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Groundbreaking times two

Newcastle News of Newcastle, Washington

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Aegis Gardens, Atlas bring one-of-a-kind communities

History is one of Newcastle's greatest assets.

The Eastside suburb's story dates back more than 150 years, when it was the second largest town in King County. During that time, coal was king, and Newcastle had plenty of it.

That history was at the forefront of attendees' minds July 30, when nearly 300 people gathered in Newcastle to celebrate the groundbreaking of a unique Aegis Living retirement community.

Aegis Gardens, a luxury senior living community built for Chinese-American retirees, will sit on the shores of Lake Boren, not far, incidentally, from Newcastle's China Creek.

China Creek was so named for the Chinese mine and railroad workers who built small huts along the creek, away from the main mining camp in the late 1800s, according to Rich Crispo, a Newcastle Historical Society member and City Councilman.

"It's fitting that this facility is in Newcastle. Right here on this very ground is where the first Chinese immigrants came to our part of the world," King County Executive Dow Constantine said at the special groundbreaking ceremony.

Billed as the first project of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, Aegis Gardens is a 110-unit waterfront community sitting on a little more than seven acres.

The facility will offer the same high-quality assisted living and memory care that Aegis Living is known for with an added emphasis on the Chinese culture, which will be reflected in everything from the building's construction to the staff.

Chinese design aesthetics, the principles of Feng Shui and Northwest craftsmanship make up the elements incorporated in the facility's architecture.

Programming will include everything from celebration of Chinese holidays to sit-down Tai Chi classes. The resort-style community will also have a central Zen garden and a tearoom.

Additionally, Aegis Gardens will feature an activity center with daycare services. An amphitheater and movie theater will play host to civic activities, cultural exhibitions, music performances and lectures on the most recent scientific advances in eastern and western medicine.

"Our goal in building this community was not just to have a retirement community, but really a cultural epicenter for the Chinese community as a whole," said Aegis Living founder Dwayne Clark.

Based on recent U.S. Census figures, Clark said at least 75,000 Chinese-Americans live in King County, with many more residing in nearby Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Newcastle's Aegis Gardens is the company's second facility geared toward the Chinese culture. The first Aegis Gardens opened in Fremont, California more than a decade ago with much success.

With an occupancy rate at 100 percent, the Fremont location has shown that residents will travel miles, even several states away, to join such a specialized community, Michael Derr, Aegis Living's vice president of development, told the Newcastle News in 2013.

Prospective residents have already put down deposits, claiming 10 percent of the Newcastle facility's apartments.

Aegis Living doesn't usually have groundbreaking ceremonies, but the Newcastle Aegis Gardens event drew hundreds, including Newcastle City Council members and staff, at least one Bellevue City Council member, the King County Executive and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke.

Locke, who most recently served as the U.S. ambassador to China, praised the project and the impact it will have on the community both young and old.

"It truly will be, I think, a focal point for the Chinese American community on the Eastside and actually serve the needs of the Chinese community throughout the Puget Sound area," he said.

Aegis Gardens is slated to open in 2017. Learn more about the facility at

SolTerra's Atlas

Developers moved the first pieces of dirt July 29 at a site that will soon house a 98-unit, six-story apartment building in Newcastle.

SolTerra, a fast-growing design, build and services firm with the mission of creating sustainable, livable and innovative buildings, broke ground on Atlas, its first apartment project in the state.

Atlas, located behind the Newcastle Library, is a mixed-use LEED Platinum-designed building. LEED certification represents the premier mark of achievement in green building.

"This is going to be the first LEED Platinum mid-rise building on the entire Eastside," SolTerra co-founder Brian Heather said. "It's a really cool project that we're getting to bring to the community."

The building will include underground parking for residents and Newcastle Library patrons. There is 2,000 square feet for ground-floor retail space.

Atlas will feature lush green living walls, eco-roofs, a large storm-water retention facility, rooftop solar, and private and public roof terraces.

The building's design elements focus on sustain-ability. For example, the company says the anticipated energy use will be 30 percent less than typical new buildings built to state code.

"This new SolTerra project provides a beautiful, sustainable living space for our community," Mayor Steve Buri said. "The LEED design also raises the bar for what we might expect from future city development projects."

Additionally, the 9,100-square-foot eco-roof will help manage storm water; a living wall will absorb carbon emissfens and cool the building; and drought-tolerant landscaping with a high-efficiency irrigation system will reduce water demand for irrigation by 71 percent.

Each SolTerra project has a special touch. In Atlas, each unit will be equipped with bookshelves, a nod to the apartment building's neighbor.

"It's really going to help us fulfill our vision, our mission to help connect people to nature, create better community and urban environments, and just reduce our impact on the Earth," Heather said. "Those are the things that really drive us every day."

The new building is particularly interesting, because to date, single-family residential-type projects have dominated the city's development, City Manager Rob Wyman said.

"This is a first for us, and we are very, very excited," he said.

Atlas is set to be completed the summer of 2016. Learn more at

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Original Publication Date: August 7, 2015

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