A Capitol Hill ‘champion’ leaving the neighborhood after more than a decade of development

Only weeks after announcing one of its most ambitious developments yet, Capitol Hill Housing’s Betsy Hunter says she is leaving the non-profit housing developer to take a job in Oregon. Damn you, Oregon. Damn you.

Here’s the announcement on the move sent out Wednesday by Hunter, CHH’s real estate development head:

Friends – 

I am writing with the news that after 12 great years at Capitol Hill Housing, I am moving forward to pursue a new adventure. 

I am moving to Oregon to work as the Development Director for a small housing authority, offering my skills to enhance their growth.  This is a great move for me personally.  I look forward to the sort of perspective that only change can bring.  I love Seattle and may be back.  But not before I roll up my sleeves and do my best in my new post.


I’ve been enriched by the Seattle affordable housing community.  I so appreciate this industry full of smart, creative, ethical people who are our developers, architects, builders, bankers, and hardworking public servants.  And I’ve been so lucky to have worked in the Capitol Hill community with its advocates for everything I value in an urban village: neighborhood character, density, income diversity, and transit.  I will draw every day on the lessons I’ve learned from you in my new work.

CHH has never been stronger.  We have great development capacity, a financially sound organization, and are working toward goals that will make Capitol Hill and Seattle a better place.  I’m proud to be leaving at a time when CHH is set to embrace the future.

I’ll be at CHH through the end of July.  We’ll be hosting a happy hour as the time approaches and will spread the word.  I hope you can stop by. 

Betsy

Betsy Hunter, Chief Real Estate Development Officer

Capitol Hill Housing

CHH recently announced an agreement with the City of Seattle to develop the $38 million 12th Ave Arts mixed-use project on the lot currently home to East Precinct’s SPD parking lot.

In addition — or part and parcel — to her role with CHH, Hunter was active in community development discussions including her work to help shape the Capitol Hill Champion group joint venture between the Hill’s chamber of commerce and its community council. The Champion is working to represent community priorities for the coming development of the Sound Transit light rail station at Broadway and Denny.

It’s challenging to quantify Hunter’s influence on the past decade of development on and around Capitol Hill. Since she joined the group in 1999, Capitol Hill Housing has helped shape many of the largest affordable developments around the neighborhood including the $15 million Broadway Crossing development and the $10 million Pantages Apartments. You can see the roster here. We asked Hunter for some perspective as she prepares to leave Capitol Hill, her home for more than 20 years.

I understand CHH thinks they have plan to replace you but I’m not sure who in the community can help fill the gap? Are there individuals you can name who you think might be able to step up?

This neighborhood is ALL about the community – it’s why I’ve lived here for 20 years.  Political leaders call this a “YIMBY” neighborhood: ‘YES in My Back Yard!’  This is largely because we’ve kept a coalition together that shares a unified vision for our future.  People involved in the CHampion, for example, include residents like Cathy Hillenbrand and Mike Kent, business owners like Chip Ragen and Mike Mariano, and organizational/institutional leaders like Michael Wells and Paul Killpatrick.  How great is that??  We go to the Mayor, to City Council, to the County Executive, to national transportation funders, with one voice.  It’s very powerful, and it’s happening already.

What are you proudest of from your efforts at CHH?

Three main categories:

a.  Preserving existing buildings while increasing the number of apartments affordable to “regular folks” here on the Hill: As you just highlighted yesterday, we restored the Pantages house and built a total of 49 apartments that celebrated the old building.  And at the Holiday Apartments, we bought an ugly old ill-performing building and gave it a major energy and aesthetic makeover.  We didn’t have to tear these buildings down to provide 79 great apartments for people on the Hill.

b.  Partnerships: at Broadway Crossing, we showed a national retailer along with public and private lenders that we could successfully put two users together on a shared piece of land to the benefit of the community and make it cost-efficient.  I think we have lots more opportunities there: with private developers, with SCCC and Seattle U, with major employers.  It’s a great way to develop in our urban village.

c.  Community advocacy: we’ve worked hard at CHH to make sure stakeholders here can gain access to the powers that be.  On 12th Avenue, on Broadway’s TOD site, and most recently with arts leaders at the police lot – we have been helping to ensure that this neighborhood maintains its character, its diversity, its uniqueness.  I’m proud of that.

What do we — Capitol Hill — need to know about how to shape our community going forward? Surely you’ve reached some kind of healthily detached perspective now that you’ve made the decision! Illuminate us!

Keep the faith.  Keep lobbying leaders.  Keep working hard.  This is a great place and it is because of the people who roll up their sleeves to effect change.

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8 thoughts on “A Capitol Hill ‘champion’ leaving the neighborhood after more than a decade of development

  1. Betsy is one of the best – her community sphere is wide and deep and strong and she has never flagged in sticking up for Capitol Hill’s best interests. I admire her so much and wish her well.

  2. for your friendship and mentorship at these past 5 years. I treasure your deep understanding and commitment to this neighborhood. I expect to see you at the grand opening of the Capitol Hill Station!

  3. I will never forgive Eugene, Oregon for this. Betsy is a true Capitol Hill Hero, she’s made such a positive change for so many people here in our hood. I wish her all the best, she deserves it.

    Stii, my hostility towards Eugene, Oregon knows no bounds.

  4. Capitol Hill is an immeasurably better place because of Betsy Hunter. We’ll miss her – but can only hold onto the fact that another community will be enriched due to her efforts. Good luck Betsy!

  5. I myself much prefer Capitol Hill to Eugene, where I have also lived. Although I am sorry to see Betsy Hunter leave (my) wonderful neighborhood, good for Eugene and best to Betsy Hunter!

  6. There’s probably no other single person who has done as much in recent years to keep Capitol Hill a vibrant and inclusive neighborhood. She will be sorely missed. Don’t go! Come back!

  7. Capitol Hill housing is the coolest and I know it still will be but man oh man, I am going to miss Betsy. Wishing you all the best in Eugene.

  8. Sad–I thought she’d be around forever. Thanks for what you’ve done here and Oregon is very lucky to have you.