Fort Lawton Redevelopment

Aerial map image of the Fort Lawton area in Magnolia. The area indicating Fort Lawton is outlined in red.

In 2019, Seattle City Council agreed to redevelop Fort Lawton, a former military site that became part of Discovery Park in 1972. The City’s goal was to redevelop existing structures and spaces into a diverse community with affordable homes and parks.

Working with community leaders, City of Seattle departments, and housing and infrastructure experts, Mayor Harrell and the City are advancing efforts to improve the 2019 Fort Lawton plan (read Mayor Harrell’s letter to HUD). Using previously approved zoning capacity (or, what kind of buildings are allowed in a certain area), we aim to build as many as 500 new units of housing and add 22 acres of parkland. The new homes will be for:

  • Homeless seniors, including veterans, with support services;
  • Families and working people who need affordable rent; and
  • Low-income families who want to own homes and build generational wealth.

Fort Lawton is a unique opportunity to turn 34 underutilized acres into a new community for future generations, putting into practice our One Seattle vision for a city with affordable homes and communities with access to good jobs, great schools, safe parks, and robust amenities.

To support housing, the Fort Lawton property requires major infrastructure (roads, power, water, and sewers) construction and upgrades. Understanding how to move forward given these challenges and their related investments required time and research to make sure the project was financially achievable.

Mayor Harrell believes it is critical to use the City’s limited housing dollars wisely, making the largest possible impact on the affordability and homelessness challenges facing the city. 

While the improved redevelopment plan adds more housing units, it also fully maintains green spaces outlined in the 2019 plan. It will protect and improve 22 acres of open space, working alongside the amazing Discovery Park nearby. This will make sure to preserve the parkland as our population grows.

This area has an important history, especially to Indigenous communities, and we are committed to engaging with tribal communities and leaders on this project. United Indians of All Tribes will be the service provider for the permanent supportive housing (or, housing for people who have been homeless combined with services that support them) at Fort Lawton. Catholic Housing Services and Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties are the developers for the plan.

In discussing the ways for the City to move forward with Fort Lawton, the City considered several options:

  • Option A: Move forward with the original 2019 plan.
    • This is the baseline for all the options. It would build the fewest homes at the highest per-unit cost because of the infrastructure needs for the housing.
  • Option B: Optimize the 2019 plan for more homes.
    • This maximizes the homes built at Fort Lawton without reducing the area set aside for parks or requiring a long and complicated rezoning process. This option also significantly reduces the per-unit cost. It would require City Council action and most likely a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • Option C: Expand the plan with a rezone.
    • This produces the most housing but would take the most time. It would require writing a new redevelopment plan, EIS, and City Council action. The estimates assume rezoning majority of site to LR2, or Lowrise 2, for affordable housing.

Three maps outlining redevelopment options for Fort Lawton. First map is for Option A: Current 2019 Plan. Second map is for Option B: Optimize for More Homes. Third map is for Option C: Rezone Site. An accessible PDF with text from map is available in the link beneath this graphic.

Caption: Map graphic from Heartland (HLT) report.

Please click this link for an accessible PDF of the above map showing Fort Lawton redevelopment options.

A wide array of data and information was used to reach this decision, including two different reports from consultants. The first, the Davido Consulting Group (DCG) report, focused mainly on the cost of infrastructure based on the 2019 Redevelopment Plan. DCG worked closely with Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Department of Transportation.

The second report was from Heartland (HLT), a team of three different consultancy groups. The three redevelopment options the City considered were created by HLT. They considered options for adding more homes and came up with creative ways to reduce the cost of infrastructure.

In 2019, City Council estimated this project would cost about $90 million. Since then, cost estimates have grown, with per-unit estimates for the original 2019 plan (Option A) coming in above average for City-funded housing projects. For the optimized plan (Option B), we now estimate the project will cost about $285 million.

  • The total cost for Option B is higher than Option A, but Option B adds enough homes to bring the estimated development cost per unit down to $496,000, close to the average City-funded affordable housing project.
  • Infrastructure costs are much harder to predict and the per-unit cost above doesn’t include them. Infrastructure estimates range from a low of $31 million to a more conservative $105 million.
  • The cost to build the parks (demolishing unsafe buildings, building bathrooms and other amenities, etc.) is still being analyzed and isn’t included in the estimates above.
  • The City plans to cover about 40 percent of the design, permitting, land, and construction costs and look for external funding sources to help cover the rest.

Core to our plan for Fort Lawton is an understanding of the importance of ensuring people of all backgrounds and experiences have the opportunity to live in well-resourced neighborhoods. Objective analyses of neighborhood benefits like green space, good schools, places to play, a local shopping village, and access to employment all recognize the Magnolia neighborhood as a great place to live.

