D.R. Horton acquires 143 lots in Tacoma, Washington, for US$5M, with company expected to begin construction this summer; thirty-five homes to be sold at below market rates to lower-income families

TACOMA, Washington , May 24, 2013 () – The Tacoma Housing Authority took a major step this week in advancing the rebirth of the former Salishan public housing area on Tacoma's East Side as a major mixed-use housing development.

The authority sold 143 lots in Area 3 of the former World War II housing development to the nation's largest homebuilder, D.R. Horton. Horton is expected to begin building single-family homes on the lots this summer.

Those homes, most of them with three or four bedrooms, are likely to be priced at market rates between $180,000 and $250,000, said Michael Mirra, the housing authority's executive director. A few with views of the Cascades and the adjoining Swan Creek Park could exceed that price range.

Thirty-five of the homes will be sold to lower income families at below market rates.

D.R. Horton paid $35,000 per lot for the tract, a total of about $5 million.

The Salishan development originally was constructed quickly during World War II to house shipyard workers who emigrated from the Great Plains and the Midwest to Tacoma. During WWII about 30,000 workers built escort aircraft carriers and other ships at Tacoma's Todd Shipyards.

After the war, the federal government gave the homes to the housing authority for public housing. A neighboring tract, once covered with homes, was cleared and gifted to Tacoma's Metropolitan Park District.

That park land, just south of Area 3, links the First Creek greenbelt and Swan Creek Park. The park district has plans to develop it into a major regional park.

The tract where Horton bought its lots is located between the First Creek green belt on the west and Swan Creek Park on the east. The site is bounded by East 39th Street on the north and East 44th Street on the south. Area 3 is part of the much larger New Salishan site. Two other parts of that property border Portland Avenue and the First Creek green belt between East 39th Street and East 51st Street.

Area 3 already has been partially redeveloped with rental apartments and townhomes and with single-family homes built by three other builders, Quadrant Homes, Benjamin Ryan Communities and Habitat for Humanity.

The development's first phase, Area 1, north of East 44th Street and west of the First Creek green belt, has been fully built out. Area 2, south of East 44th and west of the First Creek green belt, will be sold to builders after Area 3 is mostly sold out.

When New Salishan is complete, the 855 World War II homes will have been replaced by 1,300 dwellings, a mix of apartments, townhomes and single-family homes. Some of those will be subsidized or low-income housing. Others will be market-rate homes. Of those, 390 will be single-family dwellings, the housing authority said.

Horton's home construction will be governed by design and construction standards that cover the entire New Salishan development.

Mirra said he's pleased that the lots are being developed by builders with national reputations.

"THA believes that these recent lot purchases by these distinguished homebuilders denote confidence in New Salishan, in Tacoma's East Side neighborhood and in the city of Tacoma," he said.

The creation and sale of more homes in New Salishan should help spur the development of a neighborhood retail and service center, the housing authority said.

That neighborhood core center already is the site of Community Health Care's Kimi and Dr. George Tanbara Medical-Dental Clinic. Plans call for the neighborhood center to include a library, a credit union, a child care center, an education and training center, and indoor and outdoor community meeting space.

The Tacoma School District has built Lister Elementary School and First Creek Middle School in and adjacent to New Salishan to serve the area's children.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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