by Rod Lotter
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Over the last 40 years Seattle has changed a lot. But for some reason, the corner of 12th Ave. and East Jefferson Street has looked exactly the same – that is, until just last year when construction began on a 6-story building.
What was once home to a gas station, and then just an empty, garbage-filled lot, is now going to be “The Jefferson,” an environmentally-friendly building that houses 40 one and two-bedroom affordable apartments, as well as 4,500 square feet of commercial retail space on the street level.
In order to commemorate the grand opening of The Jefferson, Capitol Hill Housing will be hosting an event on Friday, Oct. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. that will feature a tour of the building, as well as speeches by Mayor Mike McGinn, House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) and Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, among others.
The Jefferson is the latest success for Capitol Hill Housing, which is an affordable housing organization, said Michael Seiwerath, the Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Housing Foundation.
“The neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and the Central District, to some extent, have become increasingly expensive for renters,” Seiwerath said. “So, one of our goals with The Jefferson, and our other projects, is to create affordable housing that is close to job centers, like Swedish Hospital, Seattle University and Downtown.”
The affordability of housing on and near the Hill has become an increasingly troublesome problem with many local groups like the Capitol Hill Community Council and others who brought their concerns to the city government in recent years.
As well as creating affordable living options, Capitol Hill Housing also builds its buildings close to public transportation and with sustainability in mind. The Jefferson is close to dozens of bus lines that traverse most of the city, as well as near the future First Hill Streetcar line. The building also boasts high-performing windows, an ultra high-efficiency gas system, solar panels on the roof, a low-energy elevator and a rainwater filtration system.
The green nature of the building, which is certified Washington State Evergreen, is a far cry from what it was before. Before construction was complete, Seiwerath said, the land had to be cleaned due to petroleum pollution found in the soil, which he said was likely from a gas station that was a former tenant on the property prior to the early 1990s.
Seiwerath said the responsible party helped pay for the cleanup of the site.
The City of Seattle has owned the property since early 1992, and handed it over the Capitol Hill Housing in 2008.
It will feature 20 one-bedroom apartments and 20 two-bedroom apartments, which have already been leased out to renters. The apartments themselves have rent controls, which limit spaces to those who make no more than 2.5 times the cost of the rent per month. The income limits are $36,000 a year in earnings for one person and $41,000 a year in household income for two people who share an apartment.
Three of the five retail spaces have been leased out to a physical therapist. The other two retail spaces, which total 1,272 square feet, have not been leased out yet, but Seiwerath said there has been a lot of interest from prospective renters.
In the end, The Jefferson serves as a prime example of the type of building the city needs: affordable, green and adaptable to the needs of an increasingly dense area of the city.
“There is a tremendous need for more buildings like this one,” Seiwerath said. “The Jefferson is a step in the right direction.”