Delridge Neighborhood Seattle Washington


Longfellow Creek is a 3-mile, year-round urban creek in West Seattle's Delridge neighborhood that once teemed with salmon. A comprehensive community effort is now under way to restore the creek as a vital fish habitat.

Almost 10 percent of the stormwater that ends up in Longfellow Creek falls on the ground of High Point, originally a 716-unit affordable housing project built during World War II. Run down and decaying, the project was ripe for redevelopment. With over $37 million in federal HOPE VI funds, the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), an independent public corporation that functions as both a property manager and a nonprofit developer, began plans to redevelop the entire site into a mixed-income

Sidewalks, narrow streets and wide planting strips (swales) encourage biking, walking, and getting out and about around High Point.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority.

Sidewalks, narrow streets and wide planting strips (swales) encourage biking, walking, and getting out and about around High Point.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority.

community. Concurrently, the city of Seattle expressed interest in integrating a natural stormwater drainage system into the redevelopment project to treat the stormwater runoff in an ecologically sensitive way and improve salmon habitat.

SHA spent time in initial planning determining how it could integrate a natural stormwater management system and identifying the specific permits needed. After deliberation, it agreed to integrate a natural drainage system into the project if the city granted several concessions. These included permitting narrower streets (25 feet wide, with parking on both sides) that would reduce impervious surfaces; assisting in the city permitting process; and supporting an approach that integrates the drainage system into a traditional-looking neighborhood. The city agreed to support these concepts, as well as to provide $2.7 million to cover the difference between a typical new-construction stormwater system and the natrual system proposed by SHA.

The desire to improve the water quality of Longfellow Creek became a linchpin in the overall plan to connect the mixed-income community with the surrounding environment and the larger West Seattle neighborhood. Rather than continuing to use an internally focused street circulation plan, the neighborhood street pattern was reinstated. Numerous environmentally responsive strategies protect the watershed and provide an attractive and diverse neighborhood through the natural drainage system, which is the largest in the country.


Note: Except where specified, all details pertain to Phase I affordable housing and site design only.

Project Size: 34 city blocks on 120 acres comprising 1,600 units (half affordable housing, half market-rate), community facilities, a 10-acre greenbelt along Longfellow Creek, and 21 acres of total green space; replaces 716 worn-out public housing units built in the 1940s

Phase I: 60 acres with 344 affordable units built by SHA; 75 senior affordable units built by the Sisters of Providence; 268 market-rate homeowner units; 160 market-rate senior rentals; an estimated 100 market-rate rentals or condos atop a neighborhood-serving retail center situated along the busy 35th Avenue SW arterial; and a new branch library, medical and dental clinic, and neighborhood center Phase II: 60 acres with 256 affordable units and 397 market-rate homeowner units

Breakdown of Housing Types (Phase I and Phase II):1

Affordable housing: 796 total units for people earning from below 30% up to 80% of area median income (AMI)

Market-rate housing: 804 total units

Phase I Construction Costs for the 344 Units Built by SHA: Hard costs: $43 million

Soft costs (builder profit, taxes, etc.): $6 million

Phase I Architectural and Engineering Costs: Housing design: $4 million Overall site design: $7 million

Total Phase I Development Costs: $102 million

Completion Date:

Phase I finished in 2006

Phase II forecast to be completed in 2009

Project Team Developer/Owner: Architect: General Contractor: Infrastructure Contractor:

Civil Engineer and Right-of-Way Landscape Architect: Landscape Architect: Traffic Engineering: Community Center Design: Geotechnical: Builders:

Seattle Housing Authority Mithun

Absher Construction (Phase I) Gary Merlino Construction Company (Phase I)

SvR Design Nakano Associates Gary Struthers Associates Environmental Works Shannon & Wilson Absher Construction; Devland; the Dwelling Company; Habitat for Humanity; Holiday Retirement Corp.; Lyle Homes; Polygon Northwest; Saltaire Homes; Sisters of Providence


Recipient of the City of Seattle 2005 Built Green Community Design Award.

One of eight recipients of the American Institute of

Architecture's 2006 Show You're Green Awards, given to projects selected for excellence in green affordable housing. High Point is a Built Green three-star-certified community and a Built Green three-star-certified multifamily project—the highest possible rating in both categories

High Point is the first ENERGY STAR®-certifi'ed multifamily community in the nation

1 Breakdown of housing types at High Point: Affordable housing: 796 total units for people earning 80 percent or less of area median income (AMI), including 350 rental units for very low-income residents making 30 percent or below AMI; 116 independent Living rental units for very low-income seniors at 30 percent or below AMI; 250 tax credit rental units for working families making up to 60 percent of AMI; and 80 units to be sold at reduced rates to low-income families earning up to 80 percent of AMI. The total also includes 35 units for low-income tenants suffering from asthma. Market-rate housing: 804 total units, including 160 rental units of market-rate, independent, and assisted senior housing and 644 for-sale homes in a mix of detached single-family homes, carriage units, townhomes, and condominiums.

