A town center with new housing and commercial space was expected to crop up around the Mount Baker light rail station near downtown Seattle after the station opened nine years ago, but that hasn’t happened.
One reason is chemicals that flowed under parts of the neighborhood from Mount Baker Cleaners (2864 S. McClellan St.) and a nearby gas station.
The cleaners now uses non-contaminating methods, but “you cannot create a vibrant town center if you have this corner leaching toxins,” said Mike Rooney, executive director of Mount Baker Housing, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing.
Through a first-of-its-kind partnership, Mount Baker Housing will clean up the contamination to clear the way for a two-building apartment project called the Maddux.
About half of the 144 apartments will be larger two- and three-bedroom units for families. All units will be rented to individuals making 60 percent of area-medium income, or $60,200 for a family of four.
The city has been trying for two decades to foster high-density development around transit stations like Mount Baker.
But that hasn’t happened unlike in similar areas with current or future rail stations, such as Othello to the south and Roosevelt in North Seattle. The situation prompted the Business Journal to ask, “What’s the matter with Mount Baker?“
“This (contamination) is one of the major problems,” Rooney said.
Mount Baker Housing eyed the property for years but knew developing it would be difficult. Then the nonprofit found out it could work with the Washington state Department of Ecology and entered into the first prospective purchaser consent decree cleanup agreement between the agency and a private developer.
Cleanups have always supported economic redevelopment, said Jim Pendowski, manager of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program. Ecology last year awarded $400,000 to Mount Baker Housing to start the cleanup, and the Legislature authorized another $6.2 million for the work.
The Maddux is named for a rare baseball feat in which a pitcher — most often Greg Maddux — threw complete game shutouts that took fewer than 100 pitches. The name is a nod to the unusual agreement with the state and the project’s location near Seattle’s former professional baseball stadium, Sick’s Stadium.
Mount Baker Housing hopes to break ground on the Maddux in 2019.
The nonprofit is working with Aspect Consulting and law firm Perkins Coie on the environmental aspect, and architecture firm Mithun and development consultant Beacon Development Group. The general contractor has yet to be named.