Restoration and Construction Set to Begin at Theodora Site

The Theodora 6559 35 NE
The Theodora 6559 35 NE

65th and 35th is a busy place these days with the construction at Bryant Heights and the Theodora, right across the street.  RBCA has always known that change was coming to our neighborhood and was involved in the Future of 35th Ave NE Project.  On Wednesday June 24th from 6-7:30 at Congregation Beth Shalom, the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will ask for feedback from the community about the potential up zoning along 35th Ave from NE 65th to NE 95th that was endorsed by the 35th Ave Committee, RBCA, and the Wedgwood Community Council. Goodman Real Estate has provided the following information to RBCA about their project on 35th Ave NE, just south of the NE Library.

“Construction and staging activity at the Theodora is photo (5)underway as the project prepares for interior renovations to the existing Theodora units and common spaces, exterior cleaning and painting, refreshed landscaping, and the addition of new units in the existing south parking lot.

In addition, activity through the summer and fall will include:

  • Cleaning the building exterior and repainting all wood to match the existing color
  • Installation of new entries at the north and the east sides of the building to help open up the building to better pedestrian access
  • Excavation at the south parking lot for a new below grade parking garage
  • Construction of new apartment units over the new parking garage

As construction begins to ramp up, we will also ensure regular communication with Polygon and their NE 65th St. project.

A month or so ago, the Volunteers of America (previous site owner) and Goodman Real Estate (current owner) finalized the transition of all previous Theodora residents to new permanent housing. Residents worked closely with a relocation specialist to help determine their new housing needs – one of the positive results of this work was that 73 percent of residents were able to stay in Seattle.

All residents who received Section 8 subsidized rent were able to retain their reduced-rent vouchers and use them in their new homes. In addition, 12 residents who were not currently receiving Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers were qualified through the relocation process and now receive federal rent subsidies.

Assuming we have approval from the Landmarks Board, we plan to discuss these updates and provide detailed information about parking, traffic planning, overall design and plans for the south building, as well as our onsite tree and shrub plan when we attend the Ravenna Bryant Community Association July 7th board meeting.

In the meantime, questions about construction or timelines should be directed to Rita Burden at

Update on Bryant Heights Project and Theodora

A representative from Goodman RE will attend our April 7th, 2015 board meeting (Ravenna Eckstein Community Center 7-9 p.m.) to give an update on their project to remodel the Theodora, just south of the NE District Library.

Just on the other side of 34th Ave NE from the Theodora, the City of Seattle issued the Master Use Permit for the townhome (LR 2) portion of the Bryant Heights Project.  You can read more about this project on NE 65th between 32nd and 34th Ave NE here.

With this land use decision, the City can now begin the process to release or issue the pending and separate demolition permits for the older dormitory (cottage) buildings on the middle of the Bryant Heights property.  Based on current permit issuance cycle, it is estimated that the demolition permits will be released to the team on or before March 23, 2015.  They anticipate that the demolition of these older buildings will take approximately 30 days.  As you may recall, these structures were also used by the Seattle Fire Department for training exercises, consequently, all of the environmental inspection of hazardous materials such as asbestos was previously completed.

Bryant Heights Construction Traffic Plan
Bryant Heights Construction Traffic Plan

As noted on the above plan, all construction personnel will be instructed to park within the confines of the Bryant Heights property.

According to Polygon Homes, the building permits for the actual construction of the townhome buildings are “currently under separate review with the various departments within City of Seattle Planning and Development Department.  At this time, we do not have an update as to when those permits will be released, but will update you once we know more.”


35th Ave Plan, Bryant Heights, and Theodora Updates

On Tuesday June 10th, from 7-9 p.m. at the Messiah Lutheran Church (7050 35th AVE NE) the RBCA Land Use Committee will host a meeting to get updates on the following:


  • The 35th AVE Committee Chair Per Johnson will give us a run down of what has occurred so far with the planning for the business district on 35th.( The 35th Ave Committee also has the second of the three public meetings on Wednesday June 11th, also at Messiah Lutheran 7-9 p.m.


  • Polygon Homes will update us on their 3.7 acre project on NE 65th between 32nd and 34th Ave.  You can read about more about that project here.


  • Representatives from Goodman Real Estate and Volunteers of America will give us an update on the process of relocating the current Theodora residents, as well as give us an idea about their construction schedule for remodeling the building.  You can read more about the Theodora here.

Please help us spread the word.


