EVERETT — Redevelopment of Baker Heights may include a mix of 12-story high rises, townhomes and a grocery store with locally grown produce.
Architects behind the project presented new ideas last week, as the Everett Housing Authority continues early planning for the site nestled between North Broadway and East Marine View Drive in the city’s Delta Neighborhood.
“The purpose from our end is to transform and create a new destination in the community in a way that preserves affordability in the long term,” Everett Housing Authority Executive Director Ashley Lommers-Johnson said.
Neighbors had mixed reactions and a lot of suggestions.
“Are we going to turn this into the new metro Everett?” asked Ryan Weber, who chairs the Delta Neighborhood Association.
The agency wants to build 1,500 apartments and other types of multi-family housing over a decade. It intends to offer housing to people with a wide range of incomes, building levels of affordability into the Delta Neighborhood. Grocery clerks and software engineers, for example, would be neighbors at the new development.
The project is the second phase of a development replacing the old Baker Heights, public housing that permanently closed in 2019. The housing authority already has plans for a smaller portion of the roughly 15-acre site. Now it’s determining the future of about 10 acres. A planned sale to Washington State University Everett fell through earlier this year.
Lommers-Johnson said the housing authority will spend at least another year discussing the project with the city and community. It isn’t seeking official approval for a master plan anytime soon.
“The board is aware we are engaging in a significant public process to get to a place where there is agreement of what is happening at the site,” Lommers-Johnson said. “… We’d like to explore, as part of the planning process, whether that potential can be realized. The board is not going to be voting or approving a plan anytime soon.”
Residents expressed concern about the 12-story buildings and said it felt like the proposed buildings kept getting taller.
“It just doesn’t fit,” one resident said. “This is a residential neighborhood.”
However, many liked the proposed green spaces and retail options.
Weber said after the meeting that the association supports more affordable housing in the Delta Neighborhood, but worries an influx of market-rate apartments may gentrify it. Neighbors fear the new development means rents may rise higher than what current residents can afford, he said.
“If the costs go up, where are we going to move?” Weber said.
Residents in some of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, like Port Gardner, have blocked zoning changes in their own communities in recent years for the opposite reason. In 2020, the Everett City Council voted against rezoning a 3-acre playfield that nonprofit Housing Hope wanted to develop and use to house homeless students.
The lack of housing has driven up rent prices, increasing “market rate” to a price many residents can’t afford. Developers can’t construct taller, denser buildings in single-family zoning areas. Weber said Delta residents fear the new development means they won’t be able to afford housing in any of Everett’s neighborhoods.
Lommers-Johnson said that won’t be the case for current and future Delta residents.
“Part of what we want to do is ensure long-term affordability in the community,” said the executive director. “The last thing we want to do is to push lower-income people out of the city of Everett.”
The Everett Housing Authority won’t know the exact mix of income levels in the buildings until it designs them, Lommers-Johnson said. GGLO principal Jon Hall said the firm will update the Everett Housing Authority Board early next year, or possibly sooner.
Ultimately, the 12-story buildings would require city council approval. Lommers-Johnson said it’s “unlikely” the agency would construct the tallest buildings in the development first, though.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.