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Originally published January 30, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Page modified January 31, 2011 at 1:01 AM

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Affordable apartments to rise near Seattle U

After sitting empty for 40 years, a once-contaminated lot at 12th Avenue and East Jefferson Street near Seattle University will soon be the site of a residential and retail complex.

Seattle Times staff reporter

After sitting empty for 40 years, a once-contaminated lot at 12th Avenue and East Jefferson Street near Seattle University will soon be the site of a residential and retail complex.

In May, construction will start on a 40-unit apartment building with 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

Affordable-housing developer Capitol Hill Housing is funding the $13.4 million project through bank loans and federal, state and local money. It's to open in summer 2012.

The five-story development will provide one- and two-bedroom apartments for people earning up to 60 percent of the median income for King County. That's $36,000 for a single person and $41,000 for a two-person family, said Christopher Persons, executive director of Capitol Hill Housing.

"The project is creating a vital tier of affordability in a neighborhood that employs a lot of folks at that income level," Persons said.

"At the same time, it revitalizes a corner that's been a dead zone for countless years."

Designed by Environmental Works of Seattle, the project will include several green features, such as rainwater filtration systems, a shared second-floor plantscape, and a low-energy elevator.

Neighbors and city officials talked for years about the best options for that corner, said Bill Zosel, chairman of the 12th Avenue Stewardship Committee, a neighborhood group.

The idea of a park was kicked around, but ultimately, it was decided a mixed-use project would "contribute more to the vitality of the community," Zosel said.

He added that the project will help promote walking, bicycling and transit use because of its proximity to downtown.

A gas station used to sit on the nearly quarter-acre site. And that business left its mark.

In 2008, after the city awarded Capitol Hill Housing the contract to move forward with the project, soil testing showed "significant contamination" from petroleum, Persons said.

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The city contacted the former owner, who removed the polluted dirt, he said.

All of that digging resulted in an upside. The project will now include some underground parking places for residents in an already congested neighborhood, Persons said.

About two months leading up to the grand opening next year, Capitol Hill Housing will post an application on its website at http://capitolhillhousing.org for those interested in applying for apartments.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com

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