Forty new apartments are helping transform a neighborhood on the edge of Seattle’s downtown.

“It completely changes the tone of this community,” says Christopher Persons, CEO of developer Capitol Hill Housing.

A field of gravel had filled the lot for more than 30 years. Underneath the gravel, the earth was laced with benzene from a long-vanished gas station. Police were often called to the vacant lot to respond to drug dealing and shootings.

The city offered to build a pocket park on the site, but the neighborhood asked for a more active use.

The Jefferson cleaned up the blighted corner and provides an island of affordable housing as new luxury housing goes up nearby.

The units at The Jefferson are built to last, with sustainable design features that make the building more efficient to maintain, such as triple-glazed windows, a heat recovery ventilation system, and a high-efficiency hot water system.

The Jefferson’s affordability restrictions will also last a long time: 75 years, thanks to Washington Works, a soft financing program that provided $2.5 million to the $12.2 million development.

Located a quarter-mile from seven bus lines and less than a mile from downtown, The Jefferson also is encouraging bike usage with storage in the lobby.

With so many transit options, Capitol Hill Housing felt it could market the apartments with just 14 parking spaces for residents. Just 90 days after opening in October 2012, the apartments were fully leased.

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