By Gerald Patriarca
Affordable housing is about to have a new address in Burien.
ecoTHRIVE is an affordable housing development that is set 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 people around them.
Henrikson, who is currently the Board President of the 501c3 nonprofit organization, said they aim to be different, as it’s an ownership model.
“The thing with subsidized rental housing is if you start to make more money, you need to move out,” she said, noting that every investment you made into the property usually has to stay. As an owner, “If you’re investing [in ecoTHRIVE], you get to stay.”
The development is still in the process of being acquired and they are thus unable to disclose the exact location, according to Operations Manager Emma Sutton. Once complete, it is planned to have 26 units ranging from a studio, to a two-bedroom cottage suitable for a three to four-person household.
“We’re building an affordable [housing] community that centers community,” Henrikson said. With a shared community center that will have a larger kitchen, not only will residents be able to cook meals together, they will have access to a meeting space, making the development “A place where people want to live connected to the land and people around them.”
It all started by going out to the public and asking what they needed to thrive, and one worry was housing insecurity, she said. With a focus on affordable housing for those making minimum wage, Henrickson and Sutton emphasized affordability in this development.
Sutton said that although King County is “skewed” due to the area median income being overshadowed by cities like Seattle and Bellevue, they are trying to be contentious.
Sutton said they have a target of 50 percent Area Median Income. According to the ecoTHRIVE website, “Area Median Income for King County in 2022 is $115,700 per year, so 50% AMI is earning around $52K/yr.”
Burien City Councilmenber Kevin Schilling backs ecoTHRIVE. Schilling wouldn’t speak on record, but in an email statement wrote: “I’m in support of the ecoTHRIVE application within the [Affordable Housing Demonstration Program], and I support improvements to government processes to make it easier and more efficient to build housing of all kinds in Burien.“
Although at least one councilmember supports ecoTHRIVE within the AHDP, Henrickson said she isn’t celebrating just yet. Nobody flat out said ‘we don’t want your project to happen’. The concern is the process.
“I spoke with council, they like our project. It’s just for many, they didn’t know we’re in the pipeline because so much has to happen,” Henrikson said. “We’re in this limbo land and that’s nerve wracking.”
“We are in the midst of the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program,” she added. “The council did not approve 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 to other community led projects in the future.”
On their website, it 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, this isn’t just about housing. She added they hope to make ecoTHRIVE sustainable as well.
According to their website, ecoTHRIVE will be ample community amenities such as gardens, play areas, gathering areas, open space and a common house.
“Ultimately the goal is to hand off as much as possible to the residents themselves so they’ll run the site, and they’ll govern it,” Sutton said.
In the meantime, Henrickson said they are currently putting together an application process, and would like to invite people interested to sign up for their mailing list to learn more about ecoTHRIVE here.
Gerald Patriarca has a BA in Communication from Seattle Pacific University with a background in journalism. He has written 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. Aside from writing, Gerald, his wife Alma, and their son James own JAG’s Auto Detail in Tukwila. To schedule an appointment and for more information, please visit jagsautodetail.com.