By Meghan Hall
As Seattle has rapidly developed, changing from a regional town into a national hub, many of the city’s most vulnerable residents are struggling to afford the cost of housing. This has also held true for Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood, which for more than a century has been known as a home to working immigrants, refugees and people of color, acting as an incubator for locally-owned businesses and communities. A seven-story building anchoring the greater Othello Square project recently returned for design review with a goal of providing housing and commercial opportunities for residents.
“Othello Square will make use of the largest parcel of undeveloped land in Rainier Valley, adjacent to the Othello light rail station, to deliver on a community vision,” states design documents. “Othello Square co-locates vital amenities like affordable retail space, a preschool, an elementary school, multi- generational services, a health clinic, and cooperatively owned and affordable housing on one 3.2-acre campus. More importantly, it will support employment, preserve businesses and organizations, and nurture entrepreneurship among historically excluded community members.”
The project, located at 7315 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., is proposed by HomeSight and is designed by local architecture firm barrientosRYAN. The building will have 213 residential units—including 37 small efficiency dwelling units—meant to be “step-up” units. These units will serve families making between 60 percent to 120 percent of area median income and will be privately financed through investment partners. The plans also include 40,000 square feet of community serving office, institutional and retail space.
The Opportunity at Othello Square will provide space for economicDune Real Estate Partners Appoints Aaron Greeno as Head of West Coast Office support, educational opportunities and cultural resources, as well as homeownership opportunities. The building up for review will serve as an anchor to the project at the corner of S. Othello St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.
“The building and site design will be unique, will reflect the history and traditions of the Othello neighborhood as a place that has always been welcoming to all people, and will reflect the current diverse ethnic groups that make up the community and the campus users,” design documents explain.”
The building’s facades will be distinct, with design of the building driven by a sense of vibrancy and energy. The overall massing is represented by two interlocking forms to break down the scale of the building. The forms, states the design team, are meant to represent long-term community strength. The project’s design will feature gateway corners and large entries to add interest and movement. A two-story glazed commercial lobby at the northwest corner of the site will break up the length of the building.
Strong indoor-outdoor connections are also part of the development plans in an effort to connect the residential building to other parts of the campus and neighborhood, reinforcing themes of accessibility. Views to the neighborhood, valley and Mount Rainier will also be visible.
Upon its completion, The Opportunity Center will be just one building as a part of the greater four-part development. Buildings B, C and D, will include a charter school, The Orenda—composed of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, an early learning center and workforce housing—and a HomeSight Affordable Homeownership Cooperative, respectively.
Timing for the project is unclear, but HomeSight is currently working to raise funds for The Opportunity Center. According to HomeSight’s website, the development team is working on a $23 million capital campaign, a $17 million impact investment offering, as well as a $42 million construction and permanent debt facility.