HUD awards $1.2 million grant to King County Housing Authority to build new Kent community center

This rendering shows the planned $1.2 million community center for public housing residents at the Valli Kee apartments in Kent operated by the King County Housing Authority. - COURTESY PHOTO, King County Housing Authority
This rendering shows the planned $1.2 million community center for public housing residents at the Valli Kee apartments in Kent operated by the King County Housing Authority.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, King County Housing Authority

The King County Housing Authority has been awarded $1.2 million to build a new community center at Valli Kee Apartments in Kent under a Capital Fund Community Facilities grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The program is intended to support the development of education and training facilities for public housing residents, with a particular focus on early childhood education and adult employment training, according to a King County Housing Authority media release.

The Valli Kee apartment complex is at 23401 104th Ave. S.E. Valli Kee is a 114-unit public housing development owned and managed by the King County Housing Authority. Construction is scheduled to start this fall.

“With the construction of a new Valli Kee facility, the Housing Authority and its partners have the opportunity to provide programs that will help children succeed in school and their parents become economically self-sufficient,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Our approach − combining stable, attractive housing with vital human services and improved educational opportunities − ensures that struggling families have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We are grateful to Sen. (Patty) Murray her long-standing commitment to providing resources to ensure that all students get the best education possible.”

The Valli Kee facility will be part of a network of community centers on Kent’s East Hill, including the Kent Family Center and the Birch Creek Youth Center, that provide early childhood education, adult education, and job training opportunities to residents of three public housing communities − Valli Kee, Cascade Apartments, and Birch Creek− as well as other residents of the surrounding community.

Thanks to the  grant, an existing 900 square-foot multipurpose community room, which is outdated and undersized for the community’s needs, will be replaced by a new 4,330 square-foot facility.

The new building will house classrooms, a dedicated computer lab, multipurpose meeting/activity spaces, and private counseling areas. In addition, two outdoor play areas – one designed for preschoolers and one for older youth – will be constructed adjacent to the center. The building will be fully accessible for use by disabled clients.

Children from these communities face unique economic and cultural obstacles to achieving educational success. The community center reflects a collaborative effort between KCHA, the Kent School District, Kent Youth and Family Services, and other community-based nonprofit partners to strengthen academic support for these students. The partnership, known as Building Better Futures, is already underway, providing Head Start, after school, and job training programs at the three sites.

“There is a tremendous need to provide expanded after-school programs and services to ensure our children and youth from challenging circumstances have the best opportunities for academic and life success,” said Edward Lee Vargas, superintendent of the Kent School District. “This effort should improve educational outcomes for these kids by reinforcing, complementing, and enhancing the learning that goes on during the school day.”

Kent Youth and Family Services will be the primary tenant in the Valli Kee facility and will coordinate with an array of other providers to deliver support on-site and connect residents to offsite resources such as the community college system and the Workforce Development Council. The on-site program will work in coordination with KCHA’s Kent Family Center, which offers Head Start and career development services and a Women, Infants, and Children’s health care clinic, and the Birch Creek Youth Center, which provides additional recreational and youth programming.

The Valli Kee facility will allow the following providers to address a variety of needs:

Child Care Resources will assist families in finding appropriate and quality child care.

The Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) will provide parent education classes.

Kent Youth and Family Services, in close partnership with the Kent School District, will operate the after-school program to address the educational needs of school-age children.

The Puget Sound Educational Service District, the administrator of the region’s Head Start, Early Head Start, and ECEAP programs, will use this facility to provide training classes for parents and other community service providers.

Renton Technical College will provide outreach, recruitment, and distance learning access at the Valli Kee facility.

The new facility is being designed by ARC Architects. The project is expected to employ 40 workers and will generate additional economic activity in the Kent community.

KCHA administers a range of quality affordable rental and homeownership programs in the Puget Sound region. The Authority daily serves about 18,000 families and elderly and disabled households.

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