Everett college looks to expand student housing

EVERETT — Student-only apartments that Trinity Lutheran College wants to build near its downtown campus could provide a valuable test case as higher education expands in the city.

Before the college’s development partner can start construction of the 100-unit building, city leaders must approve new zoning and parking rules.

“We’re looking at it as a pilot program,” Everett planning director Allan Giffen said.

The city Planning Commission was considering the issue Tuesday night. The City Council will have the final say.

If approved, a new six-story building would rise from land on the southwest corner of California Street and Oakes Avenue, across from the former Everett Armory and an Everett fire station. There’s a parking lot there now.

The biggest policy decisions concern parking. Trinity wants to reserve 100 spaces in the parking garage it owns on California Street, a block west of the proposed apartment building. Trinity’s campus is another block to the west.

“I’m pretty confident that the students won’t have that much parking demand,” Giffen said. “After it’s occupied and we have some time to observe the utilization of parking stalls, we can probably figure out a little more accurate standard for parking.”

Policymakers would need to amend city code to allow parking for the building a block away, rather than at the building itself. For the project to move ahead, the city also needs to clarify that student housing is allowed in the city’s downtown business district and how many parking spaces those students will need.

If successful, the housing proposal could clear a path for more student housing, not only for Trinity Lutheran, but for the other institutions the city has been encouraging to grow here, including Everett Community College and Washington State University.

Trinity moved its campus to Everett from Issaquah in 2008. The college now has more than 200 students and hopes to increase enrollment to 250 by fall, president John Reed said.

In five years, the college aspires to double that number. High-quality, low-cost housing is essential to making that happen.

“The whole vision is to have 500 students in downtown Everett, living and serving,” Reed said. “One of the major initiatives is to improve housing.”

Trinity already has about 80 student apartments available near Everett’s main library.

If approved, the college hopes the student apartments at Oakes and California will be ready to occupy in 2015, Reed said.

Footprint Investments LLC intends to develop the project for Trinity. The company, headquartered in Seattle, has been active in the so-called micro-housing boom in Seattle, Redmond, Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif.

Though an estimated 20 percent of the occupants in the company’s existing projects are students, this is Footprint’s first student-only building, said Cathy Reines, the company’s president and CEO. This also is its first venture in Snohomish County.

The Everett project would be different from a dormitory. Students would have their own apartments of about 200 square feet, each with its own bathroom and kitchenette. They would have access to a common laundry and full-scale kitchen.

Trinity would be required to lease apartments to students. Only one person could occupy each unit.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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