A document that City of Seattle planners hope will be at the heart of an agreement with Sound Transit on the development plan for the Broadway light rail station is now complete — and while it doesn’t explicitly call out for the creation of a big gay hotel tower at Broadway and John, it does leave the door open to a building that could soar above the area’s zoned heigh limits and lays some of the groundwork for a development that includes a LGBTQ “civic center.”
“The revised UDF has stronger language regarding the desire for a LGBTQ community cultural center to be located within the redevelopment as well a greater emphasis on the importance of sustainable building practices,” city planner Vanessa Murdoch tells CHS.
We’ve posted about the process to draft the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station Sites Urban Design Framework over the past 6 months. The documentation of feedback from individuals and community groups will be used by the City Council as it forges and agreement on planning the 2+ acres of Broadway real estate Sound Transit will develop surrounding the light rail station.
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Murdoch said that most of the work in revising the document after its initial release has been strengthening the priorities around creating the community center as part of the development. “The LGBT idea was, basically, elevated from the “Other Good Ideas” level (of the UDF).”
An LGBTQ center is now a “Guiding Principle” of the document right up there with “affordable housing” and “sustainability.”
A Cultural Center and Community Space
Pursue the inclusion in the redevelopment of a community cultural facility that represents the history and evolving culture of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, including its prominent role as a center for LGBTQ culture and the arts.
The push for an LGBTQ community element in the Sound Transit development has been growing since the start of the station’s planning years ago. In October 2010, we wrote about efforts (Gay TOD: A vision for an LGBT center in Capitol Hill light rail station development) by the Greater Seattle Business Association to drive the idea forward.
With its potential for addressing some of the Hill’s art community space needs, the progress the 12th Ave Arts project has made over the summer has also helped make a focus on LGBTQ community space easier to build on. “There is more consensus growing around more specificity on the programming for a center with 12th Ave Arts making space for art,” Murdoch said.
A steering committee has been created “to explore programming needs and options for a LGBTQ civic center as well as to investigate the feasibility of locating such a center within the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station TOD,” according to the document. The committee is headed up by Jeff Kinney, a community member and transportation consultant at Parametrix.
I got involved in the civic center because it’s a momentous opportunity for Capitol Hill and for the LGBTQ people of Seattle. It can become a thriving place that embodies the values and spirit of the neighborhood, in addition to serving important social and economic functions for the community. I first took an interest in the civic center for a more practical reason, given my background in public projects and transportation planning. I wanted to help navigate the policies and processes that influence its success. Anyone interested in the LGBT civic center is welcome to contact me directly at email@example.com.
Murdoch says another push in the background of the process to shape the city’s priorities for the Capitol Hill light rail development is the push for greater height in the buildings. Unlike the LGBTQ civic center concept, there is no explicit portion of the UDF that prioritizes a taller building — greater height didn’t make it out of the previously mentioned “Great Ideas” section — but Murdoch acknowledged hearing feedback from many in the community who want to see the greatest possible density around Broadway Station and says the plan leaves the door open for a the creation of a possible 120-foot-building along Broadway.
“To go to 120 would be true departure,” Murdoch said. “There would need to be a re-zone but the UDF doesn’t preclude that.”
In the meantime, a request to “bump” the Broadway side of the project to 85 feet from 65 and the backside of the project from 45 to 65 feet could happen within the existing process of the city’s design review process as the heights would be “within the general character of multifamily.”
And what would fill that tower? If the UDF is established as the guide, “a significant amount of affordable housing,” a “highly transparent civic structure with offices and services,” and, if the experts are correct, a hotel. That’s the plan, anyhow.
The complete Capitol Hill Light Rail Station Sites Urban Design Framework is below. You can view the technical appendix here. Learn more at DPD: Capitol Hill Light Rail Immediate Station Area Planning