commitments from the neighborhood’s small-business community.