Groundbreaking ceremony and beach party celebrate soon-to-arrive 52 affordable housing units in Edmonds

Edmonds Lutheran Pastor Tim Oleson talked of the long difficult road that led to today’s fulfillment of his congregation’s long-term dream.

In a groundbreaking ceremony like no other, a group of more than 75 elected officials, housing advocates, members of the faith community and neighbors joined with the staff of Housing Hope and Edmonds Lutheran Church Tuesday morning to celebrate the beginning of Madrona Highlands, a new 52-unit affordable housing complex to be constructed in the vacant field east of the church

Attendees spanned local jurisdictions and included Mayors Mike Nelson (Edmonds) and Christine Frizzell (Lynnwood), Edmonds City President Neil Tibbott and Councilmembers Will Chen and Susan Paine, Lynnwood Councilmember George Hurst, Mountlake Terrace Councilmember Steve Woodard and Snohomish County Councilmember and 21st District State Rep. Strom Peterson.

Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember Steve Woodard and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell at the event.

Event emcee Joan Penney introduced Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton, who welcomed the group to what she described as a “soft groundbreaking,” noting that Madrona Highlands will be Housing Hope’s first venture in South Snohomish County.

“We have a pressing need for safe, affordable housing,” Moulton explained. “Madrona Highlands will provide a solid foundation for families to build lives and dreams. Everyone deserves a place to call home, where they can thrive and flourish.”

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton stressed how Madrona Highlands will help address the region’s critical need for affordable housing.

For Edmonds Lutheran, it has been a long and often difficult road. But according to Pastor Tim Oleson, a combination of faith, perseverance and the firm knowledge that this was the right thing to do with their vacant land combined to bring the church and the community to this day.

This was not the church’s first effort to bring affordable housing to the community; most notably, a joint venture with Compass Housing and innovative housing manufacturer Blokable never came to fruition.

“It’s been a long journey for our church and our community — our first conversations with Housing Hope began in 2019,” Oleson explained. “This is a huge piece of the heartbeat of our congregation. It’s in our DNA. Housing is a critical first step for so many – it’s what allows other things to fall into place.  The work here does not end with today’s groundbreaking. It continues as people come, gather, live and share their lives here to create community – and is a central part of our mission to help our neighbors thrive in ways that create beauty, hope, healing and love.”

A rendering of the Madrona Highlands project.

Financial support for the project comes from a host of sources, including the Hazel Miller Foundation.

“We at the Hazel Miller Foundation decided to give generously to support this project because it aligns with what Hazel loved,” said Hazel Miller Educational Foundation Executive Director Maria Montalvo. “She loved this community, and beyond that was driven to share this love with others. She would be so pleased to know that this project will bring more people to Edmonds who deserve to take advantage of all the things this community offers, all the things Hazel loved about Edmonds.”

While she could not attend in person, U.S.. Sen. Maria Cantwell provided a statement read by her staff assistant Carly Cloward in which the senator said, “Housing is about opportunity. When someone is housed, they are ready for the next steps whether it’s seeking a job or going to school. Projects like this bring dignity, stability and opportunity to so many families and allow them to find firm ground and change their lives.”

These remarks were reflected by County Councilmember and State Rep. Strom Peterson.

“Unless you have stability of housing, it’s almost impossible to have hope,” he explained. “This will change lives – not just for those who will live here, but for all of us in knowing that we can do something that gives hope.”

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson stressed his personal joy in seeing this project in an “historically underserved and underrepresented” part of the city.

Peterson was followed by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who noted that this project is in the heart of “the most underserved and underrepresented part of our city.”

“There is an erroneous idea that if you have wealth, you are morally superior,” he continued. “This leads us to categorize and isolate people. Thanks to this project we will now have 52 families who will be able to be treated as human, morally equal, who deserve a chance and an opportunity.”

The final speaker was Housing Hope’s chief housing officer, Bobby Thompson.

“This project exemplifies how it takes a community to make wonderful things happen,” he began.  “Edmonds Lutheran had a heart for this need, and they reached out to us. They could have reached out to a market rate developer, but they came to us. We worked with them to find numerous funding sources – 52 units of affordable housing, 26 of which are designated for those who are homeless at entry, is a challenge to finance – but with support from the Snohomish County Housing Authority we will be able to achieve market rate rents from even the 26 homeless units.”

Musical entertainment was provided by John and Hans on accordion and clarinet.

In conclusion, Thompson explained that this groundbreaking will be like none that have preceded it.

The project is still awaiting the final signoff on environmental review for Snohomish County, he explained. “It’s a long process, and it’s in the public comment period now. This means that technically we can’t put a shovel in the ground, and that includes ceremonial groundbreaking shovels.

“So we decided to make it beach party instead,” he laughed as he pointed to a collection of beach balls, colorful pails and shovels. “So grab a bucket and shovel, be a kid again, and let’s go to the beach!”

Pastor Tim Oleson (third from left) joins Housing Hope officials for the “day at the beach” groundbreaking.

Final remarks were provided by Donna Moulton.

“In the coming months, we’ll see this empty land transformed into a community filled with beautiful and affordable homes,” she said. “Affordable housing is not just our social responsibility – it’s an investment in our community’s well-being. It enhances the fabric of our community, creates stability, fosters economic growth and builds a stronger and more equitable future for today and generations to come. This project is a shining example of what can be achieved when the community comes together with a shared purpose.  The families who will call this home will become the heart and soul of this community.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

    1. It’s not more people, Mr. Wolfe, just more housing for people already there…even though you may not want to acknowledge the homeless situation in Edmond/Lynnwood/Mountlake Terrace…

  1. What an awesome project. Kudos to Edmonds Lutheran Church for persevering on this much-needed project to get it started!!

  2. Housing Hope should be a great partner as they have comprehensive programs for home cleanliness and safety, money/budgeting and job training. Important to include garbage and recycling rules … a huge problem at my apt building that is four blocks from the Church. Fighting the filth is a constant battle.

  3. It’s so good to read some long-awaited great news. Kudos to the church community who decided to something very meaningful and helpful with their property and to all who have supported this effort to help our neighbors with housing and services. And good job, Larry Vogel, for good reporting!

  4. This is terrific news. Thank you to the leadership and congregation of Edmonds Lutheran. This lot has been empty and unused for as long as I can remember, and now it will help serve our community. Bravo to all!

  5. 2 things to say. 1. I supported it early. I hope with my heart it works.
    2. It is a much more attractive and creative than the buildings proposed for Dayton and Main St in the bowl. Hum. Fine with me but why is what my curious nature is asking me.
    Not complaining just wondering.

  6. Part 2. I am also saving and collecting pots and pans and linens, you name it. Much will be needed. Who is in for that?

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