Norton Playfield is comprised of three acres owned by Housing Hope, which plans supportive housing for families who have kids in school. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Norton Playfield is comprised of three acres owned by Housing Hope, which plans supportive housing for families who have kids in school. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

With neighbor input, Housing Hope rethinks playfield plan

The site in the Port Gardner neighborhood of Everett would provide housing for homeless families.

EVERETT — Non-profit Housing Hope unveiled plans Wednesday evening for 44 units of supportive housing to be built in Everett’s Port Gardner Neighborhood.

The temporarily named Sequoia Norton Site in the 3600 block of Norton Avenue would transform from a three-acre ball field into 11 buildings of housing for homeless families who have students in the Everett School District. According to Everett Public Schools, during the 2017-18 school year 1,266 students experienced homelessness.

“The need is astonishing,” Fred Safstrom, CEO of Housing Hope, told The Daily Herald. Statewide, Safstrom said, statistics show that attendance, academic proficiency and on-time graduation rates are lower for homeless students. “There is a direct correlation between stable housing and educational attainment,” he said.

Renderings of the site, presented by Kim Williams of Designs Northwest Architects, showed a plan to have one-third of the development be single-family housing that matches the historical character of the neighborhood, while the other two-thirds would be rezoned for multi-family housing that removes the historical requirements.

Housing on the site would be unique, including seven historically consistent single-family dwellings along Norton Avenue, five adjoined townhome units and 32 apartment flats across three multifamily buildings, with vehicle access to the site coming from Grand Avenue.

The divided zoning is one of a series of solutions Housing Hope is employing to address concerns voiced by neighbors, delays implemented by the city and zoning changes by the city council.

In addition to the 44 units of housing, the site would offer 53 parking spaces, sports and recreation areas for residents, and administrative space for Housing Hope staff, as well as a public pocket park and pedestrian pathways for the community.

An artist’s rendering of plans for development of a three-acre playfield owned by Housing Hope in Everett. (Housing Hope) 20200724

An artist’s rendering of plans for development of a three-acre playfield owned by Housing Hope in Everett. (Housing Hope) 20200724

During Wednesday’s presentation to the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, a community group organized to assist in the project’s design, members thanked the design team for considering their input.

“Every good idea, every question, you see an impact on the change in what they have designed for us here,” said Jim Dean, a member of the committee. “The value that has been added to it by the committee that we have here is really important.”

Safstrom agreed and said during the meeting that all future Housing Hope projects would include advice from a neighborhood group.

“We’ve never had this level of input from a neighborhood before on any project we’ve done in the past,” he said Wednesday. “This has opened up a whole new vista to me to see the value that the neighborhood has brought to the project and how much better the project is because of that neighborhood participation.”

Plans for the playfield began to take shape in May 2019 when the Everett School Board designated the plot as surplus and unanimously agreed to lease the land to Housing Hope to build affordable housing for students and families experiencing homelessness.

Ahead for the project are meetings with the historic commission, the planning commission and then Everett City Council approval. Safstrom said the plan will likely reach the city council by September, with opportunity for public comment at each stage.

If all were to be accepted and development rights are secured, Safstrom said, Housing Hope would begin fundraising immediately with the goal of complete funding by early 2022. The 12-month estimated construction time would then begin in the summer of 2022, and the facility would open in the middle of 2023.

An artist’s rendering of plans for development of a three-acre playfield owned by Housing Hope in Everett. (Housing Hope) 20200724

An artist’s rendering of plans for development of a three-acre playfield owned by Housing Hope in Everett. (Housing Hope) 20200724

As of now, there is no estimate for the project’s cost.

“Our approach is to design a project that was the best fit for this location and the neighborhood as we possibly could and then it will be up to us to raise the money to build it,” Safstrom said.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

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