Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says the affordable housing development will not only support people exiting homelessness and arts and culture, but also labor through a Community Workforce Agreement.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says the affordable housing development will not only support people exiting homelessness and arts and culture, but also labor through a Community Workforce Agreement.

Teatro ZinZanni is gone in Uptown, but a new affordable housing development being partially funded by the City of Seattle will serve a dual purpose of helping people exiting homelessness and creating a new arts space for the community.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was joined by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, city officials, builders and Plymouth Housing CEO Paul Lambros in announcing plans to use an 11,000-square-foot city-owned property at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Mercer Street to develop a 91-unit affordable housing apartment building, with the entire ground floor dedicated to supporting neighborhood arts organizations.

The “K” site was donated to adjacent Seattle Center by the Kreielsheimer Foundation at the same time additional parcels in the 43,000-square-foot block were gifted to the Seattle Opera, which rented much of that space to Teatro ZinZanni for nearly 15 years.

Seattle Opera sold its land to Washington Holdings in 2016, and barrientos RYAN is now leading the development of eight-story and seven-story apartment buildings between Roy and Mercer streets and Third and Second avenues. The circus/cabaret theater has since relocated to Woodinville.

Plymouth Housing was among a number of affordable housing nonprofits that answered a request for proposals by the city for using the site across from Seattle Center to add needed affordable housing. This will be a first for Uptown in a long time, said Seattle Office of Housing director Steve Walker.

“We’ve been chasing this vision for a little over a year,” he told Queen Anne News. “When we had a free-land opportunity, it was like a no-brainer.”

The Office of Housing is providing $6.9 million in funding for the project, which Lambros told Queen Anne News will be designed over the next six months. While a total project cost is not yet known, Lambros said funding requests will be made through the state’s housing trust fund and the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program.

Plymouth Housing serves men and women exiting long-term homelessness, and the 91-unit affordable apartment development will include an on-site case manager and social workers for wraparound services.

A Nov. 20 press conference in the KEXP Gathering Space opened with music provided by singers with Path with Art, a nonprofit that uses art to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness and addiction.

Plymouth Housing is a major partner with Path with Art, Lambros said, and the nonprofit will have some ground-floor office and class space in the new affordable housing development. The ground-floor will also have space dedicated for the 40 different arts groups in the neighborhood that coordinate with the Uptown Arts and Cultural District, which started exploring ways to maximize the arts and cultural benefits at the “K” site back in March, said district president Cyrus Despres, who is also director of planning and business intelligence at KEXP.

“We were able to see that arts and housing weren’t in conflict,” said city Arts and Culture director Randy Engstrom, the department collaborating with the Office of Housing, “and when you actually bring them together, you get a community that the city really deserves.”

Mosqueda said she’s excited about making the public land available for the public good, ensuring housing and art are accessible.

“It has been a year, and we are now talking about putting our policies into action,” Mosqueda said. 

Durkan thanked Mosqueda for staying focused over the last year on finding ways to make public lands available for the public good, particularly around affordable housing.

“There has been no stronger, more consistent voice for community inclusion, for making sure we’re using our public lands for public benefits and really focusing on housing, focusing on the arts and being really inclusive as a community,” the mayor said. “And so, when you can do all that and layer on top the tremendous benefits we’re going to have for labor here under our CWA, this shows what we can do as a city when we’re super intentional about it.”

The Office of Housing worked with the Labor Equity Team at the Department of Finance and Administrative Services and Seattle Building Trades to pilot a Community Workforce Agreement for the project. Walker told Queen Anne News that will mean hiring people to work on the construction project who live in low-income zip codes — both full time and through apprenticeships — using the city’s Priority Hire ordinance.

“I can’t tell you how important it is to be talking about labor building buildings,” said Seattle Building Trades executive secretary Monty Anderson.

Lambros said it’s possible the project could break ground by this time next year. Plymouth Housing is working with Washington Holdings to make sure its Center Steps buildings and the new affordable housing development work well together and provide shared, walkable spaces, Lambros said.

“We’re looking forward to getting our butts to work and getting this thing built,” Anderson said.