By Maggie Carson
Maggie sees the built environment as a way to enhance people’s quality of life. She has over 15 years of experience creating spaces that range from retail and large international mixed-use projects to affordable and market rate residential. She has a passion for complex projects and loves working with clients to bring each unique vision to life.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the grand opening for Raven Terrace, which marks the second completed low-income, multifamily building in Seattle’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood. While the completion of great multi-family projects is work as usual here at Weber Thompson, this project has special significance to me personally and also for the city of Seattle.
Three years ago, Weber Thompson hired me as a part of their high rise studio. However, due to shifting project schedules my first role was project designer on Raven Terrace. I was excited to tackle something new and different. While I had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity before, my familiarity with “government housing” was somewhat antiquated. I quickly learned Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) takes the design quality of their projects seriously. To ensure our team’s design could respond to the community the building would serve, SHA shepherded meetings for us with the Yesler Terrace neighborhood and future building tenants. Understanding the backgrounds and stories from the neighborhood enriched the building design and better equipped us to serve the residents. Furthermore, with sweeping views of the city and Mount Rainier, the site held plenty of potential for something exceptional. Most importantly though, SHA’s vision for evolving a healthy, vibrant and accessible community in the heart of Seattle drove the success of Raven Terrace.
Throughout the following year Scott Thompson (Principal in Charge), Jeff Bates (Design Principal) and I worked together to design the 83 unit midrise building in collaboration with Mindy Black (Project Manager) and Jeff Sander (Detailer and Construction Administrator) as well as our WT Interior Designer, Rachael Bauer, and WT Landscape Designers Catherine Benotto and Chialin Ma. Raven Terrace served as my introduction to the Weber Thompson family. I found myself enthused by my team members’ passion for quality design and impressed by the technical knowledge each person brought to collaboration. I learned a lot through the project, both about our firm and about the unique challenges that come with low-income housing.
Seeing Raven Terrace come to life the day of the grand opening was uplifting. How often does the Mayor attend the opening of a project!? More exciting than the Mayor’s attendance though, was the response from the Yesler Terrace community. Several new and soon-to-be Raven Terrace residents were present at the celebration. I overheard an elderly woman beam with excitement and pride about moving in, stating it was the nicest place she’d ever lived. I had to control myself not to leap across the room and hug her to tell her how much her words meant to me.
Watching mothers and children play together in the courtyard and longtime neighborhood friends greet one another with excitement shows SHA’s vision is becoming reality. During the opening ceremony, several speakers made reference to the unique diversity that brought Raven Terrace to fruition – diversity in funding between public and private, diversity of income levels in the neighborhood, and the cultural diversity that makes the neighborhood so unique. Raven Terrace is just one of the first steps for the Yesler Terrace neighborhood redevelopment. Along with the First Hill street car and renovated steam plant community center, redevelopment plans include creating an engaging community park and roughly tripling the number of low income units through additional density. Mayor Ed Murray referenced the progressing neighborhood as an example of what Seattle ought to be: a place that makes Seattle’s amenities and urban center accessible to all people. For me, Raven Terrace represents the best parts of my job – amazing team members, thoughtful clients, and outstanding design – but most importantly, meaningful contribution to the place I call home and the people who share it with me.