Frequently Asked Questions


Q:  Why is El Centro de la Raza building rental housing and why now?

A:  Plaza Roberto Maestas, a mixed-use affordable housing community, was planned in direct response to the growing needs of the community El Centro de la Raza serves – specifically, to fill a critical need for rental housing that was affordable for working individuals and families earning 30 to 60 percent of area median income.  The recent spike in high housing costs has deepened the need for housing that’s affordable for low-to-middle-income workers, and the number of families seeking help for affordable housing from El Centro has been increasing over the last 10 years.

El Centro has helped nearly 600 families in the past 12 years to find affordable housing, but has had to go far south of the city of Seattle to locate affordable rental homes for families, resulting in hour-long commutes and increasing transportation costs for those who can least afford them.

Q:  What is the purpose of Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  The purpose of Plaza Roberto Maestas is to expand the reach of El Centro de la Raza’s programs and services, and further the goals of El Centro de la Raza.  By providing affordable rental housing, economic opportunities, community gathering spaces, and additional classrooms for its child development center, it supports the following El Centro goals:

  • Stabilize families affected by the economic downturn
  • Prepare more children and youth for academic and life success
  • Strengthen job training, economic development opportunities, housing and community involvement for young adults and families
  • Ensure that seniors in our community maintain a high quality of life
  • Ensure that El Centro remains a vital cultural center and link for the expanding Latino community

Q:  Who is Plaza Roberto Maestas serving?

A:  Plaza Roberto Maestas will expand the reach of El Centro de la Raza’s programs and continue to serve the same populations as El Centro.  The Plaza will serve low-income individuals and working families in Seattle and throughout Washington State, including children, senior citizens, the homeless, and veterans.

Last year, El Centro de la Raza helped 7,813 families and 13,602 individuals through their 44 social service programs.  Eighty-nine percent of those served were at or below 150 percent of the Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty threshold.  Half had no health insurance.

A majority were Latino community members (58 percent); the remainder were from other diverse communities, including the Asian/Pacific Islander, African American and Native American communities.

Q:  How will Plaza Roberto Maestas make a difference in the community it serves?

A. The Plaza addresses long-standing community needs by providing:

  • Rental housing at rates that are affordable for working families earning 30 to 60 percent of area median income ($24,000-49,000/year). Low-to-middle-income workers will be able to live close to jobs and close to El Centro’s extensive social service programs.
  • Location Close to Jobs and Services. Uniquely situated just north of the Beacon Hill Link Light Rail Station, Plaza residents will have easy access to transportation and to employment and educational opportunities in downtown Seattle.
  • Sustainable Development. Housing will be built to Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards, so residents will benefit from healthy living environments and low utility bills.
  • Job Creation. The Plaza will generate 40 permanent jobs and 150 construction-related jobs.
  • Economic Opportunitiesfor micro-businesses and entrepreneurs by offering micro-retail vendor carts and indoor retail spaces at rates affordable to local small business owners.El Centro’s Business Opportunity Center (to open in 2015) will provide business management support.
  • High Quality Early Childhood Education. The Plaza will add 7 new classrooms to the award-winning, nationally accreditedJosé Martí Child Development Center tomeet the Beacon Hill need to provide high-quality early childhood education and development. The center provides dual-language, bicultural education, and for years, more than 100 families have been on the Center’s waitlist at El Centro.
  • Multicultural Community Center. The Plaza’s 6,000-square-foot multicultural community center will meet the Beacon Hill need for a Town Center and public gathering spaces. It will expand El Centro’s existing building function as host to non-profits, government agencies, business organizations, and community groups across the state for meetings, events and classes.
  • Seattle’s First Latino Plaza. Plaza Maestas will be home to the first Latino plaza in Seattle, and will honor Latino cultural heritage and multiracial unity through design and art, and will fill the need for public gathering spaces for the Beacon Hill and El Centro communities.

For more detailed information, please refer the web site section titled Community Impacts.

Q:  What differentiates Plaza Roberto Maestas from other housing and transit-oriented projects?

A:  The Plaza Roberto Maestas development was selected for the 2013 Futurewise Livable Communities Award for its combination of affordable housing that leveraged public investment in transit and green building, while preserving Latino cultural traditions.  Futurewiseis a state-wide public interest group that works to promote sustainable and eco-friendly development.

Integrated Approach.  The Plaza has been called a model for the whole country for its process of development, which invited and incorporated input from the surrounding community, city and neighborhood planners, local businesses, and potential residents.  This resulted in a unique, integrated approach to housing, land use, environmental planning, public transportation, community infrastructure, and economic and workforce opportunities.

Meets Needs for Housing, Social Services and Transit.  For Plaza residents, the development is unique in its holistic and comprehensive approach.  Affordable housing will be integrated directly into the El Centro campus to provide residents direct access to our 44 programs and services.  While nearly all of the rental housing currently being built near the light rail station in Seattle is offered at the market rate, the Plaza housing is offered at rates affordable to low-to-middle-income workers and will be situated next to a high-capacity transit system, enabling residents to live in quality housing with direct access to economic opportunities and jobs.

