Lake City House gets a new look

SHA renovation project aims to increase safety in Lake City area

This project is long overdue, according to some.

Originally constructed some 40 years ago, Lake City House has become a haven for unlawful activity over the years. By next year, residents and neighbors will see some very visible changes to the aging, 115-unit, low-income housing complex.

Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) will make some major renovations to the building at 12546 33rd Ave. N.E., including the relocation of existing parking lots and structural improvements. With funds made available through tax-credit financing programs, SHA began the project in early September and plans to finish it come next spring.

"Whenever the city is willing to spend money here, it's a wonderful thing," said David Howry, president of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce. "I understand [the building] has needed a lot of help for a long time."


Changing views

Noting both structural and safety issues as the main reasons for the renovation, SHA believes the building is also in dire need of some modernization.

"This is a renovation project that will change the building's perception as an eyesore," said Sven Koehler, the resident community liaison for SHA. "We've taken a lot of care in designing this project and making sure it will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with new developments in the area. It's great to see we're helping protect the stock of low-income housing in the area."

Though the building will be revitalized through the replacement of existing windows with new vinyl ones, a stucco-like waterproof coating to the exterior, new insulation and a revamped fa├žade, the safety of the tenants and neighbors is still of the highest concern for SHA. Agency officials hope the structural and aesthetic improvements will result in criminal activity diminishing around the lot and its surrounding areas.


Safety improvements

This is just one of many SHA projects around the city. In all, 22 low-income housing renovation projects will take place by 2009. DKA Architecture & Design is currently handling the Lake City House project with SHA.

SHA said that tenants will not experience any increasing of rental rates as a result of the new construction. Currently, SHA's rates are based on the respective tenants' incomes; on average, rents run between $150 and $300 per unit, according to SHA, and rates can only be raised based on increases in tenants' salaries.

"These improvements will really improve not only the lot, but the surrounding ones as well," Howry said of the proposed plans, which also include new light sources around the parking lot and new pavement.

"The area will be safer, and it will be a real plus for the residents of that building," he added. "It'll be nice for [the building's tenants] to come home to something that's a lot nicer than it was before."

According to Howry, safety has been a major focus of the various improvements to the area of late.

"There's been a little bit of a stigma over the years," Howry said. "But if you come down here, a lot of the area is brand-new. This is not an area where you need to worry about walking around in."


A 'major investment'

SHA's renovation plans for Lake City Housing have been in the developmental stages for the last five years, according to SHA. Noting a lack of funding as partial reasoning for delays in projects such as Lake City House, SHA is excited about the idea of improving the city's low-income housing developments.

"We're making a major investment to these houses that are old and in need of improvements," Koehler said. "As a result, we will have a much nicer stock of low-income housing units."

For more information on the Lake City Housing project and others, visit www.seattlehousing.org.

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