Affordable housing idea: Repurpose struggling retail centers

Malls converted to mixed use might be an answer for badly needed transitional and low-income housing.

Tom Hoban

Tom Hoban

Last year the Everett City Council faced a difficult vote, pitting advocates for housing the homeless against a single-family neighborhood adjacent to a park in north Everett where Housing Hope, one of the region’s preeminent affordable housing advocates, was planning to build 50 to 60 multi-family housing units.

An emergency moratorium passed by council last June had halted their plans. Then a January vote effectively stopped further consideration, at least for now. Discussions continue, but the broader issue remains unresolved — where to place transitional or affordable housing for homeless families and individuals.

Councilmember Scott Murphy was opposed to converting the park to affordable high-density housing and took some heat from proponents. He criticized the conversation as “being painted as not caring about homeless children.” Murphy contends the discussion should be about where best to locate such high-density housing, rather than whether it’s needed. “Of course it’s needed,” he offered. “But we also have to preserve our single-family neighborhoods and open spaces.”

He is now pointing the conversation to retail locations that have felt the impact of online sales and need to be repurposed. “With cooperation from the city around zoning and other adjustments, struggling retail centers could be ideal locations” for affordable housing, explains Murphy.

“Housing Hope has the best of intentions, but why ask single-family neighborhoods to absorb the impact by giving up a local park when there are dozens of under-utilized and struggling retail centers that would be better locations?”

Murphy might be onto something. Forbes and other news sources report that a fourth of the nation’s 1,100 shopping malls will close by 2022. In some cases, underutilized and struggling retail centers could be converted to mixed use, including affordable multi-family housing.

The dialogue is healthy, and Murphy is happy to be in the middle of it with a goal of preserving single-family neighborhoods and open spaces while addressing the homeless crisis. “Everett retail is not immune to the impact of online sales” he notes. “We could be helping struggling retail landlords find a financially viable exit that also addresses a social need.”

Occasional contributor Tom Hoban is chairman and co-founder of Hoban Family Office, a real estate investment and services enterprise in Everett.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Striking Starbucks employees talk to a woman who wanted to use the drive-thru but was turned away due to the strike on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, on Broadway in Everett, Washington. Workers at the 37th and Broadway store spent their morning picketing because a fellow employee had been fired the previous day in what the workers believe is an act of union busting. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett Starbucks workers go on strike after employee fired

The employee and her fellow union members claim she was fired for supporting the union. Starbucks denies it.

X
Property values soar 32% in Snohomish County due to hot housing market

Assessed values are up all across the county since last year. The impact on tax bills won’t be known for a few months.

Everett
Port of Everett hosting annual open house after pandemic hiatus

Also, Rustic Cork Wine Bar plans to open a second shop at Fisherman’s Harbor — the latest addition to the port’s “wine walk.”

Holly Burkett-Pohland, the owner of Burkett’s Home & Gift, outside of her new store front on Friday, June 17, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Everett gift store debuts in former J. Matheson space

For years, Holly Burkett-Pohland wanted to expand a business founded by her mother in 1978.

A Kenmore Air Cessna 208 Caravan. (Kenmore Air) 20220613
Kenmore Air to start daily flights from Paine Field to San Juans

Service begins July 14. Flights to Friday Harbor and Orcas Island airports take about 25 minutes.

Seattle Space Needle sues coffee chain over use of logo

The logo for Local Coffee Spot features a mug of hot coffee whose rising steam bears striking resemblance to the iconic tower.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Foes of state’s capital gains tax drop plans for initiative

I-1929 sponsors say they are confident a lawsuit challenging the legality of the tax will be successful.

Arlington
Smoother sailing: Arlington airport gets grant to fix runway

A $2.3 million federal grant will pave the way for a project to resurface the airfield’s main runway.

Workers build the first all electric plane, the Eviation Alice, on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  The plane is designed for regional travel and to carry nine passengers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Eviation moves tests of electric passenger plane to Moses Lake

The Arlington company said a bigger runway and flatter terrain are better suited to early testing of the commuter aircraft.

An artist's rendering of the new Funko warehouse in Buckeye, Arizona. (Funko) 20220407
Funko warehouse layoffs begin this week in Everett, Puyallup

The layoffs, announced in April, are part of a plan to move distribution operations to Arizona.

Rendering of the front entrance of Spruce Elementary School in Lynnwood. (Edmonds School District)
Police: Edmonds schools sent $2.7 million check to fraudster

Police say the fraudster posed as a contractor for a new elementary school. A bank caught it at the last second.

Looking north, an aerial view of Paine Field in Everett. (Paine Field / Snohomish County) 20220605
Paine Field development plan envisions an expanded terminal

Once Sea-Tac Airport reaches capacity, the Everett airport is on the short list to absorb unmet demand by passengers.