Organizers Mark Construction of New East Yesler Way Affordable Housing Building

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Amid piles of dirt, a looming tower crane, and a handful of shovels and hard hats, organizers with Community Roots Housing, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), and others celebrated the development of a new affordable housing site near Bailey Gatzert Elementary School.

“This is like a 40,000 piece jigsaw puzzle,” Laurie Olsen, the capital investments manager for the City of Seattle, said at a press conference Wednesday. “I feel like we get to stand up here and put in that last piece and get the recognition for that, but there are staff that have put every single piece down to make this day possible.”

The new site, or the Yesler Family Housing building, will provide 156 units of affordable apartments, including 25 three‐bedroom and seven four‐bedroom units, for individuals who are returning to the area, current residents, and others in need of a cheaper place to stay. In addition, the ground floor will include 2,500 square feet of commercial space for community businesses from the Central Area.

Most notably, 8,400 square feet of the ground floor level will also host a new location of the Denise Louie Education Center, which will provide childcare and early learning opportunities. Courtyards outside the building will also provide spaces for childcare and community gardens. Residents will have access to common areas where they can hold gatherings.

The site, located at 1215 East Fir Street but at the intersection of 13th Avenue and East Yesler Way, officially broke ground May 19, 2021, and is projected to finish at the beginning of 2023. Residence will be limited to people with incomes at either 30% or 60% of Area Median Income (AMI).

SCIDpda, an organization focused on protecting and developing the International District, is the primary owner and property manager for the project and leads community engagement efforts. Community Roots Housing is acting as the co-owner and co-developer of the project and supports the project with asset management, finance, and administrative services.

The Seattle Housing Authority is the landowner and one of the funders of the project, while other partners such as the Seattle Office of Housing, Seattle Human Services Department, and the Department of Commerce’s Early Learning Facilities are also connected to the development.

Wednesday’s event was held to recognize the developments in the process thus far.

“We just wanted to kind of lift up our heads for a second,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin, executive director at SCIDpda. “[To] see where we’re going on this and just take the time to thank everybody for getting us to this point, which for us is a major deal.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

📸 Featured Image: Yesler Family Housing groundbreaking, Wednesday, August 11, 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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