First, SHA re-built the infrastructure for the entire 120-acre site. This included demolishing most structures (some were deconstructed for reuse) and all streets and utilities, and realigning the street grid so it connected to the larger West Seattle neighborhood. With the basic groundwork in place, the team was able to proceed with the design and construction of a completely reinvented High Point, including a new street grid; over 21 acres of open space, parks, and playgrounds; the natural drainage system; and a number of community facilities.

Upon buildout, High Point will house approximately 4,000 residents in 1,600 units of various types of housing. About half of the units are designated as affordable at various income levels, including senior housing, housing for large families, and 8 homes built with sweat equity by Habitat for Humanity.1 The rest are a variety of single-family homes, carriage homes, and townhomes, offered for sale at market prices. As of fall 2006, 344 affordable units built by SHA and 75 affordable senior units built by the Sisters of Providence were completed, as well as key community facilities, such as a new library and a neighborhood clinic. Some market-rate homes had been completed and sold, and builders were focusing on completing the rest. Phase II of the project is expected to wrap up by 2009.


Numerous aspects of High Point's site design address resource conservation and environmental responsiveness. By combining the natural drainage system with traditional neighborhood design, the design team was able to capture synergies stemming from traditional, narrow streets and wide landscaped medians and parkways. Other green aspects are featured in the design and construction of each unit.

Site Design: In developing the master plan the project's architect, Seattle-based Mithun, used many principles espoused by New Urbanism. Narrower streets (now often termed "traditional streets") with short blocks promote a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere that encourages social interaction and decreases the impact and importance of cars. Approximately 2,500 trees were added to the site, and over 100 large trees worth $1.5 million were preserved during the construction process. Twenty-one acres of open space include parks and green spaces of all types, from a large central park that acts as the heart of the community to small pocket parks and trails.

The natural drainage system adds to the quality of the green spaces throughout High Point. One of the drainage system's most important elements is 4 miles of swales, which replace conventional street curbs and gutters with vegetated drainage channels designed to collect, channel, and filter stormwater. The swales line one side of each

The large central pond adds beauty while also functioning as a stormwater detention pond, an integral part of the natural stormwater management system.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority.

street and resemble the landscaped parkways that sit between the street and sidewalk in many traditional neighborhoods. Planted with grass, trees, and shrubs, the swales filter rainwater and offer additional play areas. The swales are made possible by reducing the paved area which also reduces the amount of pollutants, such as oil, that enter the system via runoff. The central feature of this system is a pond that, in addition to providing a scenic view and a local gathering place, plays a crucial role in absorbing and filtering stormwater before finally channeling it into Longfellow Creek.

Healthy and Efficient Housing: All housing at High Point is required to meet or exceed a three-star rating by Seattle's Built Green program, a residential green building program and rating system developed by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties in partnership with the city of Seattle. The three-star rating is the highest achievable in the "Community" and "Multifamily" categories. All of the townhome-style rental units were also built to meet ENERGY STAR® standards. Other green aspects include the use of low-emission paint and construction materials in all rental units. The homes


• Over 100 mature trees protected (assessed at over $1.5 million by professional arborist)

• Approximately 2,500 new trees planted along streets and park, tripling number of previously existing trees.

• Natural drainage system integrated with community, also providing open and play spaces

• 21 acres designated for parks, open spaces, and playgrounds.

• Four-acre central park created at heart of community

• New community facilities built, including branch library, medical-dental clinic, neighborhood center, on-site retail

• Traditional narrow streets, with planting strips wider than standard in Seattle

• Special techniques used to handle stormwater runoff, including network of vegetated and grass-lined swales combined with amended soil that helps handle excess rainfall. Excess water channeled by underground pipes into stormwater pond

• Reduced grading

• All homes built to meet Built Green three-star standards


• Natural stormwater management program

• Water-conserving fixtures

• Front-loading water-saving washers

Drought-resistant plants


• Gas-fired, tankless water heaters supply wall-mounted radiators, allowing residents to heat only the rooms they are using, and also provide on-demand warm water to faucets

• ENERGY STAR® washers and efficient dryers

• Whole-house fans

• Low-e, argon-filled windows (C.33 U-value) that exceed state code (C.4 U-value)

• Installed insulation with improved R-values (R-3B for ceiling roof lines, R-19 for walls)

Materials and Resources

• 22 old homes deconstructed; lumber, plywood, plumbing fixtures salvaged for sale or reuse

• Old paving reused as backfill in trenches

• Wood-saving advanced framing techniques used

Health and Comfort

• Ultra-low-sulfur biodiesel fuel (35C,CCC gallons' worth) used during infrastructure construction to protect air quality

