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Originally published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 4:07 PM

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Editorial: Promising progress on Yesler Terrace

The Yesler Terrace revitalization project has just begun, but it could be a model for other cities trying to convert public housing projects into vibrant urban communities.

Seattle Times Editorial

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YESLER Terrace, Seattle's first public housing community, is in the beginning phases of a 21st century renaissance.

Redevelopment of the 30-acre area between First Hill and the International District is years from completion, but Seattle residents and developers must not lose sight of the project’s bold long-term vision. Work is under way to create a diverse, healthy, economically vibrant place where all families can live, work, walk, use transit and access health care.

Such an ambitious, integrated approach to urban housing has not been tried on this scale anywhere in the world, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who visited the site last week with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue.

The trio caught a glimpse of the Seattle Housing Authority’s work so far using $30 million worth of HUD grants, in addition to city funds and unprecedented partnerships with community businesses, private developers and foundations.

Since the Seattle City Council approved the Yesler Terrace revitalization plan in 2012:

• Low-income housing construction is under way, with plans in writing to replace all 561 original units in or very close to the current site.

• Private developers have begun designing and building additional workforce and market-rate units, which will add a mix of incomes to the neighborhood.

• The Yesler Steam Plant is scheduled to reopen this year as a job opportunity center and base for Head Start. Federal and philanthropic dollars are targeting area children to ensure they receive educational guidance from cradle to college.

• Neighboring employers such as Harborview Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center and Seattle University have pledged to provide local residents with more workforce training and jobs.

There’s much more to do, but former King County Executive and HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims says Seattle is positioned to be a model for other cities struggling with chronic poverty and housing shortages. Keep in mind limited federal dollars will increasingly reward projects that show vision and innovation.

The goal for Yesler Terrace is that, by 2020, it will be a vibrant, walkable neighborhood where residents work and shop nearby. The housing authority must continue to gain and maintain cooperation among local residents, neighboring institutions and developers in the private and public sectors.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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