Birch Creek housing project undergoes major renovation

Birch Creek Apartments

Birch Creek Apartments

Families can soon expect much-improved living and playing conditions at the Birch Creek Apartments on Kent’s East Hill.

The King County Housing Authority, which owns the low-income apartments, is in the middle of a $55 million renovation of the buildings constructed in the early 1970s.

Twenty-four families are slated to move in by the end of February to the first, completely renovated buildings at 23760 129th Place S.E., just south of Kent-Kangley Road. Construction crews plan to finish the rest of the buildings by May 2010.

“It’s a complete revitalization of the largest public housing community in South County,” said Rhonda Rosenburg, communications director for the King County Housing Authority.

When finished, Birch Creek will feature 262 apartments to house nearly 1,100 people, including nearly 700 children.

“This revitalization will replace old barrack-style housing and deteriorating (plumbing, electrical, heating) systems,” Rosenburg said. “There also are a lot of kids who live there and there is not sufficient outdoor space for recreation for the kids.”

Birch Creek is one of two major renovations of low-income housing underway in Kent. Intercommunity Mercy Housing, a nonprofit group, will spend $22 million to renovate the 150 units at the Appian Way Apartments, 25818 26th Place S., as well as build a new 5,000-square-foot community center.

The King County Housing Authority renamed the apartments Birch Creek (formerly Springwood) last fall after work began to redesign the property.

“When we redevelop a property, we like to give it a new identity,” Rosenburg said.

Construction crews will replace outdated exteriors of the buildings and fully renovate the interiors with new finishes, fixtures, doors, cabinetry, trim, floor coverings and countertops. Each apartment will get an extra half bath and a washer and dryer.

Crews will add more outdoor recreation space, including a picnic area, an athletic field for teens and outdoor basketball court for teens, a smaller athletic field and a smaller basketball court for pre-teens, a toddler play area and play equipment for very young children. “There will be a lot more places for kids,” Rosenburg said.

Funding for the project includes long-term bonds backed by future expected receipts from rent, the sale of low-income housing tax credits to an equity investor and some public funding through federal, state and county programs.

While there is some public funding from the State Housing Trust Fund and King County, the amount is relatively small in proportion to the private monies, Rosenburg said.

More than 65 percent of the adult residents of Birch Creek have jobs, but most work in low-paying jobs that do not allow them to pay private-market rents, Rosenburg said.

Residents must earn 30 percent or less of the area median income (currently $81,400 for a family of four) to qualify to live at Birch Creek.

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