Neighborhoods where there are more opportunities usually mean better access to education, higher earnings, and improved health for people living there. Affordable housing in high opportunity areas like Magnolia is rare, which is why Mayor Harrell considered options that would build needed housing and make sure the project was not too expensive for the City’s affordable housing efforts.

Late 1890s: Fort Lawton is built for military use, covering 700 acres on Magnolia Bluff in Seattle.

Late 1960s: Parts of Fort Lawton become surplus and are given to Seattle at no cost under the "Legacy of Parks" program, leading to the creation of Discovery Park in 1972.

1970s: Native American activists, who formed the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, occupy Fort Lawton, showing how important the land is to tribal communities. The occupation results in the creation of the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, which is built next to the Fort Lawton Redevelopment site.

2005: The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission chooses to shut down the 70th Regional Support Command headquarters at Fort Lawton. The Army names the City of Seattle the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) who will develop a plan for the site. The City plans to make homes for people of different incomes, help people who have been homeless, create a new neighborhood park, and keep the existing wildlife safe. The plans are paused for a review of environmental protection.

2017–2018: The City works on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to see how the plan might affect the environment and engages the public.

June 2017: The City engages with the community, holding meetings to gather comments about the plan and what to look at in the environment. A report in August 2017 summarizes the public comments and final scope.

December 2017: The City puts out a detailed study of how the plan might affect the environment (called the Draft Environmental Impact Statement or DEIS). Residents are given 45 days to share thoughts, and in January 2018, there is a large meeting where over 1,000 comments were given.

March 2018: The final version of the environmental study (Final Environmental Impact Statement or FEIS) is released. The City makes changes based on public comments on the earlier draft.

April 2019: Mayor Jenny Durkan sends a new plan for Fort Lawton's redevelopment to Seattle City Council.

June 2019: City Council approves this plan, permitting the Office of Housing to start working on the redevelopment. Plans for the redevelopment are paused due to challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 2022: Mayor Harrell takes office and begins working with HUD on the Fort Lawton redevelopment.

August 2022: Mayor Harrell and the Office of Housing decide to think through the infrastructure costs of the Fort Lawton redevelopment.

December 2022: Davido Consulting Group sends their report to the Office of Housing. It shows that the infrastructure costs might make the 2019 Redevelopment Plan too expensive.

October 2023: Heartland (HLT) sends their report to the Office of Housing. It shows alternatives to the original redevelopment plan that bring the costs of the project down by adding more homes.

December 2023: Mayor Harrell and the Office of Housing inform HUD of the City’s intention to change the Fort Lawton redevelopment plan to add more homes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Under the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure process, the Fort Lawton property is available at a significantly discounted land cost for dedicated use as affordable housing or parks. These two uses have been the City’s vision for the property dating back to 2006. Today, Seattle faces an even greater need for affordable housing and open spaces. More people are facing homelessness because they can’t find affordable homes. Also, as more people live here, there is an increased need for spaces to relax and play but new land for parks is typically very expensive. Fort Lawton is a special chance to help meet both these needs together.

A map showing investments from the Office of Housing, with a small blue house noting the location of Fort Lawton.

Please click this link for an accessible PDF of the above map of Seattle’s affordable housing investments.

The City’s vision for Fort Lawton is an affordable, livable community that creates opportunities for those with low incomes to live in Magnolia and takes advantage of the opportunity to increase recreational and open space for Seattle. The housing plan for Fort Lawton includes affordable rental and ownership homes managed by nonprofit housing groups. This is different from public housing, like the homes owned and managed by the Seattle Housing Authority.

The Office of Housing is working on the plan to increase the types of housing at Fort Lawton. It will be presented to Council sometime in 2024 or 2025. The new plan will account for up to 500 homes, which is an increase from the original 2019 plan.

The original 2019 plan was made up of 237 homes:

  • 100 rental homes for low-income people and families
  • 85 homes of permanent supportive housing
  • 52 homes for ownership

The rentals will help seniors who are or have been homeless, especially veterans, and also help low-income families and individuals. The ownership homes will be sold to middle-income households and a nonprofit organization will stay involved to support homeowner success and to ensure the homes stay affordable for future homebuyers.

OH is thinking about many options for scaling up the redevelopment. That includes increasing the options equally. We also want to think about how many family-sized homes we can create. We are just starting engagement with our housing partners to understand their capacity with the increase in the number of homes.

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) tackles homelessness by offering affordable homes paired with services. Services like counseling are tailored to residents’ needs. Research shows this kind of housing helps people experiencing homelessness find stability in housing, jobs, and health. Seattle is a national leader in this and has skilled providers working in different parts of the city. Across the nation, PSH has over a 90% success rate; in Seattle, that success rate is even higher, with nearly 95% remaining housed a year later. 


Maiko Winkler-Chin, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 5700, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94725, Seattle, WA , 98124-4725
Phone: (206) 684-0721
Fax: (206) 233-7117

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