Old Fire Station and Former Homeless Camp to Become Preschool and Affordable Housing

Old Fire Station and Former Homeless Camp to Become Preschool and Affordable Housing

Fire station 39 in Lake City hosted Nickelsville six years ago. Now, Seattle’s giving it to LIHI.

UPDATE January 4, 2016: Today the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance committee approved the plan to give the old Fire Station 39 to LIHI for development into affordable housing and a preschool. Chair Tim Burgess and Lisa Herbold were the only committee members present, so the vote was easily unanimous. Herbold had this to say: “I want to extend my thanks to LIHI for their persistence and tenacity throughout these many years…It really is a testament to the vision of the organization and to Sharon [Lee], your director.”

ORIGINAL POST: In November 2010, the Nickelsville homeless encampment was facing eviction from its location in the University District. So they packed their pink tents and, with then-Mayor Mike McGinn’s blessing, moved up to an old fire station in Lake City, where they stayed for half a year. Tomorrow, city council will meet about giving the old station to the Low Income Housing Institute for redevelopment into affordable housing units and a preschool.

Located at 30th Ave NE and NE 127th St, the site’s evolving identity reflects the changing status of homelessness. The firehouse was originally built in 1949, the same year the federal government created a loan program to finance rural affordable housing. These were the halcyon days of the post-WWII economic boom, when inequality and unemployment (and therefore homelessness) were relatively low. It was a time when the social safety net was growing.

Starting in the 1980s, federal budget cuts continuously eroded that safety net, thus creating the phenomenon of mass homelessness that we see around us today. Fast forward to 2010, when a new Fire Station 39 opened. By then, Seattle’s homeless population numbered in the thousands. With the old station now redundant, the Office of Housing put out a request for proposals for what to do with it. LIHI applied, beginning a multi-year process of which tomorrow’s meeting is one part. In the meantime, McGinn—who’d already begun pushing for city-sponsored homeless encampments, over the objections of city council—opened up the old station to Nickelsville. “The current recession has cost many people their jobs, and, as a result, a place to live,” he wrote in November 2010. “On top of that, we’re expecting really bad weather this winter — so we’re truly facing an emergency here.”

Nickelodeons rode out that bad winter weather at the old fire station before moving to West Seattle in May 2011. Meanwhile, the gears of city government began moving LIHI’s application through the Seattle process—slowly.

“It’s unbelievable how long it’s taken,” says LIHI director Sharon Lee. While she’s pleased to see things moving now, she says, the old fire station “could have been developed into affordable housing five years ago.” Lee says the Murray administration is working on speeding up the process for transforming excess city land into affordable housing.

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Tim Burgess’ Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance committee will hear from LIHI and mayoral staff about the redevelopment plan. According to council documents, the project will contain 70 units in total: 15 one-bedroom units, 25 two-bedroom units, 5 three-bedroom units, 5 open one-bedroom units, and 20 studio units. All units will go to renters earning between 30 and 60 percent of area media income. Since Seattle’s AMI is about $90,000, the most a renter could earn in a year is about $54,000. On the ground floor, the Refugee Women’s Alliance will run four preschool classrooms for 70 to 80 toddlers. The site is just around the corner from a community center and public library. LIHI says they expect to start construction by June 1 this year and to open by September 2018.

This post has been edited to correct the name of the Refugee Women’s Alliance.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

t
SeaTac girl faces additional hit-and-run charges

Same driver who reportedly killed Maple Valley jogger also injured man in Des Moines

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Geographic dispersion of Washington State Patrol commissioned personnel who lost their jobs Oct. 18. (Washington State Patrol)
Rather than get vaccine, nearly 1,900 state workers lose jobs

Exactly how many people will be out of work for ignoring Gov.… Continue reading

King County Courthouse adjacent to City Hall Park (courtesy of City of Seattle)
County council votes to take dangerous park out of Seattle’s hands

City Hall Park, next to the courthouse in downtown Seattle, has had multiple reports of crime.

stock image
Health care workers call on state’s hospitals to help mitigate staffing crisis

Health care workers unions claim hospitals have the resources to fix the issue.

File photo
Do you need to pay for your COVID hospital stay?

Washington state law requires hospitals to provide free care for certain income brackets.

Stock photo
State AG Ferguson leads effort supporting local journalism

Federal legislation offers tax credits to subscribers, businesses and news organizations

C-17 at Joint Base Lewis McChord airstrip (courtesy of United States Military)
King County councilmember proposes program to aid transition of Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. overseas

Program would provide job training and learning opportunities for Afghan interpreters and advisors.

Vaccinations taking place. File photo
Inslee: No ‘massive disruptions’ as worker vax rates hit 90%

A surge in vaccinations has eased concern about service slowdowns ahead of a Monday deadline.

Most Read