Everett green-lights student housing for Trinity college

EVERETT — Backers of a pilot project for student-only apartments downtown expect to break ground this summer, now that city leaders have given their project the go-ahead.

If all goes as planned, the 100-unit building for Trinity Lutheran College students would open by July 2015. The project could lay the foundation for growth at the downtown Christian college, as well as for other higher-learning institutions the city wants to support.

“It sets us up nicely for the future,” Trinity Lutheran President John Reed said.

Trinity’s student enrollment hovers around 200. College administrators hope to expand to about 500 students in five years, Reed said. A good stock of low-cost housing is key to realizing those plans.

Trinity’s six-story building of efficiency apartments would go up 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. Trinity’s campus is two blocks away.

In addition to Trinity’s growth downtown, the pilot project would be a test case as Everett prepares to accommodate more students at Everett Community College and Washington State University’s local branch campus.

Trinity has been working on the project with apartment developer Footprint LLC of Seattle.

Instead of providing parking spaces at the student building, the college and the developer asked the city to let them use space in a parking garage the college owns a block to the west.

To make that happen, the City Council had to agree to change zoning codes to allow the parking off site. Until now, city codes provided no parking standard for student housing.

On Wednesday, the City Council approved the student housing pilot project on a 4-1 vote, with two members absent.

Councilman Ron Gipson cast the only “no” vote.

“I support this project, but I can’t support this legislation that’s going to have an impact on the businesses down there,” Gipson said.

To start, the city will require the college to reserve one spot in the parking garage for each unit in the new building.

That’s a conservative estimate and planners don’t expect demand for parking to be that high, Everett planning director Allan Giffen said. They’ll monitor usage and make adjustments accordingly. Only students will be allowed to live in the new building.

Units in the new building will resemble some of the so-called micro-housing developments in Seattle and other high-rent ZIP codes. Around 200 square feet each, the furnished Trinity apartments will include a bedroom, bathroom, desk, shelves, microwave and refrigerator. They’ll all have access to common areas for cooking, laundry and socializing.

Trinity moved to Everett in 2007 and has housed students in two apartment buildings near Everett’s downtown public library. Those buildings are farther away from campus than the site of the future building and they’re in need of renovation.

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

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