Sound Transit and the Seattle City Council have a deal that will lead to the creation of 85-foot-high, 400-unit mixed-use, transit-oriented developments surrounding the light rail Capitol Hill Station at Broadway and Denny. But first they want you to sign off on it.
Or, at least, attend a public meeting on the matter Monday night at Lowell Elementary.
When: Monday, September 24, 2012 06:00 PM – 08:00 PM
Where: Lowell Elementary School
What: Capitol Hill Station public meeting — Do you know what will be built above the Capitol Hill Station once the Red Wall comes down? Come learn the latest thinking on the future transit-oriented development — Monday, September 24 — 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. — Lowell Elementary School — 1058 East Mercer Street — Seattle, WA 98102
If you can’t attend but have something to say in support of the plan or to help push back on an out-of-whack element, you can send your comments by email:
Email project staff: CapitolHillTOD@soundtransit.org
Earlier this month, CHS documented most of the nooks and crannies of the agreement being forged between the city and the transit agency that will pave the way for Sound Transit to auction off property around the Capitol Hill light rail facility to the highest — most qualified — bidders. That qualification part is the catch. A community-driven “urban design framework” sits at the heart of the contract that will be signed by the city and Sound Transit. Those four years of community process and public input will help define what comes next for the more than 100,000 square-feet of Broadway property above the subway station. At market rates, the five sites — labeled in the diagrams presented in the plan as A, B-South, B-North, C, and D — will fetch Sound Transit upward of $40 million.
Monday night’s format is promised to be a combination of the town-hall style presentations and Q&As that Sound Transit employed early in its public process on Capitol Hill and the distributed, walk and talk “workshops” it and other civic organizations are using more and more frequently. The goal, we’re told, is to gather feedback and educate the community prior to taking the agreement to a vote of the City Council. You can expect more, higher-stakes “feedback” as the Council process plays out, too.
Here are issues and opportunities we’ll be monitoring Monday night:
- Height: Allowing the project to go to 85 feet high on all sides will help make getting involved with the project more desirable for developers while leaving room for developments to pencil out even with space left for a market plaza and, possibly, a community center. But the change could rankle some with the possibility of opening the doors to a building 45 feet higher than what is currently legal on the 10th Ave E side. Others, meanwhile, will ask why the developments above a key transit hub can’t be built even higher.
- Affordable housing: Of the more than 400 units planned across the five sites, the agreement currently calls for 36% to achieve the city’s affordable housing mark — 50% of the area’s median income, or around $30,000 per year for a one-person household. It’s a mix not unlike other developments in the area. But those developments were shaped by pure market opportunities. With an opportunity to more deeply define the playing field, it’s possible some will ask the city to do more.
- Quasi-public space: The plan creates a central plaza above the station that will likely be the future home of the Broadway Farmers Market. It will be accesible, likely, via open walkways connecting through the new buildings to the surrounding streets. The plaza and the walkways will, however, be on private property. The agreement will call for the spaces to be open to the public 16 hours a day. How this is finally shaped could be the difference in the success or failure of the features as a public asset. It could also create yet another flashpoint for free speech First Amendment issues on the Hill.
- Community center: The current agreement will award “points” in the bidding process to developers that include a plan for incorporating a community center space in their plans. But it doesn’t define what a community center is. A City of Seattle report recommended an LGBTQ center for the site. Can more be done to shape this part of the agreement with Sound Transit?
- Retail: Does Broadway need another 45,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space? Discuss.
- Site D: The opportunity wrapped up in Site D could be what pushes the needle for the entire mix of future projects from got-it-done to model-for-the-future. Seattle Central Community College could put the property to use a student housing tower utilizing its major institution zoning. You might want to ask about it.
- Parking: With the station box below, there’s not much room, anyhow. But, yes, you might thank planners for an agreement that leaves some wiggle room to developers. Or not. Sound Transit policy, by the way, dictates there will be no parking for transit riders.
- Nagle and Denny: Denny becomes a “festival street” meaning it can be blocked off and combined with the new plaza for big events. Yay for that. Nagle, on the other hand, is extended all the way to John but is being given a maintenance framework with nothing in the agreement regarding enhancing the street. Meanwhile there is a plan for giving 10th Ave E a green makeover. While its adjoining and not directly connected to the Sound Transit parcels, this agreement might be a good time for a line item helping to turn Nagle between Pine and Denny into something other than the backside of Broadway buildings it is now.
Following the September 24th community meeting, a host of public process follows including a possible series of public hearings on the agreement before the City Council can give the deal its stamp of approval. The “request for qualifications” call is planned to go out to start the new year. Further into the future, the public process will start again with a simplified design review allowing community input on the designs brought forward by winning bidders. The near-term schedule is below. For all of the fine print and nuts and bolts, this time, we’ve embedded the 15-page Draft Term Sheet. You can review all the Capitol Hill Station transit oriented development documents here.
The goal is to have deals locked up by 2014 so construction can start in time to have the new buildings open for the start of light rail service on the new line when planned operations begin in late 2016.