Beacon Hill low-income project wins ULI award

Plaza Roberto Maestas in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood won a 2019 Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing.

The annual award recognizes best practices in the development of housing that is affordable to people with a broad range of incomes. All or some of the units in the recognized developments are affordable to households earning up to 120% of the area median income.

Plaza Roberto Maestas is owned by El Centro de la Raza, a civil rights organization grounded in the Latino community that provides services including child and youth programs, human and emergency services and skills building, according to a press release from ULI.

The project opened in 2016 at 1650 S. Roberto Maestas Festival St., and provides housing for people earning 30-60% of the area median income.

The two six-story buildings flank an outdoor plaza that opens onto a festival street adjacent to the Beacon Hill light rail station. The complex has 112 units, local retail, office space, community space and a bilingual child care center.

ULI notes that creative place-making was at the heart of the transformation of the formerly vacant lot in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. It said the project anchors the affordability and diversity of the neighborhood while accommodating increased density and activity. It is named for the late founder and executive director of El Centro de la Raza.

The team included Beacon Development Group (development consultant); SMR Architects (architect of record); 7 Directions Architects/Planners (design architect); Third Place Design Cooperative (consulting architect); and Walsh Construction Co. (contractor).

Cerna Landscaping, Shannon & Wilson, South Earth Strategies, The West Studio, Swenson Say Faget and Bush, Roed and Hitchings also worked on the project.

The other award winners were The Lindley, a luxury, mixed-income multifamily building in Bethesda, Maryland, and The Watson mixed-income development in Quincy, Massachusetts.

The winners were chosen by a jury of national housing leaders, and selected based on outstanding achievements in affordability, innovative financing and building technologies, proximity to employment centers and transportation hubs, quality of design, involvement of public/private partnerships and replicability of the development.

On its website, ULI notes that The Lindley is the result of a unique public-private partnership. The property was funded without tax credits or direct subsidies, and is one of the first buildings of its kind to include private equity as a major funding source while remaining under the principal control of a public housing authority. The affordable units are in a high-opportunity area near a future public transit hub, according to ULI.

The ULI website notes that The Watson represents a major urban place-making initiative developed on the site of a long-vacant office building adjacent to a largely dormant, ship-building facility. The development integrates low-, moderate- and higher-income renters under one roof, and its success hinged on the efforts of public and private partners to devise an innovative financing structure.

The award honors the memory of Jack Kemp, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a ULI Terwilliger Center national advisory board member.

The Center for Housing conducts research, performs analysis, provides expert advice, and develops best practice recommendations that reflect the residential land use and development priorities of ULI members in all residential product types, with special attention to workforce and affordable housing.

Plaza Roberto Maestas


William Wright Photography


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