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Employer-Assisted Housing Returns to Seattle’s University District

In Practice
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Employer-Assisted Housing Returns to Seattle’s University District

A rendering of the CURVe housing development.
A rendering of the CURVe housing development. Credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital are partnering to develop 184 housing units in Seattle’s bustling University District, an urban neighborhood that services university students. Aligned with the principles of the larger University District Livability Partnership, which aims to encourage a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood near the planned Brooklyn light rail station, the project is believed to be one of the first first employer-sponsored housing developments in the city since the early 20th century. According to the initial proposal, approximately 20 percent of the units will be made available to residents earning less than 75 percent of the area median income, and employees of both the university and hospital will be given first priority to lease available units.

A Partnership for Workforce Housing

The development represents a true partnership between the two institutions. In 2010, Seattle Children’s Hospital received approval to expand its campus. The expansion entailed the demolition of an aging 136-unit condominium complex located on the proposed expansion site. As part of the deal, the Seattle City Council required the hospital to replace the housing in one of two ways: by contributing $10.9 million to the city’s housing fund or by constructing homes to replace the units it had torn down. The hospital decided on the latter, partnering with the University of Washington to build a $40 million residential development.

The Children’s University of Washington Residence Vision, or CURVe — named in part for the site’s curved street side — was made possible from the university’s contribution of the 40,217 square-foot property (a former parking lot), and the Children’s Hospital pledge in low-interest loans. The proposed development is a series of three buildings with a maximum height of 85 feet, connected by bridges that lead to rooftop urban agriculture plots. In between each building, open spaces will be designed for both public and private use, along with a plaza. The residential portion of the development will include approximately 49 studios, 59 one-bedroom, 58 two-bedroom, and 14 three-bedroom apartments. Expected to achieve a LEED Silver rating, the project also includes other sustainable features, such as a rooftop solar hot water system and a cistern to catch storm water runoff. The development, which will accommodate 2,000 square feet of retail space, is part of a larger effort to redevelop the area near the future Brooklyn light rail station.

Scheduled to open in 2020, the proposed light rail has already prompted significant changes to the University District. In 1998, when the light rail station was first proposed, the city of Seattle adopted the University Community Urban Center Neighborhood Plan, outlining the need for a pedestrian-friendly urban center. The Station Area Overlay District was later adopted in 2000, making CURVe possible. The overlay zone discourages auto-oriented development and encourages a walkable community with mixed-use buildings and increased opportunities for housing development near the future light rail station. Until the light rail station is complete, a nearby shuttle will continue to provide service to hospital employees along the two-mile stretch between the two areas in an effort to lessen dependency on automobiles. Slated for occupancy in 2014, CURVe is envisioned as the heart of a new transit-oriented residential neighborhood where open spaces and public art will create a vibrant, mixed-use community.

Published Date: May 8, 2012

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.