(Images: LMN Architects)
UPDATE 10/7/2015: The board voted Tuesday night to allow the expansion project to move forward to the Master Use Permit, or MUP, stage but the project’s city planning rep tells CHS there will be more opportunities for public feedback as the design and approval process plays out. At least two “recommendation” level design review meetings are expected along with the process related to street and alley vacations necessary to complete the expansion.
Original report: As the public review process rolls forward for the expanded Washington State Convention Center, a Capitol Hill community group is continuing to raise concerns that the project’s hurried pace is leaving out meaningful input from neighborhoods on a range of required public benefits.
For months, the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council has been pushing to insert Capitol Hill priorities into the public project with a $1.4 billion budget — a figure that exceeds the cost to build CenturyLink and Safeco Field combined.
“It’s almost as if there was another convention center being built in Seattle and they want to get theirs finished before it,” PPUNC chair John Feit told CHS.
Affordable housing, a transit hub, and creating open public space were just a few of ideas generated during an public open house in September. Some of the disconnect between community members and the Pine Street Group, which is managing the project for WSCC, may stem from differing views of how surrounding residents will interact with the project.
According to Pine Street principal Matt Griffin, the convention center is ultimately less about creating a destination for neighbors and more about patching over I-5. “
One of the most important things we can do for Capitol Hill is increase that pedestrian link between Capitol Hill and downtown,” he said.
But it’s likely the project will be asked to do more. Because of its scale, the project is also being managed by a Planned Community Development process in which this kind of once in a generation project may be planned in a unified process if public benefits including low-income housing, historic preservation, or public space are included. It’s rare for Seattle to see projects on this scale — the planned convention center expansion and a set of surrounding developments designed to accompany the project represent one of the few times the process has ever been undertaken.
An October 1st memo from DPD director Diane Sugimura documents five priorities for the WSCC is to consider as it utilizes the PCD process: