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

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading