Dave Cook Discusses Consent Decrees, Cleanup and Ecology’s Healthy Housing Program for Contaminated Sites at the WA Brownfields Conference on May 30, 2019

On May 30, Aspect’s Dave Cook will co-present on affordable housing development from the environmental consulting perspective at the Washington State Brownfields Conference in Spokane.

Brownfield properties represent opportunity. Dave will talk about innovative ways to turn blighted property into affordable/work force housing. Aspect’s first-of-its-kind work on the Mt Baker Housing Association’s Gateway project in the Mt Baker/Rainier Valley neighborhood in Seattle has become an example of what is possible. Mt Baker Housing Association (MBHA), as a non-profit, took on a significantly contaminated site to redevelop as affordable housing where the cost of the cleanup is more than the value of the five properties combined. Dave will join Scott O’Dowd of Ecology, Conor Hansen of MBHA and Mike Dunning of Perkins Coie to describe how these properties were purchased, investigated, liability managed, and the cleanup financed—all keys that made this pioneering project successful and sparking the State’s new Healthy Housing program .

Contact Dave (206.838.5837 and dcook@aspectconsulting.com), or learn more about prospective purchaser consent decrees, funding, and redeveloping contaminated land for affordable housing at https://www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing


From Brownfields to 500 Units of Affordable Housing – Aspect in the News

The Daily Journal of Commerce takes a look inside Mt. Baker Housing Association’s pioneering affordable housing work in South Seattle. Aspect, overseeing the environmental effort for the MBHA team, continues to drive the idea of brownfield sites as unique opportunities for affordable housing – including the 160+ unit Maddux project and the 350+ unit Grand Street Commons project.

READ HERE

Learn more: www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing

Innovative Affordable Housing Solutions Continue in South Seattle

The Seattle City Council recently approved the 2nd Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (ROZ) in Seattle’s history for the 700-unit Grand Street Commons housing development near the future Judkins Park light-rail station. The ROZ designation means that this innovative $20 Million private/non-profit partnership (Lake Union Partners and Mt. Baker Housing, respectively) now has direct access to state funds to build a 700-unit development—with about half of those units earmarked for affordable housing. These 350 future units, together with the 160 units planned at The Maddux (the City’s first ROZ zone near the Mt. Baker light-rail station), brings 500+ ROZ-designated affordable housing units coming online in the next five years in South Seattle.

The 700-unit Grand Street Commons is a unique private/public partnership, where approximately half the units will be affordable housing. The cleanup for this brownfield site is being led by Aspect and funded by a new approach to access money specifically for affordable housing projects.

Aspect, with law firm Perkins Coie, has helped Mt. Baker Housing pioneer this ROZ model to unlock state-backed grant funding in a first-of-its-kind model. Recognizing this success, the state introduced the Healthy Housing Program this fall– earmarked specifically for affordable housing developers looking at restoring land at brownfield sites.

Learn more about new approaches to restore land and find solutions for our affordable housing crisis here: www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing.

Washington State Helps Turn Brownfields into Affordable Housing

See Washington State Department of Ecology’s new article covering the state’s new Healthy Housing Remediation Program for restoring contaminated land to promote affordable housing. Mt. Baker Housing’s 160-unit project in South Seattle — which Aspect is leading the cleanup for — was the inspiration for this program.

Read more here.

Learn more here: https://www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing

Dave Cook to Discuss Reclaiming Brownfields for Affordable Housing at Housing Development Consortium Event

On September 18, join Aspect’s Dave Cook and Perkins Coie’s Mike Dunning as they share their experience developing innovative ways to reclaim brownfields for affordable housing. Dave and Mike will be joined by representatives from project partner agencies Mt. Baker Housing Association and the Washington State Department of Ecology in discussing Mt Baker Housing’s The Maddux – a two-building development with 144 apartments affordable to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. This project was made possible by implementing innovative cleanup solutions and identifying creative funding mechanisms. Learn More Here.

Washington's Healthy Housing Program Helps Fund Cleanup for Affordable Housing

Today, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) published a great overview of the new Washington State Healthy Housing Program and the inspiration for the program - Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project. Check it out.

