Transit-Oriented Development, or TOD, is HOT right now. As gasoline prices in Seattle hover near $4 per gallon, many residents are looking for alternate methods of transportation. Living in an urban environment, where it is possible to get to employment using public transportation, walking or biking, is a lifestyle that resonates with many commuters (myself included!).
To have affordable housing in an easy transit location is a bonus, and is what many urban planners are attempting to develop. That is one reason why yesterday's grand opening of the Mt Baker Artists Lofts was such a big celebration.
It is a major reason why my company Van Gogh Studio Lofts LLC decided to purchase land in the transit district around the Rainier Beach Light Rail Station. We will be developing 36-46 units of artists live/work apartments (depending on whether we decide to build up to five floors), in a mixed use commercial development half a block from the station at Martin Luther King Way S and S Henderson St in Seattle. It is scheduled to open in 2016.
Like Mt Baker Artists Lofts, we hired the same architects to design our project. It too will have no parking garage, but will have very similar amenities.
Unlike Mt Baker, Van Gogh Studio Lofts will be market rate rentals, as opposed to subsidized below-market rents. Nevertheless, "market rate" in Rainier Beach is "affordable," as defined by the City of Seattle.
And unlike Mt Baker, Van Gogh Studio Lofts will not screen for artistic quality, only for creative entrepreneurs who are interested in living in a like-minded community of home-based entrepreneurs.
And unlike Mt Baker, Van Gogh Studio Lofts will not reject artist applicants because they - or someone in their household - makes too much income.
Nevertheless, TOD is the way to go, and our proposed Van Gogh Studio Lofts project has caught the attention of neighboring cities. I was invited by the Tacoma Office of Community and Economic Development on Tuesday of this week to tour their TOD opportunities. I brought along architect Scott Starr to join me, and we were both impressed by the variety of commercial development opportunities that the City of Tacoma is considering. Best of all, they understand the important role that artists play in revitalizing and developing neighborhoods. Their permit and development process promises to be faster and less costly than in Seattle, so we are excited about the possibilities there.