Built in 1942 as temporary housing for shipyard workers during World War II, the homes in Tacoma's Salishan neighborhood were intended to have a 10-year life-span at best. After the war, however, the city converted the houses to rental units for low-income families, and they remained in use for nearly 60 years with no renovations; the result was an isolated enclave of poverty.
“The housing authority had done its best to maintain [the houses], but they were just worn out,” says architect John Torti, whose firm was challenged to revive the dilapidated neighborhood with new, affordable housing stock, all the while preserving roads and select structures, and protecting natural resources.
Now a model for low-impact design, the Hope VI project incorporates a system of bio-retention swales that filter 91 percent of stormwater on site, restore the natural flow of the on-site T-Street Gulch, and reduce pollution in Swan Creek. Existing road right-of-ways and building pads were reused to support a diverse mix of housing types, and all streets now enjoy direct connections to shared green spaces and pocket parks. “When you have such a large site, it's an opportunity to make an impact in the region,” says Janet Rice, director of housing development for the Tacoma Housing Authority.