Mayor Murray designates long-neglected Mt. Baker sites for revitalization

Today, Mayor Ed Murray signed a resolution to designate an area of the Mt. Baker neighborhood a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (ROZ). The resolution opens the door for a new partnership between the Washington State Department of Ecology, the City of Seattle, and the nonprofit Mt. Baker Housing, creating a welcoming Mt. Baker town center and 150 new affordable homes for low-income families.

“This is a win for the environment, a win for affordable housing, and a win for a more livable Mt. Baker neighborhood,” said Mayor Murray. “We continue to develop new and innovative partnerships to support more affordable homes across Seattle. Today we celebrate a positive step forward to support sustainability and healthy communities.”

Mt. Baker Housing is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable homes in Southeast Seattle. Phase one of the Mt. Baker Gateway project is intended to build two new mixed-use buildings with approximately 150 units of affordable housing and 15,000-30,000 square feet of new commercial retail space. In addition, the proposed redevelopment will provide new connections from the residential neighborhoods and parks to the Mt. Baker commercial area and light rail station.

“The Mt. Baker Hub Business District has long waited for a champion to clean up and redevelop this corner,” said Bruce Harrell, City Council President. “I applaud Mt. Baker Housing for rising to the occasion and working collaboratively with the City of Seattle, Department of Ecology, and the community to enliven this soon-to-be prominent gateway. We will work hard to make sure the homes are affordable and this is a place of great diversity and vitality.”

“This affordable housing and environmental remediation project is in keeping with Mt. Baker Housing’s tradition of working on difficult projects,” said Mike Rooney, Executive Director of Mt. Baker Housing. “Throughout our 30-year history we’ve reworked properties that others had given up on and turned them into affordable housing for Rainier Valley residents, new and old. I’m also inspired that our new Gateway project will be adjacent to our original site, property Mt. Baker Village.”

The affordable housing project will be seeking financing to include Low Income Housing Tax Credits, City of Seattle Office of Housing funds, and other sources. The project expects to break ground in 2019 and complete construction in 2020.

“The Rainier Valley is home to the most racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse neighborhoods in Seattle,” said Diane Narasaki, Executive Director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service. “It is also economically diverse, and has for many years been home to low-income people and the workers who make our city run. As Seattle’s population booms, and property values rise, the Rainier Valley’s residents are being pushed out of the neighborhood. The Mt. Baker Gateway Project’s 150 new, affordable workforce units will help the neighborhood retain its beautiful diversity and character, and provide much needed housing and economic development in one of the neighborhoods that most needs it.”

Mt. Baker Housing will be the first non-governmental organization to receive funds under the state’s Brownfield Redevelopment Trust Fund created in 2013. The organization will use the funds to help complete an environmental cleanup of a former gas station and remediation from historic dry cleaning practices.

“This cutting-edge project demonstrates how environmental cleanup grants can transform our communities for the better,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

Mt. Baker Housing reached a significant milestone last December when it entered into a Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree with the Washington State Department of Ecology on the environmental remediation plan. With the consent decree and ROZ in place, Ecology will provide $400,000 to begin environmental work on the site, and another $1.1 million is in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget for this project.

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