• 35 Breathe Easy homes constructed for asthma prevention and reduced allergy problems

• Natural stormwater management system reduces water contamination in adjacent Longfellow Creek

• Low-allergen, drought-tolerant plants installed

• Indoor environmental quality improved by using no- or low-VOC paint, adhesives, cabinetry, etc., and installing moisture-resistant drywall

Durability and Ease of Maintenance

• Linoleum floors used instead of carpet

• Interiors in rentals painted with same color

• Front yards of rentals considered common areas for easy maintenance also include appliances and fixtures that go beyond code requirements to save energy and water. Each home features a high-efficiency hydronic heating system. All rental units have ENERGY STAR® dishwashers and front-loading, highly energy-efficient washing machines.

High Point also includes 35 innovative Breathe Easy homes available to low-income families with children suffering from asthma. These homes were designed to create a preventive atmosphere by minimizing exposure to some of the numerous environmental factors that can trigger asthma, including formaldehyde, dust, pollen, and insect remnants. Breathe Easy homes include high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that remove irritants from the air, no-volatile-organic compound (no-VOC) building materials, and linoleum floors instead of carpet. Construction measures also addressed asthma prevention—for example, smoking was prohibited during and after construction. Residents must also promise to avoid asthma triggers such as smoking or having furry pets. Landscaping outside these homes is comprised of drought-tolerant plants that don't produce pollen, including many plants native to the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers have been tracking the health of the residents of these homes since a year before they moved in, to investigate whether the environment provided by these homes makes a difference to the health of the occupants.

Deconstruction and Reuse: Before the site could be prepared for new construction, the old buildings had to be removed. Twenty-two of the old buildings were deconstructed by hand so that their materials, which included high-quality old-growth fir, could be sold and reused.

Going forward, SHA has mandated that parks and open spaces be maintained using environmentally sensitive approaches. Resident teams of adults and children have conducted environmental outreach, including public education about the value (monetary and environmental) of preserving the large trees.


The High Point project will cost approximately $198 million. This price tag includes demolition, deconstruction, and infrastructure development, in addition to building the 344 affordable units in Phase I and preparing the lots to sell to builders for market-rate homes. The construction of the 344 affordable units cost $43 million in hard construction costs, or approximately $125,000 per unit.

Financing was be completed via a complex mix that includes bonds and equity, and $37 million in HUD HOPE VI funds. Selling land to builders funded nearly 30 percent of the overall budget, bringing in almost $59.7 million. Monies allocated specifically for green aspects were $185,000 for the design and construction of the 35 Breathe Easy homes (provided through a $325,000 Healthy Homes Initiative grant from HUD) and $2.7 million from Seattle Public Utilities for the stormwater drainage system.

In total, High Point's green elements cost approximately $1.5 million, approximately 3 percent of the project's $43 million rental housing construction cost. The team was able to find savings in some of its construction strategies,



(Estimate for both Phases I & II)


Proceeds from Land Sales (estimate) Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity Seattle Housing Authority Capital Subsidy Deferred Developer Fee Interest Income


Seattle Housing Authority

Issued Tax-Exempt Bonds Washington State Housing Trust Fund

Grants HUD HOPE VI Seattle Public Utilities

(for stormwater drainage system) HUD/NIH Healthy Homes Grant

Total Sources


$59,700,000 $52,681,693 $10,000,000 $12,463,736 $235,586



such as minimizing grading, stockpiling and reusing top-soil, and recycling demolished paving for trench backfill. Narrower streets also cost less to build. Some items incurred no or minimal additional cost, such as low-VOC paints, adhesives, cabinets and other materials; landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants; a framing system that included modified advance framing and panelized walls; and airtight, moisture-resistant drywall.

The additional cost of some green items were offset by rebates from Seattle City Lights for items such as compact fluorescent lights, ENERGY STAR® front-loading washers, efficient dryers, and whole-house fans. Other items did cost more, including a closed-loop hydronic heating system and a flash water heater used in each unit, durable and healthy Marmoleum floor coverings, and windows with higher-than-code R-values. Retaining the 100-plus mature trees incurred an expense, although the trees themselves were valued at $1.5 million. And choosing to deconstruct 22 old units also cost more than bulldozing them all, although some of the cost was re-captured by selling salvaged materials.

SHA was able to negotiate reduced utility allowances based on efficient design, systems, and appliances in the units. This resulted in more rental income accruing to the owner, SHA. Estimated savings in energy use are 20 percent as compared with similar units built by the SHA at its

"The green aspects became an important engine as we went along because they became an important rallying point for people who wanted to help. There was lots of support in the community for making High Point happen."

Tom Phillips project manager, Seattle Housing Authority built-to-code New Holly project ($371 annually for a three-bedroom unit). Over one-third of the $371 annual savings can be attributed to the tankless hot water heating system ($135 annually), with another 29 percent savings coming from the front-loading washing machines ($106 annually).


