Yesler Terrace complex to be torn down, making way for high rise

The Seattle City Council approved a plan that will eliminate the city’s first public-housing project on First Hill and replace it with a high-rise for mixed incomes. Some individuals are worried about the plan, although it will make real estate in Seattle neighborhoods near the current housing development more desirable.

Yesler Terrace, a 71-year-old apartment complex will be knocked down and residents will be moved out in phases to make way for a high rise that could take 20 years to build. Other cities around the country have used similar methods to reconstruct and rebuild housing developments. For instance, Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing development was torn down over several years and newer developments and businesses were built in the area.

Concerns arise as more than 1,200 residents will be displaced due to the razing. Tom Tierney, former chief of the housing authority, told The Seattle Times that all families are allowed back to the complex, although they could be disbursed for more than a decade and may not be living in the same spot. The new development will span several blocks.

Tierney told the publication that the current sewer lines are decayed beyond repair, making it mandatory to sell the property. Part of the project’s 30 acres will be sold to developers for an expected $145 million. The housing authority will use this money to rebuild the development and to improve streets, water and sewer lines in the area.

The city council will have 60 days from September 4 to determine where the 503 households will be displaced. One tenant, Kristin O’Donnell, said some residents will likely welcome the change to have an opportunity to live elsewhere in the city. However, those living in the two-story townhouse style apartments with yards may not have a positive attitude. Roughly 39 percent of residents are children, making the backyards an ideal amenity that will be difficult to find elsewhere.

The Yesler Terrace is in a prime location for individuals working downtown.  Once the building is finished it will house a mixture of housing-authority tenants and affluent individuals. Some city council members fear gentrification of the area, which could prompt current Vietnamese residents and merchants to move out of the area.

"We're afraid Yesler will be like Bellevue with posh shopping and expensive restaurants," Quang Nguyen, a Friends of Little Saigon board member told The Seattle Times.