Puyallup Tribe project uses stimulus funds

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) – A multifamily project on the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation in Tacoma recently received $3 million in federal stimulus funds. But unlike other projects that have stalled and used federal dollars to restart, this project is a direct response to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project, developed by the Puyallup Tribal Housing Authority, has finished conceptual design and is just beginning schematic design. Environmental Works is the project architect. It should go out to bid for a general contractor next spring. The total cost is $3.8 million.

The project will be located on four acres the tribe already owns and will include 10 units of housing in a 7,800-square-foot building, a 720-square-foot maintenance storage building, a sweat lodge enclosure with a fire pit and park improvements. A new 2,160-square-foot community building with a common room, office and kitchen will also be built. The site includes an existing gymnasium, which will be improved and an abandoned group home, which will be demolished.

A second multifamily building with 10 units will be developed in a future phase of construction and is not funded by the stimulus. That phase will also include a circular dance arbor for the community to gather in and a turnaround for fire engines. The project will be located next to a tribe-developed 27-unit rental housing complex.

Daniel Glenn, executive director of Environmental Works, said the Puyallup Tribe had originally hired his company to do a feasibility study to examine what could be done with the land. When the Recovery Act presented itself, his team had to work quickly to figure out what could go there and develop a proposal, while the tribe had to quickly approve it.

“The stimulus really pushed the whole thing forward very quickly and got us to be able to jump right in,” he said. “For us it was the opportunity to make the project real as opposed to just a feasibility study.”

Environmental Works partnered with Common Ground, a nonprofit focused on community development, to get the project proposal together.

Glenn said the Puyallup Tribe is new to developing projects though it has a great need for housing. It recently developed a green prototype house and has become increasingly interested in the idea of designing space that reflects culture. “It’s definitely the first project in which they’re being both environmentally responsive and culturally responsive in that they’re trying to come up with a housing type that reflects more traditions and culture.”

Traditionally, Coast Salish tribes lived in longhouses with a shared central space and dwelling units off to the side. Environmental Works was inspired by that and created a building with 10 townhomes that are separated from each other by a linear courtyard with an open, slanted shed roof. Units on one side of the building have one bedroom and units on the other side have two bedrooms. Entryways are in the courtyard, which also provides common space.

The building will physically reflect the longhouse tradition, but also creates community space that is reminiscent of how the tribe used to gather. Glenn, who has done similar work for the Navajo and Crow nations, said the challenge is to develop culturally responsive architecture while designing for modern needs and desires. He said the building is a prototype that could be used in other places in the Pacific Northwest with the longhouse tradition.

The housing authority will rent out townhouse units, probably to young people or to seniors. Glenn said the arrangement would give seniors a place to live near families without having to leave the community.

As currently designed, the buildings will use structurally insulated panels, which Glenn said can reduce heating and cooling needs by up to 50 percent. It may also use extra insulation, partial concrete walls, gray and rain water harvesting and alternative heating, cooling and ventilation techniques. Buildings will be passively oriented to the sun so they can use either photovoltaic panels or solar hot water.

The project will only cover about a quarter of the site, the remainder of which will remain forested. It is located on a hill overlooking the Puget Sound tide flats, which were traditional Puyallup tribal lands.





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