Rare firefighting training in BI

Groups work together to provide affordable housing

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department is soon going to have a rare opportunity. The 550 Madison Apartments will be used for training and instruction exercises.

Over the next couple of weeks, Dag Liljequist, the BIFD training officer, will simulate burn scenarios using fog machines in the 13-unit building that is part of a 2.36-acre property at the northeast intersection of Wyatt Way and Madison Avenue.

Liljequist, an EMT with 22 years of experience as a firefighter, said this will be his first chance to train using a multifamily building, noting the importance of creating scenarios that have “high-risk, high-life numbers.” Its two-story configuration, outdoor walkways and decks will provide a useful backdrop to practice rescue, extinguish and exposure scenarios.

Liljequist hopes to share the uncommon training opportunity with both the Poulsbo and the North Kitsap fire departments, with whom BIFD often collaborates. “We really rely on each other,” he said.

Phedra Elliot, executive director of Housing Resource Bainbridge, said the apartment building used to be owned by Housing Kitsap. When it sold the building, Elliott explained that though her team didn’t want see Bainbridge lose the 13 units of affordable housing—something that is in short supply—HRB knew it would not be able to afford to purchase the complex.

“There was always a desire to maintain affordable units as part of the greater project,” said Tom Daniels, part of the Wyatt and Madison development team. “But despite our best creative efforts to find a way for Housing Kitsap to retain the units, their decision to sell on the open market meant we had to figure out another way to make sure affordable housing was a part of the new-build project. That’s when the real work began.”

Daniels said Wyatt and Madison collaborated with Elliott and her team, negotiating a deal to build 13 affordable replacement units for HRB at cost. The plan included planning for HRB to manage the existing property—helping relocate the tenants, all of whom were on month-to-month leases. Daniels and Elliott were concerned about displacing them.

“I laid awake worrying at night,” Elliott said.

HRB, with assistance from Helpline House, was able to transition the tenants to new homes—65 percent of whom were able to stay on the island.

Elliot said she looks forward to the new apartments HRB will be able to provide. By midyear 2023, the new property will be home to eight buildings with 82 new energy efficient apartments, including 13 that will be owned and run by HRB.

The new HRB homes—six of which will be ground floor units—will fit in alongside the other apartments. HRB is in the process of raising approximately $4 million to fund the purchase of the new affordable homes.

Daniels said the market-rate homes will be a mix of one bedroom, one-bedroom plus den units, two-bedroom two-bath units, as well as three townhomes, reiterating that the property will provide much-needed rental housing on Bainbridge.

The pet-friendly property will include a pedestrian spine with landscaping, clubhouse with an exterior courtyard, open space, new pedestrian access to the Madison Tot Lot, and a variety of carports and open parking.

Because of multi-family housing’s shared walls, new insulation and windows, 550 Madison residents can expect lower utilities costs.

Daniels pointed out that multi-family homes typically have a smaller footprint, impose less strain on infrastructure and have a lesser environmental impact than do single-family homes. Since the property is in central Winslow, residents will have access to public transportation and be a short jaunt to surrounding amenities.

“Everyone needs a place to live and this was a unique way to partner with a market-rate developer,” Elliott said, adding she hopes HRB’s relationship with Wyatt and Madison LLC will be a cooperative blueprint going forward.

Though three years will have passed before the new buildings are complete and ready for move-in, previous residents will have first priority at the new HRB apartments.

For more contact Daniels at tdaniels@tncinvestment.com or Elliott at phedra@housingresourcebi.org.