CHS Year in Review 2011 | Most important Capitol Hill stories of 2011

How will we remember 2011 on Capitol Hill? It’s a fair bet that many of the things that seem important today won’t be remembered a few years from now. We’ve also been doing this long enough to have built a small historical record. Here are the round-ups from recent years:

You’ll note plenty of examples of news from the past that have faded into forgotten history. Below, we’ve once again collected the “most important” Hill stories of the year. They are listed in no particular order though some of the year’s biggest stories are included up top. We based our “importance” measurement on stories that were viewed and commented on the most during the year. We also took a look at which stories our readers spent the most time on over the months of 2011. As usual, it’s an arbitrary list. Even more arbitrarily, we selected what we feel were the biggest stories for a poll that you can weigh in on. Poll closes the night of January 1st. If you think there is a story we should have included but didn’t, let us know in comments. Thanks for being part of another memorable year at CHS. Happy 2012.

Looking for something to do to ring in 2012? Here’s our list of Capitol Hill NYE 2012 festivities.

You can also check out more of our 2011 Year in Review: The year Capitol Hill Food+Drink broke | 2011’s 30 most-commented posts | Hill Style Top 10 | The year in development (next week!)

Most important Capitol Hill stories of 2011

  • Tunneling for the Capitol Hill subway began. And sometimes there were surprises at the surface.
  • Separate from the excitement of building the light rail line, an important process to define how the area around the Broadway station will be developed began in 2011. Though its impact won’t likely be felt until 2016, this is the yearthe Capitol Hill Light Rail Station Sites Urban Design Framework was born.
  • The First Hill streetcar route was (mostly) set.
  • The March murder of Zachary Lewis — horribly beaten to death and left in the empty lot that will someday be a park at Federal and Republican — was never solved.
  • On First Hill, Dr. Louis Chen was charged with murder in the grisly August stabbing deaths of his partner and 2-year-old son inside their 17th-floor apartment. Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty in legal proceedings that will re-start with the New Year.
  • There was only one moment where it really got out of hand. The pepper spray-dusted brawl that ensued in the middle of Broadway as cops and pissed-off protesters clashed outside the oft-targeted Chase bank was easily the darkest moment of Occupy Seattle’s six-week stay on Capitol Hill starting on Halloween weekend. Sure, the Occupy presence was, at times, a messy, frustrating distraction. Add anarchists and, yeah, it got a little nuts sometimes. But, in the end, the camp left Seattle Central’s campus pretty much like the whole thing had never happened. And efforts like this showed that the movement holds some hope of inspiring change.
  • Construction of the “greenest” office building in the world, the $30 million-plus Bullitt Center, began on E Madison in August. After slapping down an attempt to block the project, the center is expected to be completed in late 2012.
  • Development and construction was definitely a defining characteristic of 2011 on the Hill. Here we documented simultaneous work underway on eight different area projects. We’ll take a look at the full year in development next week.
  • It was a peculiar year for Cal Anderson. The park experienced a safety crackdown inspired by one Capitol Hill woman’s complaints and a few nasty incidents. And then this happened.
  • A summer tragedy brought a community together as friends, loved ones and lovers remembered Vivace’s Brian Fairbrother. The bicycle crash also helped raise awareness and rally support for increasing safety for all modes of transportation around the city.
  • The awesome and awful power of social media hit home in Pike/Pine as the wrong guy was fingered for a crime of douchebaggery against a popular Cha Cha/Bimbos bartender.
  • The promoters behind the Capitol Hill Block Party have to be pleased. They finessed a hostile posse of local business owners, re-shaped the new three-day format, went super local with the line-up and still pulled the whole thing off.
  • A wave of cannabis dispensaries seemed to signal the start of a new era in drugs and medicine on Capitol Hill. But a late-year bust and wavering in Olympia sent fuzzy signals at best.
  • The big news wasn’t really Sonic Boom calling it quits after trying to make a go of it in a new location on Melrose Ave. It’s more about the bigger story — the struggles of retail on Capitol Hill.
  • Understatement: It was an unbelievable year in new restaurant and bar openings.
  • The Volunteer Park Cafe zoning battle put some of the long-term themes of CHS coverage on full display as it balanced out issues around a burgeoning entertainment scene on the Hill against literal not-in-my-backyard frustrations of residents. In 2011, the compromise was cemented and life can now move on.
  • A multi-year crime and courts story that enmeshed several in the Capitol Hill community came to a fizzling conclusion in 2011 as the prosecutor decided not to charge artist DK Pan on trumped up gambling allegations.
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