EVERETT — Redevelopment of the Baker Heights neighborhood would include 1,500 housing units in buildings up to 12 stories tall, as well as 45,000 square feet of commercial space under a proposal that could be up for review by Everett city officials next year.
The Everett Housing Authority presented what it calls the Park District — a mixed-income development between Pine and Poplar streets and 12th and 15th streets — to the Everett Planning Commission at its Oct. 4 meeting.
Last year the housing authority unveiled the idea to redevelop the former Baker Heights property with apartments, commercial space, open space, pedestrian and bike paths, and townhomes. Work would happen across six phases over 10 years.
Buildings would span two to 12 stories high with apartments that range from one-bedroom to three-bedroom units, live-and-work units and townhouses. Townhomes would line the east and west property boundaries, with the tallest buildings in the middle to minimize casting shade onto neighboring properties, according to the project’s master plan.
Some of the units could be available for ownership, though the housing authority had not determined how many.
“This kind of big, innovative housing project is precisely what we need to get that 23,000 housing unit gap mitigated,” planning commissioner alternate Charles Adkins said, referring to the city’s Rethink Housing Action Plan, which states the need for 23,000 new housing units by 2035.
Other planning commissioners questioned the project’s feasibility and size.
Most of the blocks immediately around the property have single-family homes, aside from the housing authority’s Bakerview seven-story tower with apartments for people 62 years and older.
“I agree that this kind of project is needed,” planning commissioner Michael Finch said. “I keep coming back to the question, ‘Why here?’ If this was being proposed downtown, it would be the tallest building or buildings in the area.”
The Everett Housing Authority, which manages subsidized housing programs and develops affordable housing in the city, owns the 12-acre property where Baker Heights’ 244 homes once stood in north Everett.
That is one of the driving factors in the authority’s proposal to get it rezoned for taller buildings, development director Jason Morrow said.
“It absolutely is unique, it absolutely doesn’t have a lot of precedent in Everett,” he said. “But we’re also trying to be very forward thinking addressing the needs in the future from our perspective as a housing authority.”
The land is in one of the city’s historically poorest neighborhoods. Everett Housing Authority leaders hope making some of the units market-rate instead of subsidized can “decentralize” poverty from the Delta neighborhood.
“Eighty years from today, people will look back and see a community where families have thrived and where a history of racial inequity in housing has been erased,” Everett Housing Authority executive director Ashley Lommers-Johnson told the planning commission.
The project requires zoning code changes to allow for commercial use and the city to give up some of its streets that currently cut through the property. All of it would be subject to City Council, planning commission and staff approval through a planned development overlay, development agreement, environmental impact statement and street vacation.
Those agreements give the city a “blank slate” for negotiation between the city and developer, and impact mitigation is a component of that, Everett planning director Yorik Stevens-Wajda said. That can include asking the developer to pay for other infrastructure improvements such as bike lanes and sidewalks in the surrounding area, both of which Delta neighbors have requested consistently.
Ryan Weber, a Delta resident, said there’s overall support for the project and especially the proposed commercial space.
“We don’t have a restaurant, a cafe, those types of community informal gathering spaces,” he said. “I think giving the community a chance to have some of that commercial space can really help with the vibrancy of the neighborhood overall.”
The housing authority’s goal is to have deals in place by the end of next year to begin construction on the first phase in 2024.