by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
In Capitol Hill, the first word in renovation tends to be “preservation.” Our neighborhood has many of the oldest buildings in the city, owing mostly to a mix of residential development trends and the introduction of big business to the area in the earliest days of the 20th century. Last year, affordable housing non-profit Capitol Hill Housing acquired one such historic building at 1415 East Olive Street called the Haines Apartments. Currently at 109 years old, the three-story structure is in need of extensive renovation both inside and out. A financial award at the end of 2013 from the State of Washington enabled CHH to begin the necessary repairs this year.
The Haines Apartments building was constructed in 1905. It’s strangely common to find buildings around the downtown core of Seattle dated from this period. 1905 was the start of a housing boom in the city, specifically in the apartments category. According to the Department of Neighborhoods, in 1905 the apartment building count in Seattle was 19. Six years later, it was well over 200. A regional gold rush raised the city’s population significantly, as did a wave of immigrants, mostly from Mediterranean countries like Greece and Spain. It was also around this time that the topography in and around Capitol Hill came into being. The Denny Regrade saw the city leveling a lot of land east of the waterfront, while the two ship canals between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound were cut at this time. This defined Capitol Hill’s natural borders as we know them today.
For approximately two decades, the Haines Apartments building has exclusively served low-income seniors, restricting residency to those who are 62 years of age or older. When the building’s then-current Section 8 low-income housing status was set to expire, Capitol Hill Housing purchased the property to prevent it from being converted into market-rate apartments. The organization chose to maintain the age restriction designation when they acquired the building last year. It has 30 units total, half being one-bedroom apartments and the other half being studios. The building’s income restriction supports residents within the lowest-income bracket, which is based on 30 percent of Area Median Income. Today, that means that a household of one lives on no more than $18,540 per year and a household maximum of eight lives on no more than $34,950 annually.
Michael Seiwerath of Capitol Hill Housing said, “The Haines improvements will include a new heating system, a new plumbing system, a new roof, and exterior masonry repairs.” According to King County public records, the Haines building hasn’t been renovated since 1974, though it received above-average Housing and Urban Development quality scores as recently as 2007. The renovations are possible this year thanks to an award from the Housing Trust Fund. A construction bid request document that CHH sent to contractors late last year estimates the cost of the renovations to be between $1.25 million and $1.5 million. The document also included an itemized list of likely projects, which indicated additional renovations to the fire detection and sprinkler system, as well as energy efficiency designs and appliances.
Capitol Hill Housing’s other big project this year is the completion of the 12th Avenue Arts Building. One of the building’s recent capital campaigns was called “Raise the Roof” and it seems to have succeeded in its goal, quite literally now that the building has a finished roof. Mr. Seiwerath updated The Capitol Hill Times about the project, saying, “In general, 12th Avenue Arts is going well. We topped off the building earlier in the year, and are starting to put in windows. The project is on schedule, and we are anticipating opening around October of this year.”
The 12th Avenue Arts building will be a mixed-use structure that includes 88 low-income housing units ranging from single-occupant space to multi-bedroom family units. The ground floor will offer new restaurant and retail storefronts, offices for arts-related non-profit organizations and two theater spaces managed by a collaboration between the New Century Theatre Company, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, and Washington Ensemble Theatre. Capitol Hill Housing itself will occupy one of the offices. The organization made an early agreement with the Seattle Police Department to provide parking for the East Precinct headquarters, which is located across the street from the building site.
Earlier this month, 4Culture awarded the 12th Avenue Arts project with a $50,000 grant, the fourth such grant from the organization since the project began. Chase Bank also recently presented CHH with a $75,000 donation at the opening of their new First Hill branch. Capitol Hill Housing is still accepting donations from the community to support the construction, offering name recognition on theater seats in the new space for donations of $500 or more.