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Plymouth and Bellwether team up for First Hill affordable housing development

The TOD will be on the original planned site of the First Hill light rail station

A rendering of the Plymouth and Bellwether project.
Courtesy of Plymouth Housing Group and Bellwether Housing

A development at Boylston and Madison in First Hill is moving forward after Sound Transit agreed to transfer the land to two affordable housing providers, Plymouth Housing Group and Bellwether Housing, at zero cost. When finished, the development will include more than 300 apartments available to people with lower incomes.

The 21,600-square-foot property was originally the site of a planned First Hill light rail station before the idea was scrapped in favor of the current light rail alignment.

Plymouth and Bellwether’s proposal imagines a 12 to 16 stories of housing above a floor of retail and community space. The organizations would maintain separate projects within the building: Plymouth would manage around 111 furnished studio apartments for seniors who have experienced homelessness. The location near hospitals and healthcare providers, Plymouth notes, is idea for this project.

Bellwether’s part would include around 200 apartments affordable to low-income households at a range of sizes, including some sized for families—something that can be hard to find in multifamily developments.

“We knew this site needed a bold, creative proposal,” said Susan Boyd, Chief Executive Officer of Bellwether Housing, in a statement. “We are leveraging density, a mix of affordable housing types and the strengths of two great organizations... to accomplish something very special in this critical, central location. And we are incredibly grateful to Sound Transit for the opportunity and to the First Hill community, who has been so supportive of our proposal.”

The Sound Transit board voted back in November to allow staff to negotiate with Plymouth Housing Group and Bellwether Housing over the property.

Sound Transit is in the middle of a rapid expansion, authorized by ballot measures in 2008 or 2016—critical in a growing city. But it can get expensive to live near transit. To help mitigate the effect of transit on rising housing costs, Sound Transit created a strategic plan for transit-oriented developments, or TODs, in 2010, which eventually evolved into policy.