Volunteers of America Respond to RBCA about Closing of Theodora

The Theodora 6559 35 NE
The Theodora 6559 35 NE

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



Theodora residents form rescue committee

The Theodora 6559 35 NE
The Theodora 6559 35 NE

The Theodora, located at 6559 35th Ave NE, is a large apartment building for low-income seniors with a range of need for supportive services. The property has been owned by Volunteers of America (VOA) since 1914.  VOA is a private nonprofit association that is nationally recognized for its work in affordable housing and the provision of human services. The existing building was built in 1965 and has 114 units, including 22 that receive project-based Section 8 vouchers.  Recently, VOA announced their intention to sell the Theodora to Goodman Real Estate (GRE), a for-profit development company.  The sale of the property to GRE makes it highly unlikely that a private developer will continue to offer affordable rents to the current residents.

The residents who remain in the Theodora have organized the Theodora Rescue Committee ( with the help of the Tenants Union to petition both VOA and GRE to retain the affordability of the apartments.  Residents are asking that VOA withdraw from the purchase and sale agreement and seek a nonprofit provider of low-income housing to preserve the building for low-income tenants.   Additionally, they are asking that VOA utilize their existing HUD mortgage to trigger vouchers for Theodora tenants whose rents are regulated by the mortgage.

The Theodora Rescue Committee is asking community members to visit their website and sign their on-line petition.   A rally is planned for March 11th from 12 to 2 pm at Goodman Real Estate’s corporate office, Pier 70, 2801 Alaskan Way in Seattle, just south of the Olympic Sculpture Park.  More information here and here.

On March 4th, the Board of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (RBCA) voted to send a letter to VOA urging that organization to withdraw from its agreement with GRE and transfer the property instead to a nonprofit organization.  RBCA noted that the Theodora’s 114 units represent over 20% of the existing HUD Section 202 housing units in the entire City of Seattle, and that once lost would likely never be replaced.   See RBCA’s letter to VOA below.

March 7, 2014

Michael King, President and CEO

Volunteers of America

1660 Duke Street

Alexandria, Virginia 22314


RE: Theodora Purchase of Sale Agreement


Dear Mr. King:

On behalf of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (RBCA), I am writing to express our concern with the proposed sale of the Theodora property to Goodman Real Estate (GRE).   The site which the Theodora occupies has served people in need in our community for over 100 years and is home to seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.  The Volunteers of America (VOA) have been serving low income individuals and families at that site for the past five decades.   The sale of the property to GRE makes it highly unlikely that a private developer will continue to offer affordable rents to the current residents.

We urge the Volunteers of America to withdraw from the purchase and sale agreement to Goodman Real Estate and to transfer the Theodora to a non-profit organization that will preserve the building for low income tenants.  The Theodora’s 114 units represent over 20% of the existing HUD Section 202 housing units in the entire City of Seattle. 22 of those Theodora units are project-based Section 8, serving the most vulnerable tenants.  Due to the critical shortage of low income rental units,  it is especially important for those in the non-profit housing sector to take every step possible to preserve buildings under their ownership that serve residents earning below 50% Area Median Income (AMI).

On behalf of the residents remaining at the Theodora who have formed the Theodora Rescue Committee, RBCA requests that you pursue alternatives to maintain their housing at levels affordable to current tenants.   We understand that a private developer like GRE may offer more compensation to VOA for this property, but we believe that your organization’s mission to help the most vulnerable, and your responsibility to those tenants who have relied on the Theodora, requires VOA to make a concerted effort to protect their interests and assure the continuation of the Theodora’s legacy.

We look forward to your response and your willingness to help keep the Theodora’s residents from losing their homes.


Tony Provine




Seattle City Council

Mayor Ed Murray

Dawn Batts, Board Chair – Volunteers of America

Jack Jones, Senior Asset Manager – Volunteers of America

Phil Smith, President and CEO, Volunteers of America of Western WA

Theodora Rescue Committee

Theodora for Sale

The RBCA has just learned that The Theodora (6559 35 Avenue NE), owned by Volunteers of America, is for sale.  According to data from King County, the property is 64,772 square feet, valued at $8.5 million, and has 114 units.  According to one resident, since the assisted living residents were moved out, less than 50 people currently live in this building.


The Theodora 6559 35 NE
The Theodora 6559 35 NE


This property is zoned “LR2,” which allows townhomes, rowhouses, and apartments.  This is the second non-profit to put their property up for sale in this part of RBCA so far this year.  The Children’s Home Society of Washington put their 3.7 acre site up for sale earlier this year, and will be releasing the buyer’s info very soon.

