The Renton Housing Authority has received a key federal approval that will move forward the massive redevelopment of its Sunset Terrace public housing complex in the Highlands.
The approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows the housing authority to tear down four of the Sunset Terrace’s 26 buildings. It’s the first phase of a redevelopment that could take up to 10 years to complete.
The area around Sunset Terrace on Sunset Boulevard centered on Harrington Avenue will look much differently than it does today, with new retail, hundreds of new market-rate apartments and a new library in a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Replaced will be the 100 units of housing in the 26 buildings on the seven-acre campus, which for more than 50 years have served their purpose as low-income housing. Infrastructure, such as water, gas and sewer lines, is showing its age, said Mark Gropper, the housing authority’s executive director.
The units themselves are “not particularly well-constructed,” he said. It’s not unusual to have to cut in half the box spring of a queen-sized bed, then reassemble it in a bedroom.
This first phase will include a new Highlands branch of the King County Library System, new retail outlets and about 100 market-rate apartments. The first phase has 18 Section 8 apartments that will help replace those 100 units. There will be structured parking.
The barracks-like architecture of Sunset Terrace evokes public housing, an image the housing authority wants to change. In the future public housing will blend into its neighborhood, so that no one can tell how much a resident earns or where they earn it, Gropper said.
“We achieve some very clear and well-intentioned social justice,” he said.
All that’s possible because HUD released its interest in the nearly 1 acre underlying the four buildings because of the housing authority’s assurance all housing would be replaced. Its approval will be necessary for future phases, too.
The construction now under way of the new Glennwood Townhomes on Glennwood Avenue with their eight units with four bedrooms each was part of the assurance. They are on schedule to be ready for residents this summer, Gropper said. Ground was broken for the project in October.
Eight families displaced by the initial development will move into those units. The Renton Housing Authority will work with the other families to find them homes in the area or provide them with a Section 8 voucher that they can use for subsidized housing elsewhere.
All 100 families in Sunset Terrace have received letters keeping them informed about the redevelopment progress, Gropper said, and specific letters were sent to the 15 families affected by the first phase. The housing authority will pay moving costs.
The idea is to try to make redevelopment activity coincide with the end of school, Gropper said, and to keep the families in the same neighborhood so they aren’t displaced from their community.
The 15 families will move out during the summer; demolition of the buildings will happen by year’s end. The plans call for the new housing to become available in 2013.
Now with HUD approval, the housing authority will sell the nearly 1 acre to Colpitts Development Co for $987,000. Colpitts will develop the first phase of the development.