Does your firm want help turning brownfields into affordable units?

Ecology wants to offer grants to get brownfields cleaned up and reused, and is seeking applications from developers until Saturday.

By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor

There are thousands of blighted properties across the state that could be redeveloped to create more affordable housing, but contamination on these sites has mostly kept developers at bay.

Now the state and its consultants are testing a way to get more of these sites developed. The Healthy Housing Remediation Program provides grants to help affordable housing developers build on brownfields.

The departments of Ecology and Commerce created the program. To gauge interest, they are seeking applications from developers until Saturday. The list of firms that respond will be used to develop Ecology's 2019–21 cleanup budget plan and to demonstrate funding needs for the Legislature to consider during the 2019 session.

Dave Cook of Aspect Consulting, one of the consulting firms, said affordable housing developers face high property costs, water rights issues and Growth Management Act restraints. He said this program will help fund remedial investigation studies and site cleanup to make blighted properties more attractive to developers.

The program was inspired by Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project, which is slated for a site on South McClellan Street, east of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and near the Mount Baker light rail station.

Maddux will have two buildings with 144 apartments that are affordable to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. Nearly half of the units will be “family-size,” with two- and three-bedroom layouts.

Mt. Baker Housing will use $6.2 million in state funds to clean up contamination from a gas station and dry cleaner. The nonprofit signed an agreement last year with Ecology that lays out the cleanup plan, and Ecology provided $400,000 for initial studies.

“We've been in the Mount Baker neighborhood a long time and these five properties always intrigued us — but we knew conventional options to develop the site were limited,” said Conor Hansen, director of real estate at Mt. Baker Housing, in a news release. “Once we learned about the opportunity to work with the Department of Ecology and play a part in creating a new innovative model, we believed this site would be the perfect candidate to clean up, develop and activate a prominent intersection that will serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood and provide much-needed affordable housing near light rail.”

In early 2017, the city designated the five properties as a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone, which allows state funds to flow directly to Mt. Baker Housing for remediation.

The parcels total about a half-acre.

Mt. Baker Housing aims to select a general contractor shortly, and break ground in late 2019 and open in early 2021. Other team members are architect Mithun, development consultant Beacon Development Group and acquisition lender Impact Capital.

Cook said it will be two months before all the data is available about the site contamination, but it's “very contaminated.”

Aspect and law firm Perkins Coie led the environmental team for Mt. Baker Housing, and worked with Ecology on the pilot program.

Cook said Aspect and Perkins Coie can help interested developers with the pilot program's application process.

 

Washington State’s First Affordable Housing Fund for Contaminated Sites: Applications Due June 30th

The Washington State Departments of Ecology and Commerce have created an innovative new program that will provide grants to affordable housing developers seeking to redevelop contaminated properties and increase the state’s housing stock.

The Healthy Housing Remediation Program will provide grant funds to nonprofit and private housing organizations to evaluate, investigate, and clean up contaminated properties to support the development of affordable housing. It was created by the Washington State Legislature during the 2018 session and will be funded in the 2019 session.

The program builds upon the successful partnership between Ecology and the Mt. Baker Housing Association on the Gateway Project in Seattle. Mt. Baker Housing’s Gateway Project will redevelop several contaminated properties for affordable housing near transit hubs in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Aspect and law firm Perkins Coie — with lead counsel Mike Dunning — serve as Mt. Baker Housing’s environmental team on the Gateway Project. Perkins Coie and Aspect have worked directly with Ecology and Mt. Baker Housing to build this unique concept.

Ecology and Commerce started soliciting applications for the program on June 1 and the application period closes June 30. Perkins Coie and Aspect can help interested organizations complete and send in their applications. This needs to happen as soon as possible to meet the June 30 deadline.

If you have any questions about the Healthy Housing Remediation Program or about redeveloping contaminated properties for housing, please contact Dave Cook at 206.838.5837 and at dcook@aspectconsulting.com or Mike Dunning at 206.359.3464 and at mdunning@perkinscoie.com.

Before and after conceptual image of Mt. Baker Gateway Project  in South Seattle – one of the affordable housing cleanup sites that the Healthy Housing program is inspired from.

Dave Cook Presents on Affordable Housing to Upper Kittitas County

On April 25, Aspect’s Dave Cook will be giving a lunch presentation on affordable housing development from the environmental consulting perspective to the Rotary Club of Upper Kittitas County at Suncadia Lodge.

Dave’s presentation will discuss how blighted, contaminated property doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker for redevelopment.  In fact, some brownfields property is actually being sought as a way to turn blighted property into affordable/work force housing.  Aspect’s first-of-its-kind work on the Mt Baker Housing Association’s Gateway project in the Mt Baker/Rainier Valley neighborhood in Seattle has become an example of what is possible.  Mt Baker Housing non-profit took on a significantly contaminated site to redevelop as affordable housing where the cost of the cleanup is more than the value of the five properties combined. 

How are we doing this?  Through environmental risk management via a Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree, cleanup evaluation through site characterization and Rough Order of Magnitude cost estimating, and unique funding via a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (allowing funding from the State Dept of Ecology and Commerce), while also seeking other funds through a traditional path of accessing potentially liable parties (like big oil companies and old insurance policies).  This project is becoming recognized throughout Washington state and is a model for possible allocation of State cleanup funds to pilot this concept in other areas. 

Who are the scientists in your neighborhood?

Aspect outreach connects younger residents with cleanup and redevelopment work at Mt. Baker Housing Association

On a recent cloudy afternoon, about 15 kids gathered on a corner in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood to peer down a hole. The hole isn’t just any hole, it’s a groundwater monitoring well—one of 35 that Aspect is using to measure groundwater contamination levels in the area. The kids, ranging from second grade through high school, are residents of six nearby apartment buildings managed by the Mt. Baker Housing Association (MBHA). This field trip was led by Aspect’s Principal Geologist Dave Cook and Senior Geologist Jessica Smith, who have been sharing their environmental work on an innovative MBHA redevelopment project with some of the neighborhood’s younger residents through an ongoing series of visits that helps kids understand the science that will help shape the future of their neighborhood.

Located two blocks from the Mount Baker light rail station, the cleanup site has sat unused for years due to solvent-contamination from a dry cleaner and gasoline-contamination from a former gas station. Aspect is supporting a first-of-its-kind partnership between the MBHA, the City of Seattle, and the Washington State Department of Ecology that will use state funds to help cover some of the costs for environmental evaluation and cleanup. With significant help from an Ecology Public Partnership Grant, MBHA plans to redevelop the five parcels of land with two new residential buildings to meet the City’s critical need for more affordable housing.

Stepping out of the Typical Cleanup Process to Invite Community into the Project

Outreach and collaboration with the area’s residents, businesses, and other stakeholders is a key part of the project. Dave and Jessica’s work puts community, education, and science into action by speaking directly to a segment of the population not usually directly engaged in these types of projects. The kids get to meet the scientists and engineers working in their neighborhood and gets to find out what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, in their own backyard.

Dave and Jessica collaborated with MBHA’s Resident Services Coordinator Sameth Mell and intern Cristina Pinho to engage with the younger members of the Mount Baker community. “After 26 years of quietly cleaning up and recycling land for better uses, I thought it was time to break out of the standard consulting role and focus on the community in a more direct way,” Dave said. “I’ve always enjoyed educating people about what we do. The science is really cool, it’s practical, very visual, and I figured kids would be totally into geology and engineering. What kid doesn’t like playing with dirt, sampling water and learning about mysteries below ground?”

An Outdoor Classroom to See the Underground Up Close

On this recent visit, Dave and Jessica met the kids inside over pizza for introductions before heading out to the corner in front of the building, where Staff Geologist Na Hyung Choi was already busy gathering samples at one of the groundwater monitoring wells. She filled sample containers with groundwater located about 15 feet below the ground surface and answered questions while Jessica and Dave explained more about her work.

Jessica said, “For me, the best part of being involved in the community outreach is being able to introduce kids to the practical aspects of science and engineering to get them excited about STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]. As we were watching Na Hyung obtain the groundwater samples, one of the fourth-grade girls asked me if she could be a Geologist or an Engineer when she grows up, to which I enthusiastically replied, ‘Of course!’ Facilitating that curiosity and excitement in these kids is what this is all about.”

Back inside, Dave and Jessica presented a video of how the well they’d just been looking at was created, showing how the hole was drilled and the soil that was unearthed from the drill. Jessica also gave a tangible explanation of just what groundwater is. Marbles in a glass represented the dirt, with a little water poured in to help them visualize how groundwater lives between the soil grains.  A bright green straw inserted into the glass stood in for the groundwater monitoring well that was installed into the soil to suck out the water.

Ongoing Outreach as Work Heads Toward 150 Units of New Housing

This visit was the second one Dave and Jessica have made since beginning their field work in mid-November. They plan to return often as the project continues, to share results from the samples Na Hyung was taking and what that data tells them about how the contaminants are behaving underground. From these data, Dave, Jessica and Ecology will develop the best plan to clean up the contaminated soil and groundwater so that construction can begin.

Cleanup and redevelopment on the MBHA project is slated to begin in 2019. Once complete, there will be an estimated 150 units of new affordable housing on the parcels. The kids Dave and Jessica have been checking in with will be able to tell their new neighbors, “Hey, I know what used to be underneath your building!” 

Competition and Opportunity: Panel on Affordable Housing and Contaminated Sites in Puget Sound

Just like everyone else in today's real estate market, Puget Sound housing authorities, non-profits, and entities are looking for property in a region that has become very expensive. That has resulted in stiff competition from all purchasers – private and non-profit --for developing even contaminated sites, which only adds to the already high cost of development. Into this mix, money for affordable housing is tighter and lending requirements more conservative. Conversely, outside the Puget Sound region, contamination commonly puts property values under water, leaving key land underutilized.
 
However, affordable housing success stories are happening and showing that buying and redeveloping a brownfield property can lead to homes; more productive use; a cleaner environment; jobs; and retail.  On April 20 in SeaTac, Aspect’s Dave Cook and Jessica Smith join Ken Lederman and Jacquie Quarré of Foster Pepper PLLC for a panel discussion hosted by the Association of Washington Housing Authorities (AWHA). The group will cover the potential of brownfields sites for Housing Authority entities from the regulatory, legal, and environmental perspectives and present several recent affordable housing development stories, including Rainer Court and the Mt. Baker Housing Association.  
 
Learn more about AWHA here.

Aspect Paves the Way for a First-of-its-Kind Affordable Housing Project

Five pieces of land in southeast Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood have sat unused for years. Contamination from a former gas station and dry cleaner has plagued the area’s potential, especially since they sit just two blocks away from the Mount Baker light rail station. However, that’s all changing thanks to an innovative collaboration between the Mt. Baker Housing Association, the City of Seattle, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Click image for King 5's video on the Mt. Baker Gateway Project

Click image for King 5's video on the Mt. Baker Gateway Project

With the creation of a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (ROZ), 150 units of affordable housing will soon go up in one of the City’s most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. This ROZ designation—the first-of-its-kind in the state—allows for state money to be used for the environmental cleanup. With this innovative model, these previously undevelopable parcels are on their way to becoming crucially needed affordable housing.

Aspect's Jessica Smith and Dave Cook at the site of the Mt. Baker Gateway project.

Aspect's Jessica Smith and Dave Cook at the site of the Mt. Baker Gateway project.

Aspect has been leading the environmental strategy with Mt. Baker Housing’s legal advisor, Seattle law firm, Perkins Coie. Like any complex urban brownfield project, progress requires a unique strategy, buy-in of stakeholders, and a demonstration of a win-win. The environmental cleanup consulting that Aspect is providing will set the stage for remedial cleanup of petroleum and solvent-contaminated soil and groundwater. The cleanup action will do more than benefit the parcels, it will improve environmental quality of this part of the neighborhood. Groundbreaking is estimated for 2019.

Look out for future project updates and milestones as we play our part in realizing the vision of this community and stakeholders for affordable, sustainable, and healthy housing in Seattle.