A preliminary rendering of the Kent Multicultural Village to be built over the next few years on the West Hill next to the Kent Des Moines Light Rail Station. COURTESY IMAGE, Mercy Housing Northwest

A preliminary rendering of the Kent Multicultural Village to be built over the next few years on the West Hill next to the Kent Des Moines Light Rail Station. COURTESY IMAGE, Mercy Housing Northwest

220-unit affordable housing complex coming to Kent on West Hill

Kent Multicultural Village could be open in 2027 next to light rail station

A proposed Kent Multicultural Village will change the landscape in the next few years of the West Hill along Pacific Highway South and the light rail route.

The estimated $120 million project is expected to include more than 220 affordable housing units, a six-classroom learning center, nearly 24,000 square feet of office and community space and approximately 4,000 square feet of retail/commercial space, according to Nathan Box, communication manager for Mercy Housing Northwest.

This project is tentatively scheduled to break ground in mid-2025 next to the Kent Des Moines Light Rail Station. Construction is expected to take approximately two years to complete. Portland-based Walsh Construction, with offices in Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, will be the general contractor and Seattle-based Schemata Workshop will be the project architect.

The 7.8-mile light rail extension between Angle Lake Station in SeaTac and Federal Way is expected to open in 2026.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph looks forward to the project, part of the city’s long-term plan for transit-oriented development on the West Hill.

“The city is grateful for the Mercy Housing/Open Doors proposal and its promise to deliver services, like child care, and fulfill housing for underserved communities, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families who experience acute difficulty finding homes that meet their needs,” Ralph said in a Mercy Housing Northwest website story.

In Washington state, 37,000 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) face housing insecurity, according to Mercy Housing. The Kent Multicultural Village will advance an equitable solution by setting aside 20% of the affordable apartment homes, specifically designed for residents with IDD, their families and caregivers.

Seattle-based Mercy Housing Northwest, a regional branch of Denver, Colorado-based Mercy Housing Inc., a leading national affordable housing nonprofit, has provided affordable homes to people with low incomes since 1981. It owns 54 properties in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and serves more than 6,000 people.

Kent-based Open Doors for Multicultural Families supports people with disabilities and their families to receive the services they need.

The project continues Sound Transit’s plan for developments near light rail stations. The agency and Mercy Housing broke ground in December 2023 on a 130-unit affordable housing complex next to the Angle Lake Light Rail Station in SeaTac. Mercy Housing opened an 108-unit Mercy Othello Plaza complex in 2017 along the light rail line in Seattle.

The Kent Multicultural Village will go up in the 23600 block of Pacific Highway South between the highway and the light rail station. The village will be bounded by two new streets to the north and south, South 234th and South 236th.

Sound Transit purchased 4 acres of land near the new station at Pacific Highway South and Kent Des Moines Road for equipment storage and mobile offices during light rail construction. When construction nears completion, the site will be available for transit-oriented development.

Sound Transit in June 2023 awarded Mercy Housing Northwest and Open Doors to develop the north lot of the property. The agency is trying to find a developer of market-rate apartments for the south lot.

Box said funding has been committed from a combination of public and private sources. The public sources are expected to be 4% low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds, King County, the state of Washington, and the South King County Homelessness and Housing Partnership. Private funding is expected to include a long-term loan, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund and philanthropy.

The Washington State Department of Commerce announced Jan. 18 that the Mercy Housing Kent Multicultural Village project will receive $8 million, part of what the department is calling “historic investments” totaling $312.6 million to address the need for affordable housing in communities throughout the state.

King County kicked in $5 million.

Although no amounts of loans or grants from Amazon have been announced yet for the Kent project, Amazon contributed a $17 million loan and $2 million grant to the Angle Lake light rail housing project.

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, through her Yield Giving Foundation donated $25 million to Mercy Housing in January for its projects across the nation, according to Mercyhousing.org.

Joe Thompson, Mercy Housing Northwest president, described what the Kent project means.

“For Mercy Housing Northwest, the Kent-Des Moines North Transit Oriented Development is more than another affordable housing development,” Thompson said on the nonprofit’s website. “It represents so many of the things we believe. It begins with strong partnerships such as Sound Transit, King County, City of Kent and Open Doors for Multicultural Families.

“From there, it centers families and individuals around transit-oriented design, robust on-site services, and access to community resources. Finally, it stands as another example of our commitment to the families and individuals who call South King County, home.”

Kent Multicultural Village will provide much-needed affordable housing and onsite resident services for families, with over 50% of the apartments between two and four bedrooms, meeting the critical need for affordable family-sized rental housing, according to Mercy Housing Northwest. The location will help prevent the displacement of low-income renters as redevelopment activities continue adjacent to new transit facilities.

Mercy Housing Northwest is proposing to build at least 175 affordable apartment homes, with a goal of 220, offered to residents earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income. The area median income for King County in 2022 was $116,340, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Open Doors for Multicultural Families will operate the first two floors of the building, which once complete will be home to an inclusive Early Learning Center focused on meeting the needs of diverse families and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

There will also be a spacious public plaza located adjacent to the north entrance of the transit station. The plaza will feature public art and flexible space to accommodate community events and gatherings.

Ground floor retail, such as restaurants and other small and emerging businesses will also anchor the Kent Multicultural Village, according to Mercy Housing. The goal of the retail space is to elevate entrepreneurs from nearby neighborhoods and create new opportunities in historically underrepresented communities.

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