It was back in April when Seattle billionaire Paul Allen announced plans to give $30 million to help Seattle's homeless. Now, we know exactly where that money will be spent.
Mercy Housing Northwest says the plan is to build a permanent housing facility on the Mount Baker property where National Pride Car Wash now sits at 3151 Rainier Avenue South.
"We looked at a number of sites, but this location we selected because it's really an ideal location for families with lower incomes, living in the city. There are good schools nearby, a couple large grocery stores, pharmacies, and it's right by a light rail station," said Bill Rumpf.
Rumpf is the president of Mercy Housing Northwest, the non-profit housing developer that will operate the facility in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the City of Seattle.
The seven-story building will house 95 homeless and low-income families. It will be funded with Allen's $30 million gift, plus $5 million from the city.
Rumpf says Mercy Housing Northwest has a purchase and sale agreement in place with the owner of the car wash. If approved by the city's Office of Housing, the car wash would be torn down and replaced.
Mercy Housing Northwest hopes to start construction in summer of 2018 and open the facility the following year.
"We hope at the end of this, people will see us as a really positive addition to the neighborhood," he said. "We really want to bring a high quality development to that site."
As for how the facility would look, Rumpf says the design stage is just beginning. But he says it will be similar to the newly opened Mercy Othello Plaza Apartments, where 108 homeless and low-income families just moved in a few miles way in Seattle's Othello neighborhood.
"We had 2,000 applications for 108 apartments, so it really is an indication that families are looking for this kind of setting," said Rumpf.
He admits he's heard some concerns among Mount Baker community members, in regards to their new neighbors. He says Mercy Housing Northwest sent a letter to nearby residents and businesses, in hopes of answering some of their questions.
Among those who've expressed concern is the chair of Mount Baker Hub Business Association Board. Talis Abolins said the association has supported several low-income housing projects in the past, but has issues with this particular project.
"The current project was proposed without any engagement or collaboration with our association even though we were created to engage with developers and further the vision for a vibrant and economically inclusive Town Center," Abolins said in a statement. "We feel the association has done a great job advocating for all ranges of housing, but it appears at this point the city is seeing our area as a place to concentrate subsidized housing, which is going to eliminate opportunities for economic development and vibrancy needed to support jobs and economic opportunities."
In particular, Abolins said they're not happy with the fact that ground floor commercial space of this facility would be used for a services center for the homeless and low-income, rather than for retail businesses.
"Why put everything here? Why dump it all right here in this community. Especially when we're trying to build up our business community here," said business owner Bill Hart, who owns a pie shop directly across the street from the proposed location. "Just a lot more questions."
Rumpf said an open house is planned for July 21st, to hear more about some of those concerns and get feedback from the community.
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