Plans to convert Tacoma church into affordable housing sparks controversy

TACOMA, Wash. — Plans to convert a historic Tacoma church into affordable housing for young adults have created tension among neighbors in Tacoma’s North End neighborhood.

KIRO 7 News spoke with the owners of Amici House based in Port Orchard. They also own the property of The Rock Revival Center, a historic church built in 1908, located at the corner of North 24th Street and North Warner Street in Tacoma.

Andrew and Julie Cain purchased the property for $1 million in April of 2021.

They said they plan to convert the building into affordable housing which will house roughly 40 to 50 tenants in 11 shared rooms.

They are targeting young adults, from the ages of 18 to 26.

Drugs and alcohol will not be allowed inside the building, Andrew Cain said, and the building will be set up as communal living.

“One of the things we’ve heard in the last few years from the young adults is a need for community, a need for affordable living, and a need for our generation to invest back into them, and help them pursue their dreams,” Cain said. “As an educator by my profession, it just matches what I’m about.”

Cain said the tenants will have full background checks and will be required to participate in a mentorship program.

They will be encouraged to invest in the surrounding neighborhood, he added.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to what was invested in us,” he said. “This is about just giving to those young adults who have dreams and visions, and supporting them and going after them.”

KIRO 7 News asked Cain if his and his wife’s business portfolio had any other similar projects that have shown success.

“I know there are some models in the University District and Seattle,” he responded. “This idea is blossoming around the country as a means to provide affordable spaces for young adults.”

KIRO 7 News asked Cain if he and his wife had any steps or measures to ensure the tenants would follow their planned values and message.

“There will be a residential director who will be on-site, who will be working with setting up the program,” he said. “It’s an intentional program that’s fostering up, hey these are our core values.”

“If you’re going to live here, this is the expectation,” he said.

We asked Cain if the tenants would be forced out of the program and building if they did not follow their expectations.

“If they’re not following the agreements, and it’s a congregate living, that could be the final outcome,” he said. “That process, we’re in the works of developing and we will develop with the resident director and with the first round of residents.”

Some neighbors shared their thoughts about the scheduled plans and pushed back.

Sharyn Hinchcliffe, who lives one house away from the church, expressed her dismay about the proposal.

“Frustrated,” she said. “For somebody like myself who has severe limitations on mobility, that’s a concern for me that I wouldn’t be able to park within 25 or 30 feet of my home.”

Hinchcliffe said she is concerned about the tenants’ possible lifestyles, and how it would affect the neighborhood filled with families.

“So you got 18- to 26-year-old young adults that are trying to get on with their lives,” She added, “There has to be a 100 percent guarantee to protect the children in this neighborhood and there’s a lot.”

Jaen Elliot said she moved into the neighborhood to be near her family in 2015.

“I was looking for my death house, and now with Amici coming in, many of us are saying, ‘Maybe we can’t stay.’” She added, “This is a family neighborhood.”

Elliot said the neighborhood is typically filled with many children who often play outside.

“But that traffic that’s going to come in can’t be good for kids on their bikes or walking or on their scooters,” she told KIRO 7 News.

Tyler Kolbo has a special connection to the historic building.

He and his wife held their wedding inside the church in 1998.

“It was really special to us.” He added, “It was the start of a pretty amazing family.”

While Cain and his wife said they would prohibit any drugs or alcohol inside the building, Kolbo said that could make the neighborhood worse.

“They’ll end up with lawn chairs in our front yard, smoking and drinking and leaving their monster cans, instead of doing on their property because they can’t,” he said.

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