SHA project manager Tom Phillips, who was called the "driving vision and force" behind the development of High Point, offers a few practices he feels were important in making sure the vision got built:

• Create an open environment.

• Make sure the contractor follows the intent of the plan.

• Don't be afraid to leverage your support.

• Reach out to the community.

Phillips also attributes the success of High Point to "setting sustainable goals very early on. We had a lot of time and a really good schedule to get some of the farther-reaching green items included, like dual-use tankless water heaters. We worked with Seattle City Light to create efficient units by using fluorescent lighting, windows, and high insulation levels for roof lines and walls."

Create an Open Environment: Phillips believes that, especially on such a large project, it is important to create an open environment in which participants feel comfortable asking for information and assistance on new approaches. "The construction industry will be behind on the knowledge curve," he says, "so don't assume that they know how to do something just because it makes sense to a civil engineer."

Make Sure the Contractor Follows the Intent of the

Plan: Phillips observes that, in general, the construction process at High Point went smoothly. The biggest lesson learned during construction was that some aspects of this project were breaking new ground and therefore required the contractor to change on-site behavior. For example, the plantings in the swales and around the pond needed to be installed early to achieve their function during the rainy season. Phillips recommends, "Work with contractors really early [in the process]. You just can't educate them enough, and will need to keep educating them about what the system is, and why it is different. It can be a fine line to walk between wearing innovation on our sleeve (which could raise the price of the project) and keeping the guys at the top, in the middle, and in the field educated about what is going on, and why."

Don't Be Afraid to Leverage Your Support: Phillips also found that sometimes, to move the project forward, you need to "call in your chips occasionally." For example, in working to get a building permit from the city, the project team struggled with resistance from some city bureaucrats who just couldn't understand the differences between the High Point system and a traditional stormwater management plan. But because the team already had the support of Seattle's mayor to be innovative, they were able to create some leverage to remove bureaucratic obstacles, including getting a resistant staff person who couldn't let go of the old rules reassigned.

Reach Out to the Community: Phillips and Mithun's lead architect, Brian Sullivan, worked tirelessly to educate and get feedback from various user groups about the proposed plans for High Point, doing "the important work of listening." They focused on bridging differences between various agencies and interest groups, as well as the High Point community, itself a multicultural melting pot in which over ten different language groups are represented. Phillips says that the "hardest work was the first three to four months of the master planning process," which involved plenty of outreach to the city, local neighborhoods, High Point residents, and others. It was "a great example of a good public process speeding up an approvals process, going through it with goodwill instead of ill will. There was only one real change after the foundation was laid." Through a process of outreach and public involvement, Phillips and Sullivan were able to get the residents of the larger West Seattle neighborhood to the west of High Point "on board, so there was not much active opposition to this project, which is the same size as the entire downtown Seattle area."

Phillips explains that "the green aspects became an important engine as we went along because they became an important rallying point for people who wanted to help. There was lots of support in the community for making High Point happen."


Developer: Seattle Housing Authority

Tom Phillips, project manager: 206-615-3414; [email protected]

Architect: Mithun

Matthew Sullivan, architect: 206-971-3344;

[email protected]

Civil engineer: SvR Design Company

Peg Staeheli, principal: 206-223-0326;

[email protected]


Affordable Housing Design Advisor: Affordable Housing Design Advisor offers resources and in-depth examples of affordable housing, with a section devoted to projects selected in the annual AIA Show You're Green Awards, including High Point, a 2006 recipient.

City of Seattle, High Point "green home" case study: @sustainableblding/documents/web_informational/dpds _007254.pdf.

Cloward, Brian, and Brian Sullivan, of Mithun, personal interview by Lisa McManigal Delaney, June 21, 2006 followed by email correspondence.

High Point information for potential residents and others:

High Point natural drainage system: /About_SPU/Drainage_&_Sewer_System/Natural_Draina ge_Systems/High_Point_Project/index.asp.

Nemeth, George, of Seattle Housing Authority, personal interview by Lisa McManigal Delaney, June 15, 2006 followed by email correxpondence.

New Urbanist features of High Point:

Peirce, Neal, "High Point: Seattle's green community," Seattle Times, September 24, http://seattletimes.nwsource .com/html/opinion /2003271360_peirce24.html.

Phillips, Tom, of Settle Housing Authority, personal interview by Lisa McManigal Delaney, August 2006, followed by email and telephone correspondence.

Seattle Housing Authority High Point Redevelopment: /highpoint.html. Contains much information about the project, including the final environmental impact statement, the redevelopment plan, photos, and details on green features.

"A West Seattle Neighborhood Is Being Transformed," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 12, 2006; http://seattlepi


1. Sweat equity: Manual labor and other work performed as non-cash contributions toward home ownership.

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