Ty Swenson
An Oct. 9 photo of the recently-razed plot of land that will become DESC's Delridge Supportive Housing facility in an estimated 14 to 15 months. The 66-unit building will house chronically homeless citizens in hopes of bringing stability to their lives.

Controversial Delridge homeless housing project nears construction start

Six structures in the plot of land at 5444 Delridge Way S.W. have been torn down, and in just over a year they will be replaced with a 66-unit homeless housing facility ran by the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).

DESC Executive Director Bill Hobson provided an update to the Delridge Supportive Housing Advisory Committee on Oct. 9. The committee was formed to address community concerns from North Delridge citizens over community safety and building design.Delridge Supportive Housing will mimic several other DESC housing projects in Seattle that provide supportive services to chronically homeless people who are often living with mental or addictive illnesses.

Hobson said DESC is in the final stages of completing financial paperwork with Bank of America and, once complete, Walsh Construction will have the go ahead to start digging a hole in preparation for underground parking. Hobson expects construction/excavation to begin sometime between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15 and said it should be completed in 13 months.

Walsh Construction is no stranger to Delridge Way, having done the restoration at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and building the Delridge Library. Hobson said once construction begins, Walsh will be the contact for concerns over noise or traffic disruptions caused by the process. For example, Walsh is required to let nearby residents know if they will be blocking an alley on certain days.

A lingering design concern brought up at the Oct. 9 meeting pertained to ineffective catch basins in the alleyway that DESC plans to partially pave. Residents living next door are worried that heavy rains combined with non-porous concrete over a stretch of the alley will overload the basins and could lead to yard and house flooding.

“Just to understand correctly, you are going to pave the whole alley from Findlay (St.) to the end of your property and then all of that water is going to be dropped into an existing system that you have already proven can’t handle it?,” Aaron Jennings, who lives near the project, asked. “That’s unacceptable to the community.”

“We are building what we are legally required to build,” Hobson responded, adding that he was attempting to be transparent about the situation.

Hobson said the DESC building will not directly contribute to overflow since their runoff will be led to a pond on the property, but neighbors are still concerned about the possible side effects of the paved alley.

Ultimately, the group agreed, the best shot at improving the catch basin problems is to lobby Seattle's Department of Transportation for a fix. Community activist Pete Spalding mentioned the Bridging the Gap Neighborhood Street Fund as a possible funding source. The BTG Levy has $4.5 million available for neighborhood projects anywhere from $100,000 to $750,000. The deadline for submitting an application is Dec. 17 and more information can be found here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/btg_nsf_large.htm

Latest on the Delridge Produce Co-Op
There has been talk of a Delridge Produce Co-Op taking up residence in the retail space of DESC’s building, and Hobson he is still working with DPC organizers to gauge the viability.

DPC is currently asking Delridge residents to fill out a survey to gauge interest in food co-op for the neighborhood in need of healthy food options, and Hobson said they are also working with students from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (focused on sustainable business models) to come up with a business plan that should be complete by the year's end.

Naming the building
The advisory group briefly discussed the eventual naming of the building and Hobson said while the DESC board makes the final decision, they would take suggestions from the community.

Tanya Baer, a Delridge resident who has followed the DESC project closely from the beginning, jokingly suggested the name “The Baer Family Facility,” followed by a round of laughs.

Baer suggested DESC begin thinking about their community outreach strategy for when the facility actually opens in the next 14 to 15 months.

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