Patrick Robinson
Momentarily overcome with emotion Neva Ellison-Long expressed her sense of gratitude to everyone, 'from the biggest to the littlest" who made her new living situation possible at the dedication ceremony for Seola Gardens near White Center.

SLIDESHOW: Seola Gardens affordable apartments completion celebrated by all, “biggest to the littlest”

An impressive showing of elected officials showed up in White Center on Oct. 25 to celebrate and speak on the completion of 177 affordable housing apartments (known as Fairwind) at Seola Gardens, located on 5th Ave. S.W. just east of Lakewood Park.

We’ll get to those statements soon, but first we’d like to share the words of Neva Ellison-Long, a resident at Seola.

“I am honored to be here today,” Ellison-Long said as emotion rose in her voice. “I really and truly do appreciate everything that every person in this room, from the biggest to the littlest, has done for me and my family.”

Ellison-Long had a speech prepared but decided to crumple it up and shove it into her pocket, opting instead to speak from her heart.

“I am legally blind and I have three children … my husband Tyrone is here with me, we have been married for 17 years, my special needs son is Julius Long (who was also in attendance). Seola Gardens is the best in my book, no matter what … you have made a difference in my life.”

“We struggled and … we had issues … with things such as high rent and the floods we had to deal with, we had bug issues and all these other things in our home in Auburn,” she said. The Longs lived in a crammed two-bedroom apartment with no handicap accessibility before being accepted into Seola Gardens.

“It just seems like once we got here all of that instantly wiped away,” she said. “Once the call came (accepting their application), my prayers were answered and I can’t thank you all enough.”

King County Housing Authority, the main force behind the new development, describes the transition as such: “Formerly, Seola Gardens was a 165-unit deteriorating public housing complex called Park Lake Homes II. Its redevelopment, in tandem with its sister property Greenbridge, is part of the Housing Authority’s strategy to support the overall revitalization of White Center, one of the poorest areas of King County. The redevelopment of the two sites will create homeownership opportunities for 480 families, significantly altering the income mix in the neighborhood and generating an estimate $2.03 million annually in property taxes.”

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, representing White Center, took the stage and welcomed families into Seola Gardens, including a handful who lived in the Park Lake Homes II project before the transition.

“Today in particular we are celebrating the grand opening of Fairwind,” he said. “87 homes, 87 homes and to each one of those residents I say, ‘Welcome home.’ And to 15 of those families in particular I say, ‘Welcome back.’”

““Today, in this place, stands a beautiful, well designed and well built urban community,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “This project includes 177 units of rental housing and more than 100 units of homes for sale, a new community center for onsite services and recreational social events for people of all ages, a redesigned Head Start facility for the children of White Center, p-patch gardens, new parks and a trail system.”

“Most of all, Seola Gardens is about community: the amazing and diverse White Center community,” Constantine said. “The mixed-use and mixed-income housing is one piece of the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area Plan, a vision for attractive and affordable housing and reduced crime and increased economic development.”

U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott also attended, and said, “I want to congratulate not only the public and the private partners who put this together financially, but the people who actually worked and did the work: this is your day.”

1450 people, representing 40 different trades, worked on the project that spanned several years.

“We have created a community in the middle of an area of Seattle that hasn’t been sort of the center of anything,” Congressman McDermott said. “But White Center is now – and the Seola Gardens is a big part of that – is a demonstration that as a society we can honor the common good and take care of one another.”

In addition to federally-subsidized affordable rental housing and mixed-income homes for sale, Seola includes Joseph House, a 65-unit complex for seniors. Additional amenities for residents include job assistance and computer literacy training put on by YWCA and Highline Community College ESL classes. Neighborhood House provides after school homework help, and the Technology Access Foundation Bethaday Space just next door provides STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) training for students of color throughout White Center.

According to King County Housing Authority around $300 million in private and public funds have been used to build Seola Gardens and Greenbridge in White Center over the past decade.

Financing for Seola Gardens:
HOPE VI -$20 million
Section 202 - $8.297 million
Section 8 - 10 project-based units
Housing Trust Fund - $1.5 million
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity - $28 million
ARRA - $1.107 million
King County - $6 million

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