By Gerald Patriarca
Affordable housing is about to have a new address in Burien.
ecoTHRIVE is an affordable housing development slated to open in 2025 on a 1.8 acre site in Boulevard Park. Denise Henrikson of ecoTHRIVE said they hope to make it a place where people want to live connected to the land and the people around them.
Henrikson, who is currently chairman of the board of nonprofit 501c3, said they aim to be different because it’s a model of ownership.
“The problem with subsidized rental housing is that if you start making more money, you have to move,” she said, noting that any investment you’ve made in the property usually has to stay. As an owner, “If you invest [in ecoTHRIVE]you can stay.
The development is still being acquired and so they are unable to release the exact location, according to Operations Manager Emma Sutton. When complete, it is expected to have 26 units ranging from a studio to a two-bedroom cottage that can accommodate a household of three to four people.
“We are building a [housing] community that centers the community,” Henrikson said. With a shared community center that will have a larger kitchen, not only will residents be able to cook meals together, but they will also have access to meeting space, making the development “A place where people want to live connected to the earth and to the people around them.”
It all started by reaching out to the public and asking them what they needed to thrive, and one of the concerns was housing insecurity, she said. By emphasizing affordable housing for those earning minimum wage, Henrickson and Sutton emphasized affordability in this development.
Sutton said that although King County is “skewed” due to the area’s median income being dwarfed by cities like Seattle and Bellevue, they try to be controversial.
Sutton said he has a goal of 50% regional median income. According to ecoTHRIVE website“The median area income for King County in 2022 is $115,700 per year, so 50% of AMIs earn about $52,000/year.”
Burien Councilman Kevin Schilling supports ecoTHRIVE. Schilling wouldn’t speak publicly, but in an emailed statement, he wrote, “I support the ecoTHRIVE app within the [Affordable Housing Demonstration Program]and I support improving government processes to make it easier and more efficient to build housing of all kinds in Burien.”
Although at least one board member supports ecoTHRIVE within the AHDP, Henrickson said she isn’t celebrating yet. Nobody said outright “we don’t want your project to happen”. The problem is the process.
“I spoke with the council, they like our project. It’s just that for many they didn’t know we were in the pipeline because so much has to happen,” Henrikson said. “We’re in this land of limbo and it’s nerve-wracking.”
“We are in the middle of the affordable housing demonstration program,” she added. “The board hasn’t approved an extension. They haven’t made a final decision yet.”
The AHDP makes this program possible, Henrikson said. “We want our project to happen, but we also want to keep the door open for other community-led projects in the future.”
On their websiteit shows SquareOne Villages as one of their partners and lists several properties currently in use and under development.
“Our goal is to create a model that can be replicated,” Henrickson said. “It’s going to be beautiful.
For Sutton, it’s not just about housing. She added that they also hope to make ecoTHRIVE sustainable.
According to them websiteecoTHRIVE will be many community amenities such as gardens, playgrounds, gathering areas, open spaces and a common house.
“Ultimately, the goal is to transfer as much as possible to the residents themselves to manage the site and govern it,” Sutton said.
In the meantime, Henrickson said they are setting up an application process and would like to invite interested people to join their mailing list to learn more about ecoTHRIVE. here.
Gerald Patriarca holds a BA in Communications from Seattle Pacific University with a background in journalism. He wrote articles for his high school and college newspaper, spent time as an intern at KING 5 and KOMO 4, and worked at the Seattle Times. In addition to writing, Gerald, his wife Alma and their son James own JAG’s Auto Detail in Tukwila. To make an appointment and for more information, go to jagsautodetail.com.