A similar plan for the former Army installation was blocked by area residents, who favored development of the site as a park.

Share story

The city of Seattle is rekindling a controversial effort to build dozens of new affordable-housing units on a 28-acre section of Fort Lawton near Discovery Park.

Similar to the previous plan, the city’s new vision calls for constructing 75 to 100 units of permanent housing for the homeless, 85 rental units for low-income seniors and around 50 fixed-cost single-family homes. The plan also allows for 15 acres of park space.

The exact mix of affordable-housing units has yet to be finalized, said Emily Alvarado, policy and equitable development manager at the city’s housing department.

Department officials will take public comment starting Monday, and then later conduct an environmental-impact study before settling on a plan to present to the City Council in the fall.

The city is moving forward now amid frustration by the federal government over lack of action over the site’s future.

Until recently, the U.S. Army was on the hook for maintaining the property. In January, Seattle officials signed a five-year lease in which the city assumes maintenance costs, an estimated $125,000 per year.

The city is considering several alternatives to the affordable-housing plan, Alvarado said.

Under the federal program that will allow the city to acquire the onetime military base, the city could instead construct market-rate single-family housing at the site, or rebuild it as a public park.

If no action is taken, the federal government would be free to sell the property for profit to a private developer.


The last attempt to redevelop the now empty Army Reserve Center property was scuttled in 2009 when the state Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court ruling that the city’s plan to build around 200 low-income rental and supportive housing units for the homeless would have to undergo a state environmental review.

But Elizabeth Campbell, the driver behind the Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council lawsuit that stalled the previous redevelopment effort, says maintaining the property as a public park is the preferable option.

“People have the right to determine the level of growth their neighborhood has, and I think they’ve said clearly that this type of use for this site is inappropriate,” Campbell said. She said it’s premature to say whether she or anyone else will bring a lawsuit to block the project.

Fort Lawton, on Magnolia Bluff, was flagged for closure in 2005 as the federal government began unloading surplus military installations. The City Council signed off on the redevelopment plan in 2008, but the appeals court’s decision and subsequent downturn in the local economy stalled the project, Alvarado said.

Since then, real-estate values in the area boomed and renovated homes that once housed officers now sell for around $2 million or more.

The city housing department will host the first of two public meetings to lay out its new vision for the site at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, 5011 Bernie Whitebear Way, Seattle.