Mercy Housing Northwest, one of the region’s largest not-for-profit affordable housing providers, hosted a celebration event at noon on Thursday to mark the start of construction of Mercy Othello Plaza. Bill Rumpf, Regional President, was the Master of Ceremony. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and community leaders joined Mercy Housing staff in the celebration.
“There is a clear need in Seattle for affordable family-sized housing, and Mercy Othello Plaza helps meet that need,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “This is exactly the type of investment that helps make Seattle a more affordable and livable place for working families, new immigrants to this country and those facing obstacles to stable housing. When this project is complete, residents will live in a diverse neighborhood steps away from open spaces, health services and transit options that connect them to jobs and educational opportunities throughout the city.”
“With Mercy Othello Plaza, we’re connecting affordable housing with reliable light-rail service and creating a model for vibrant communities for the future,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Mercy Othello Plaza, located in the Rainier Valley in southeast Seattle, will provide 108 energy-efficient apartments for families. Over 60% of the apartments will have two or three bedrooms. Located one block from the Othello light rail station, families will have direct access to downtown, the airport and, soon, the University of Washington. Mercy Housing Northwest will relocate its headquarters from downtown to become the project’s anchor tenant in the ground floor office space.
“We are pleased to serve the critical need for affordable rental homes for families– most new construction happening now is small apartments,” said Bill Rumpf, Regional President of Mercy Housing Northwest. “Being located by Othello light rail is ideal for parents and children getting to jobs, school and other destinations.”
When Mercy Othello Plaza opens in March 2017, it will offer apartments affordable to families earning between $18,000-$55,000. Rents will range from $450 to $1,100. The building will feature 2,000 square feet of community space for resident programs and community events. Mercy Housing Northwest provides resident services that include after-school programs for kids, community health promotion and financial stability.
The project is an exemplary instance of transit-oriented development. Sound Transit selected Mercy Housing Northwest as the developer in fall 2014 through a competitive RFP process. Sound Transit had used the site for construction staging and sought to encourage compatible development near the station to foster ridership and support commercial businesses in the Othello neighborhood.
The $35 million project is funded by a combination of sources. The City of Seattle Office of Housing is providing $8.5 million, $4.5 million from the Seattle Housing Levy. JP Morgan Chase is the construction lender. Wells Fargo Bank is providing equity. The Washington State Housing Finance Commission has allocated Low Income Housing Tax Credits and bond financing. The Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, a community-based lending institution, provided a land acquisition loan and will help finance the ground-floor office space.
“Projects like Mercy Othello Project exemplify the power of the Seattle Housing Levy to be a key tool to fund affordable housing development at transit centers so our neighborhoods remain equitable as they grow,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Seattle Office of Housing. “This project demonstrates the magic of many partners coming together around a shared community vision.”
Private philanthropic support includes grants from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, Longbrake Family Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners.
The Othello neighborhood has a vibrant small business and retail center and represents one of Seattle’s most diverse areas. Active community-improvement efforts led by On Board Othello focus specifically on fostering strong and vibrant commercial growth in the Othello/Graham MLK corridor. Organizations currently involved include ArtSpace, HomeSight, MLK Business Association, Homesight, Mercy Housing Northwest, Othello Park Alliance (OPA), Othello Station Community Advisory Team (OSCAT), Rainier Chamber of Commerce, Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (RVCDF), SouthEast Effective Development (SEED), City of Seattle Office of Economic Development and City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.