Better know a neighborhood: Ravenna-Bryant zoning at 35th Ave NE & NE 65th Street

“Do you think four-story buildings would fit in with the future character of 35th Ave?”  That was one of the questions the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) asked Ravenna-Bryant and Wedgwood residents earlier this year. DPD had been asked by the Future of 35th Avenue Committee to include their community-driven recommendations in future land use planning and city planners were looking to affirm the committee’s findings.

Of the 303 people who responded to that question, 150 said “yes” and 153 said “no”.

In a 2013 RBCA survey of Ravenna-Bryant community members, 64% indicated they would be comfortable with more development along NE 65th Street and 29% said they would not.

When DPD asked community members, “Which is more important at the ground-floor along 35th Ave?” 67% said more business, 3% new housing, and 30% said both are equally important. Another one of the questions was, “How important is being able to walk to nearby business districts on 35th Ave?” and 68% responded “very” and 22% said “somewhat.”

65th 35th Node Current
Above: Zoning at the corner of NE 65th Street and 35th Avenue NE. Red = NC1-30. Yellow = LR2.

Currently, NE 65th Street from 32nd Ave NE to the east corner of 35th Ave NE is zoned NC1-30 or Neighborhood Commercial, 30 feet high, generally 3 stories. Which means that even though the Wedgwood Market is 1 story tall, it could be up to 3. For comparison, where 35th Ave NE and NE 55th Street meet, the land is zoned for buildings up to 4 stories tall.

65th 35th Node Proposed
Above: Proposed changes would re-zone the Theodora and Unitarian Church properties to NC1-30 with pedestrian designations in the area.

On 35th Ave NE, the land north of the NE 65h Street corner to NE 68th Street is currently zoned LR2 or Lowrise Multifamily. Areas zoned LR2 do not allow for businesses along the ground floor, like the community would like to see.

That’s why DPD is now proposing that part of the land currently zoned LR2 be re-zoned to NC1-30 with a pedestrian designation. This change would allow businesses on the ground floor with housing on the upper floors, something community members indicated they want. The pedestrian designation would help create a more walker-friendly neighborhood since in these areas:

  • Residential uses may occupy no more than 20% of the street-level street-facing building facade.
  • Buildings cannot have large blank facades on the street-facing pedestrian level.
  • A parking lot on the building site cannot be in front of the building or abut the street. Parking must be under the building or behind it.

A pedestrian zone at NE 65th Street & 35th Avenue NE?

Our city is booming. Last year, 21,900 people moved into Seattle. By 2035, the city is expected to grow by 120,000 people and 115,000 jobs. Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Ravenna-Bryant increased by 1,810 people.

green house
The “Big Green House” on 35th Ave NE near NE 73rd Street was demolished earlier this year. Photo thanks to Wedgwood in Seattle History:

As is evident by the multiple cranes that are now part of our skyline, the boom in population is leading to a boom in development. We see it downtown, in South Lake Union, and in Ravenna-Bryant. Change is everywhere, including along 35th Avenue NE.

In addition to changes to The Theodora and the development of Bryant Heights in the southern area of R-B, the “Big Green House” where R-B and Wedgwood meet provides a good example of changes in our community.

Where the Big Green House used to stand, town homes are being built. Those town homes will have very little to no commercial space, which is not what the community said we wanted. Neighbors have repeatedly reported wanting places to walk to and an inviting business district with destinations like bookstores and restaurants. To do this, more commercial space is needed.

Community change prompted many R-B and Wedgwood neighbors to participate in Wednesday evening’s meeting hosted by the Department of Planning & Development (DPD) in partnership with RBCA and the Wedgwood Community Council.

65th node
DPD’s board suggesting that the area along 35th Avenue NE just north of NE 65th Street be designated a pedestrian zone (in orange).

During the meeting, DPD shared recommendations they have for changing zoning along 35th from NE 65th Street in Ravenna-Bryant up through Wedgwood. Their recommendations were guided by a plan the community developed over the past few years. Since a community can only go so far in turning plans into reality, DPD was asked by community members to step in and help move plans forward.

At NE 65th Street and 35th Ave NE, DPD recommends that instead of increasing the heights of buildings, the area could be designated as a pedestrian zone, like the area around NE 75th Street and 35th Ave NE.

