The owners of the Theodora, just south of the NE Library on 35th AVE NE, have responded to the concerns that the board of Ravenna-Bryant Community Association had about the sale of their building to Goodman Real Estate. The sale of the Theodora has been in the news recently (here and here), so we’ve asked Volunteers of America to explain the rationale behind closing this historic building. This is their response to us:
Dear Ravenna-Bryant Community Association:
Thank you for your recent letter and opportunity to respond and provide some background and facts related the sale and closing of The Theodora.
As owner of The Theodora, we’ve been proud to be part of the Wedgwood neighborhood for more than 50 years. In addition to providing low-income housing, we provide services in six counties locally through a wide range of programs that focus on serving people and communities in need. Through our Basic Needs Services, Personal Support Services, Child & Youth Services, Conflict Resolution Services, Behavioral Health Services, Volunteer Services responds to 350,000 requests for assistance each year.
The Theodora: Transitioning the Building & Our Residents
The building is a unique housing model– it’s comprised of 114 single-room apartments (about 200 sq. ft. or smaller) with shared cafeteria and kitchen. Meals are prepared onsite for residents. While this model worked well decades ago, it has become antiquated and does not address the needs of today’s elderly and disabled.
The outdated building configuration, which is not comparable to or competitive even with other HUD 202 buildings in Seattle, has been an increasing impediment to retaining residents.
We first looked at options for VOA to redevelop the Theodora, but after review by two independent consultants, the results were not viable for us.
We first marketed the Theodora via CBRE brokerage firm to nearly 75 local and national non-profit developers, including names given to us by the Office of Housing. Through many conversations had by our team and our broker, non-profits told us because of the building’s age and current configuration, they could not afford to acquire and operate the building as low-income housing.
We then took the Theodora to the private market and received several bids. We could have easily maximized our profits and sold to a developer who would have razed the building and built expensive homes.
Instead, we found a developer willing to invest in and keep this historic building, as well as keep the housing affordable – at the exact levels the city is trying so hard to increase (about 60-80% area median income).
At this point, Volunteers of America entered into a good faith contract with Goodman Real Estate, which will conclude with a sale of the building this fall. Both parties have spent significant capital moving toward this closing.
VOA has operated the Theodora at a significant financial loss for years, and we cannot continue to sustain the building. Regardless if we would have found a buyer, the Theodora will close in February 2015.
Relocation Process: A Thoughtful Commitment to Resident’s Well-Being
We are deeply committed to our residents during this time of transition and our goal is to go above and beyond for them wherever possible.
Here is a summary of the work we are beginning:
- We will work with Seattle Housing Authority and HUD early and often to make sure all Section 8 residents and non Section 8 residents find new homes that fully suit their needs.
- We’ve retained a relocation specialist to work one-on-one with each resident and their families to help them find new low-income housing that fits their budget and health needs.
- VOA and Goodman Real Estate (buyer) will provide $5,000 to each resident. In addition, all residents who qualify for City of Seattle relocation assistance will receive $3,184 to help with their transition. This means each resident could receive about $8,184.
- ALL residents with a Section 8 voucher will retain their voucher. A portable voucher allows them the freedom to find a home that better meets their needs. We’ll work closely with Seattle Housing Authority on this transition and our relocation specialist will be closely involved to make sure everyone transitions well and all vouchers are maintained.
Affordability in Seattle is a complex topic. And while the Theodora is economically no longer a viable building for VOA to operate, we will continue investing in our North Seattle/Greenwood location as well as other new low-income housing in and around Seattle – as we have done for nearly 100 years.
We invite each of you to tour the property and learn more about the building, as well as our commitment to residents during this transition.
Phil Smith, President/CEO
Volunteers of America Western WA