By Jack Stubbs
As the affordable housing crisis in the city of Seattle continues, innovative partnerships are looking to address the mounting issue, which is particularly prevalent in the city’s Rainier Valley neighborhood.
Music education non-profit Seattle JazzED is partnering with Capitol Hill Housing to develop a 12,000 square foot performing arts center, which will also bring approximately 100 new affordable homes on the upper five stories above JazzED’s ground-level arts center and music school. The residential units will be affordable to individuals and families earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
The development, located at 2101 22nd Ave S. West of Mt. Baker and North of Beacon Hill, will allow JazzED—an organization founded in 2010—to expand its operations in the city of Seattle, something it has been looking to do for some time, according to Laurie De Koch, executive director of JazzED. “We’re entering into our ninth season as a non-profit organization and have been experiencing some pretty significant enrollment expansion over the last few years. About two years ago, we began to think about what we were going to meet the needs of the students that were coming to us to grow our space,” she said.
One of the longer-term goals of the organization, according to De Koch, was to devise a strategy to ensure that it could grow effectively while also recognizing mounting issues around housing and land affordability in an evolving city. “One of our thoughts was to purchase a piece of property and build our own building to really protect ourselves long-term from the rising costs of being located in Seattle,” she said. “We were concerned that once we left the building that we were currently in, we wouldn’t be able to afford the growing rates out in the city.”
In terms of funding for the joint project, Capitol Hill Housing and JazzED will fund their own portion and then own and manage its own section of the building. JazzED is in the early stages of launching a $10 million capital campaign based on preliminary budgeting, according to a statement released by the company. The public-private Regional Equitable Development (REDI) Fund, which is administered by Enterprise Community Partners to support the development of affordable housing near transit in the Puget Sound region, provided a 2.3 million loan for the acquisition of the site. The team for the project also includes Weinstein A+U (architect) and Main Consulting LLC (fundraising consultant).
And while JazzED’s evolution as a local organization has been several years in the works, the recent sale for the proposed project, the site of the Imperial Lanes bowling alley, on 22nd Avenue closed for $2.4 million on August 14th. De Koch was approached by Central District schools Lake Washington Middle School and Giddens School—who will be located next door to JazzED—in January 2017 about partnering to develop the now-underway site.
The neighborhood context around the site meant that it was the ideal location to partner with like-minded educational institutions in an evolving area of the city, according to De Koch. “They were looking for a neighborhood that was equally committed to issues around access and social justice and the arts…philosophically, we loved the location; we really want to be located in the South End of Seattle because that’s where the most significant challenges with access to opportunity happen in our city, so we wanted to be there for a variety of reasons.”
When complete, the new mixed-use development will allow JazzED to relocate from its current location in Madison Valley’s MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center, which does not currently meet the growing demands of the organization. JazzED has grown exponentially from serving 56 young musicians in its first year to more than 900 annually, with 42 percent of the students receiving full or partial financial aid to participate—the new 12,000 square foot development will enable programs to expand to 2,000 more youth each year, marking a 200 percent increase.
Programmatically, the new building will include a full choral program and other musical and arts facilities. The space will also be able to accommodate other uses such as after-school tutoring and summer camps, and JazzED will have its own performance hall to showcase its students performative abilities.
And in the wider context of changes occurring in Seattle—with the Rainier Valley facing particularly acute issues around housing affordability and displacement—the hope is that the new building will allow local families to remain closer to Seattle, according to De Koch. “My hope is that this project reflects a commitment to protecting communities. Many of our families—not only our students but also our teachers—are impacted by this affordability crisis in our city,” she said. “More and more often we’re hearing about families who are having to leave Seattle or move farther south because they just can’t afford to live there. This refrain about the lack of affordability in our city really resonated with us, and we wanted to be part of the bigger solution.” Currently, Seattle JazzED draws students from 100-plus schools as far north as Duvall, as far south as Olympia and from all over the Eastside.
In terms of the organization’s partnership with Capitol Hill Housing—who has been operating since 1976 to provide affordable housing throughout the city of Seattle—JazzED was drawn to the developer’s work in the surrounding community, in particular the 88-unit 12th Avenue Arts building in Capitol Hill. And the partnership with JazzED comes at the right time for all involved, especially in an area like the Rainier Valley, according to Michael Seiwarth, vice president of advancement and external affairs at Capitol Hill Housing. “We’re really pleased with this partnership, partly because of the collaboration with JazzED to do affordable apartments over arts space; it’s something we did at 12th Avenue Arts and has been a successful model, so working on a project in the Rainier Valley that is really driven in some ways by JazzED,” he said.
As for the housing affordability crisis facing the city of Seattle, the immediacy of these issues has never been more acute, according to Seiwarth. “The affordability crisis has now worked its way through every neighborhood in our city, and the need for more affordable housing throughout Seattle has never been greater. We’re seeing a lot of displacement in different neighborhoods,” he said, also emphasizing the importance of collaboration between developers and non-profit arts organizations. “To provide at least some affordable apartments in collaboration on this project with JazzED [was important]…when land costs are as high as they are now, it just makes a lot more sense to partner and have a ground-floor non-profit arts organization that is able to fulfill their mission, and have affordable apartments above.”
Elsewhere throughout the Rainier Valley, other project teams are looking to address the affordable housing crisis as well. HomeSight has plans in the works for the Weber Thompson-designed Othello Square, a four-building project currently undergoing design review that will bring 430 units of mixed-income, workforce and homeownership housing to the Othello neighborhood in Southeast Seattle. The first groundbreakings on Othello Square are expected sometime in early 2019.
And in late June 2018, local non-profit and affordable housing developer Mt. Baker Housing, developer Lake Union Partners and HAL Real Estate announced its plans for its Grand Street Commons development in Seattle’s Judkins Park neighborhood, which is just north of JazzED’s planned project. The 3.2-acre transit-oriented Grand Street Commons project is slated to add nearly 300 family-sized affordable homes and approximately 400 market-rate units.