Weber Thompson, Investing In Our future
Architectural firm, Weber Thompson, has established itself as an adept hand in catering to the design needs of varied markets, as well as the needs of the communities in which it works. The firm’s experience and cross-sector involvement is likely to play a vital role in the coming years.
As we all know, King County is currently experiencing unprecedented growth. In 2016, the region recorded the 3rd highest national growth in home prices, and amassed the 4th highest national population increase in the 2015/2016 census.
The weight of this growth can be felt across sectors, generating activity in both market-rate and affordable housing, as well as commercial development.
With opportunities abound, Weber Thompson has chosen to invest much of its portfolio in affordable housing and community-facing projects, emerging as an ally and friend to many of our region’s nonprofit developers.
“As a firm, we’ve made a conscious choice to limit our growth during this time of expansion and focus on taking the best projects that come our way, the projects we really want to be involved with.” said Jeff Reibman, Principal at Weber Thompson.
To date, Weber Thompson have implemented 4 affordable projects: two finished or under construction, 2 in active design, plus several work force housing projects, and even more that have affordable components.
Scott Thompson, founding partner of Weber Thompson, initiated the firm’s involvement in affordable housing before retiring in 2015. The long-time market-rate firm has adapted its deep understanding of the environment and responsiveness to the needs of the client to help nonprofit clients move through the funding process.
“We have a diversity of scale in housing that will help us meet the demand of some of our affordable clients as we start looking at larger, tall sites with our partners.” said Mindy Black, Senior Associate at Weber Thompson.
Integral to Weber Thompson’s role is guidance in implementing sustainable practices. As both regulation and market adoption shift towards sustainable designs and materials, the cost of such strategies become more accessible.
By investing initial resources into sustainable practices, affordable housing providers are set up to minimize their costs on utilities as well as increasing the life of their building. This can similarly benefit tenants who are responsible for utility payments, and can aide local business with their long-term expenses.
“Technology is developing very quickly… the market place is starting to realize the direction we are moving, so more suppliers are realizing that they have to keep up with the market or they will get left behind.” said Mindy Black
Weber Thompson were recently joint recipients of an Affordable Housing Finance Reader’s Choice Award for the redevelopment of Raven Terrace at Yesler Terrace. The historical location was first development by the Seattle Housing Authority in the 1940’s and became Seattle’s first publicly subsidized housing community.
In 2013, renovation of the site began and a key focus was updating the sustainable aspects of the building. LED lights were installed throughout the project, heat recovery ventilators were installed in all the units, and other measures were taken to ensure the long-term health and manageability of the building.
The scale of projects also appears to be increasing, as Weber Thompson works with Homesight on the planning phase of the SE Economic Opportunities Center. This would entail the development of a 3-acre site, which would include market-rate as well affordable housing with homeownership. A multi-cultural center, charter high school, and a new location for the Odessa Ground Children’s clinic are being discussed in addition to an economic opportunity center, where dispersed nonprofits in the Othello neighborhood can congregate.
Overall, Weber Thompson is poised to be an active and valuable front-runner in the efforts to bolster the affordable housing sector. The firm’s 2-pronged approach of market-rate savvy and attentiveness to the needs of the affordable housing sector bode well for the growth of the region.
“We are very committed to our work in Seattle and our affordable housing work in particular. For better or worse we believe that there’s going to be a lot of continued need in Seattle, so it’s very important for us to stay active… we want to be a diverse firm.” Said Jeff Reibman