Promotes Diversity and Community.  The Plaza will create an environment that nurtures daily interaction among people of diverse ethnicities and incomes, thereby strengthening the personal and civic bonds essential to creating an authentic community. In Seattle, Plaza Roberto Maestas is the only housing development featuring a plaza that honors Latino heritage and multi-racial unity.  El Centro de la Raza’s roots in Latino culture will add another layer of richness to the neighborhood’s existing diversity. The Plaza will promote Latino involvement in the business community and enable Latinos to live close to their jobs and neighborhood amenities, sending a powerful message that Latino people and Latino culture are valuable to our society. The input of the community has helped shape the design of Plaza Roberto Maestas, resulting in a development plan that serves the needs of El Centro, our clients and the broader Beacon Hill community.

Q:  How does Plaza Roberto Maestas contribute to El Centro’s vision for broadening its service to the community?

A:  Plaza Roberto Maestas enables El Centro de la Raza to meet a critical and growing need for rental housing that’s affordable for low-to-middle-income working families.  The Plaza will expand the reach of El Centro’s 44 programs and advocacy services and enable El Centro to serve even more community members who are in need in the areas of child and youth programs;  human and emergency services;education and skill-building programs; and community building and cultural programming.

Q:  How does the business plan address El Centro’s capacity to manage the new service areas that come with Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  El Centro de la Raza’s primary role will continue to be delivery of social services and community advocacy.  Plaza Roberto Maestas represents a continuation of El Centro’s asset management and development efforts, and will be administered in partnership with a third-party property management firm.

Q:  How does Plaza Roberto Maestas support the Latino community?

A:  As well as expanding the reach of existing social services provided by El Centro de la Raza, Plaza Roberto Maestas will be home to the first Latino plaza in Seattle and will honor Latino cultural heritage, multiracial unity, and the diverse communities El Centro and the Plaza serve.  The unique design features a staple of many Latin American countries, a central plaza that will serve as a hub for Latino cultural celebrations, and community and neighborhood festivals and gatherings.  Public Art will honor Latino heritage, and the diverse communities that have shaped El Centro, The Plaza and the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Q: How is El Centro funding the construction of Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A: The development is being funded through a mix of public funding that includes city, state and federal funding and private funding that includes equity funds, bank loans, foundation grants, and corporate and community donations. The development is 96 percent funded, with remaining funds being raised through the Capital Campaign.


Q:  When will Plaza Roberto Maestas be completed?

A:  Groundbreaking for Plaza Roberto Maestas is projected for Spring 2015 and construction is estimated to take 16 months.

Q:  How much will it cost to build Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  Construction and development will cost approximately $42 million.

Q:  How is El Centro funding the construction and development of Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  Funding is a mix of public funding that leverages state and city investment in transit and green building, and private funding that includes equity funds, bank loans, foundation grants, and corporate and community donations.  The development is 94 percent funded, with remaining funds being raised through the Capital Campaign.

Q:  What will happen to El Centro’s existing schoolhouse building that houses its current staff, programs and meeting spaces?

A:  El Centro’s existing building will remain in full use.  Plaza Roberto Maestas will enable El Centro to expand the reach of its 44 programs and to deepen its service to the community by increasing program capacity and the number of people served, as well as filling the critical need for rental housing that’s affordable to low-income workers in Seattle.


Q:  Will the units at Plaza Roberto Maestas be for sale?

A:  Plaza Roberto Maestas housing units are for rental only, and will not be for sale.

Q:  What are the qualification requirements for residents who will be living at Plaza Roberto Maestas?  Are the rental units open only to Latinos?

A:  The Plaza rental units are available to low-to-middle income individuals and families of all races and ethnicities who meet the income and other qualification requirements.  Requirements will be available through El Centro de la Raza upon request.

Q:  Who will occupy the retail and restaurant spaces at Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  The spaces will be occupied by local small businesses.   El Centro de la Raza will issue a Request for Proposals with requirements and specifications in late 2014, and interested businesses are invited to apply by submitting a proposal.


Q:  I heard there are Donor Bricks and a Donor Wall – what are those and how are they being used?

A:  If you’d like to support Plaza Roberto Maestas and have your name become a permanent part the outdoor plaza, we invite you to make a $250 gift for a brick or a $500 gift for a tile that will have your name inscribed on it.  Donors who gift $1,000 or more will be recognized by having their names inscribed on the plaza wall.  Your gift and name will honor the Plaza Roberto Maestas community for generations to come.

Q:  How may I make a donation to Plaza Roberto Maestas?

A:  Donations of all amounts will help senior citizens, veterans, children and families to live in affordable homes and will support self-sufficiency for low-income working individuals and families.  You may make a donation by going to the web site (plazarobertomaestas.org), clicking on the Donate Now button, and following the simple instructions.  It’s a short process and your donation will help make an important difference to the community now and for generations to come.

For more information, please contact:

Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza | 206.957.4605 | eortega@elcentrodelaraza.org

Stephen Deal, Capital Development Director | 206.957.4607 | stephendeal@elcentrodelaraza.org