On a lot vacant for 40 years, ‘The Jefferson’ celebrates opening Friday on 12th Ave

It may have taken 40 years, the clean-up of massively contaminated soil, a City Council-approved re-zone and federal funding to help make it happen, but Capitol Hill Housing’s latest project to bring affordable housing to Seattle is ready to celebrate its grand opening with a ceremony and tours Friday afternoon:

A polluted lot in central Seattle, vacant for forty years, has been transformed into “The Jefferson” – a vibrant new affordable housing and retail construction project. On October 19, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) will hold a grand opening for this beautiful building with 40 units of affordable housing and 4,500 square feet of commercial space designed for local businesses.

The celebration will feature a tour of the project and remarks from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, CHH CEO Christopher Persons, and other officials from the State of Washington and King County.

The Jefferson Grand Opening Celebration

Friday October 19, 2012

2 – 4pm: Tour of the project

3pm: Remarks and Reception


(Image: Josh Okrent/Capitol Hill Housing)

Designed by 15th Ave E’s Environmental Works, The Jefferson stands six stories and incorporates a roster of green features including “heat recovery ventilation units, high performing windows, a low energy elevator and an ultra-high efficiency gas system.” Its 40 one and two-bedroom apartments are designated affordable — “for workers earning up to $36,000 for a single person or $41,000 for a two-person family (60% of the median income)” as CHH puts it. And while the first tenant of the 5,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space — a physical therapy facility — hasn’t exactly wowed neighbors looking forward to the new businesses in the area, the fact that The Jefferson exists at all is worth celebrating.


The city had taken possession of the contaminated lot and was looking for a plan to put it to use. After a decade of inaction, in 2008, the land was given to Capitol Hill Housing. In 2009, soil testing indicated that gasoline and benzene levels from a gas station that operated at the location starting in 1926 were hundreds of times above the state’s cleanup standards. But with a financial boost from King County, the site began cleanup efforts in fall of 2010.

Perhaps more remarkable than cleaning up a site with massively high benzene levels, the roster of parties involved in financing the project is testament to the challenge of creating an affordable housing project of this scale:

  • City of Seattle Office of Housing
  • Washington Works (State of Washington, Washington State Housing Finance Commission)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — federal appropriation
  • KeyBank — construction and permanent lender
  • Union Bank — Low Income Housing Tax Credit Investor
  • Impact Capital and HomeSight — pre-development financing

It all adds up to a fully-leased building and a new group of neighbors already moved-in and enjoying life at 12 and Jefferson.

Story originally published at our sister site Capitol Hill Seattle.

10 thoughts on “On a lot vacant for 40 years, ‘The Jefferson’ celebrates opening Friday on 12th Ave

  1. The new retail on Jackson, required by NC zoning, is not exactly flying off the shelf. Perhaps this location will fare better. I fear that retail store space is getting overbuilt in this city due to zoning requirements. Whole categories of retail uses have moved to malls and big box stores.

    Is any housing being built for people making $20,000 or even $12,000? The usual solution for folks in this category (many of our young people)is to match up with roommates in the same situation. Can roommates qualify for this type of low income housing? Or are they stuck with lousy housing provided by cheapskate landlords. (The city is now acting to make that option unavailable as well.)

  2. The point is to flood the area with retail space so that retail rents will come down and people can afford to open businesses and make more than $15,000 per year. My dog makes more than that in annual income.

    Don’t buy into the retail space glut hype. flood the market so a business owner doesn’t have to pay $10,000 per month for a 1,000 SQFT space. We want lots and lots of small businesses. Pizza, distilleries, shoe stores, barber shops, foot massage, jewlers, a custom kayak builder, tutoring studio, boot camp for fatties, a tailor shop for modernist NW apparel.

    It would be good to have some of those micro housing units. Basically a closet to duck into. Superman could have used a thing like that. We could attract a whole cadre of young poor superhero nut cases to patrol our streets and fight the demented BGD.

    Hope is good.

  3. What a stupid comment. Your dog makes more money, Superman can use the closet units. Not everyone is as rich as your dog.


    Good reporting. Glad to see something finally done with the site.

  4. G fatty. I am in support of the site. I am in support of creating space where people can start businesses and get jobs. I am in support of cheap housing. And I think such low wages is abominable given the cost of living today. Take an even strain man. The businesses that open someday in those spaces can help us all, even you. My dog works hard for his pay. He deserves it.

  5. Kinda of hard to pay high wages to carpenters and allied trades when you are building cheap housing. As for the abundance of retail space, there is so much of it that is empty in mixed use buildings that the city is considering allowing housing in this space. Bottom line, the bills have to paid for these new buildings.

  6. The space is empty because the managment has not gotten to the reality that retail rent will be cheap. They are allowed to build more floors and more units for a price – the price is low rent retail – they must pay the price or we will continue to provide more retail space.

    If they don’t want to provide retail space, they can build low rise housing, townhouses, etc. Retail allows them more units of residential to profit from. Don’t get lost in the changing of history. The rules are there for a purpose. It is a compromise that benefits all.

  7. See butch’s comment below. Peter Steinbrueck was talking about this issue years ago, and it’s totally coming home to roost. We don’t *need* to have retail at ground floor on every new NC project. In many cases townhome-style ground floor residential, with stoops, would probably do just about as much to activate the street. Flooding the market with retail is working out about as well as flooding the market with apartments – see how those rents have come down? Yeah, me neither.

  8. I tell people about this building all the time, because I think it’s a great looking project done in a building type (five stories of wood-frame over one story of concrete) that almost always looks really bad. 5-over-1 is the most common type in the NC3-65 zone – neighborhood commercial, 65′ height limit. These buildings almost always look awful because developers do them on large sites with a huge footprint resulting in the awful brick shaped buildings that have proliferated along 15th in Ballard. The Jefferson is the same basic configuration, but its site is 10,000 square feet. Hence the building is taller than it is wide. The proportions look right and the building fits well with the scale of buildings around it. Context and scale matter!

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