In pedestrian zones (P Zones):

  • Residential uses may occupy no more than 20% of the street-level street-facing building facade.
  • Buildings cannot have large blank facades on the street-facing pedestrian level.
  • A parking lot on the building site cannot be in front of the building or abut the street. Parking must be under the building or behind it.

These regulations are meant to encourage businesses to open and increase pedestrian activity.

The R-B and Wedgwood communities can reject DPD’s zoning suggestions along with zoning recommendations in the community-developed plan, which are much more ambitious than DPD’s. This is the time for the community to decide: do we want development along 35th to keep happening like it has been, or do we want to encourage development that creates a vibrant, walkable business district? Either way, change is afoot.

What do you think? Provide feedback to DPD via their online survey.

Tuesday’s land use meeting to cover neighborhood development topics

On Tuesday, the RBCA Land Use Committee will host a community meeting about several projects happening in the neighborhood.  The meeting will take place 7:00 p.m. at the Messiah Lutheran Church, 7050 35th Ave NE.  The agenda includes an update about the development of the former Children’s Home site and the sale of the Theodora.

During last week’s RBCA board meeting, members voted to send the following letter to Volunteers of America (VOA), owners of the Theodora, in response to their letter earlier this spring.

Dear Mr. Smith:

On June 3, 2014, the Board of Directors of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association discussed your response to our letter of March 7th. On behalf of the Board, I am writing to let you know that we appreciated hearing of your plans to assist the residents of the Theodora.

As members of our community, the well-being of the residents of the Theodora is of utmost importance to us and we are pleased to hear of your commitment to assist in their transition. We look forward to hearing that each resident has been successfully housed in a new location.

Tony Provine

In March, the RBCA board expressed concerns to VOA about the sale of the building.

SFD to Burn 6556 32nd NE as Training Exercise

Polygon Homes will soon get started on their Bryant Heights project by demolishing the single family homes along NE 68th.  On Tuesday, May 13th, the Seattle Fire Department will burn the single family home at 6556 32nd Ave NE as a training exercise for their recruits and staff.  The others will be there for the rest of the firehouses in the area for practice such as cutting holes in roofs, dragging fire hose lines inside but will NOT include any burning whatsoever.  Captain Brian Maier has said he “wants this to be a great experience for everyone in the neighborhood and for them to see THEIR fire department in action.”

House to be demolished on NE68th, one block from NE Library
House to be demolished on NE68th, one block from NE Library

In preparation for these training exercises, these single family homes on NE 68th have been evaluated and tested for any household hazardous materials such as asbestos.  As many of the neighbors can attest, it is not uncommon (as an example) to find low levels of asbestos in some of the floor tiles in homes/buildings of this era.   This environmental investigation has been completed and a certificate from a professional hazardous material contractor has been provided to the Seattle Fire Department evidencing that the homes are free of any such materials.  With these certificates in hand, the homes are now being disconnected from the existing overhead and underground utilities consistent with the underlying demolition permits that the City has issued for these single family homes.  The homes are scheduled to be disconnected on Monday, April 28th with the work being completed by Seattle City Light, Garner Electric and BDZ Construction.

In conjunction with this effort, the Seattle Fire Department will be delivering portable toilets and making preparation to the houses for the training exercises.  This effort will include some reinforcement to the existing structures to allow the Fire Department Recruits to perform repeated training exercises on the property with a variety of Recruits and insure that all of the training exercises can be completed safely.  The preparation efforts are anticipated to commence on May 6th with the actual Recruits arriving on the morning of May 13th to begin the drills.   With this effort, Captain Brian Maier from the Seattle Fire Department has canvassed 50+ houses and businesses in the neighborhood to inquire about any health issues with particular neighbors and distribute informational flyers.  Please email Sarah Swanberg (RBCA Land Use Committee Chair) at, should you have further questions for Captain Maier to limit the number of inquiries he will need to deal with directly.

In the meantime, the schedule for the 3.7 acre project on 65th between 32nd and 34th is generally following the original timeline.  The larger structures should be removed in August of 2014.   With the demolition effort of the larger structures, Polygon Homes also hopes to be building the Alley Improvements (installing underground power conduit to serve the future single family homes and townhomes) off of NE 68th Street in August of this year.  Construction could start as early as November 2014.  The new single family homes on the north end of the property will be used as model homes, so they would be the first place the neighborhood will see vertical building construction.  The sale of the Theodora is also set to close in late Fall of 2014, so please check back at for updates as they become available.