Council finalizes plan to build Capitol Hill Station development to 85 feet in exchange for affordable housing

8544081730_0eabcefa7bThe Seattle City Council Monday afternoon approved legislation laying out a development agreement between Sound Transit and the City of Seattle for the land surrounding the under-construction Capitol Hill light rail station that will allow developers to build to 85 feet along Broadway in exchange for meeting affordable housing requirements.

The approval marks the fruition of a multi-year process lead by the city and a Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce-Capitol Hill Community Council joint venture to forge a consensus for how best to frame requirements for developing the 19 properties Sound Transit purchased along Broadway to construct Capitol Hill Station.

CHStation-TOD-area-600x467 (1)Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 4.19.32 PMThose properties now sliced into five parcels will be put up for the highest — and best — bidders later this year once the Sound Transit board approves the agreement — though hopes for much of the development to be complete by the time the first train pulls into Capitol Hill Station in 2016 seem increasingly dim.

Still, the agreement is looked upon as a triumph in City Hall and planning committee chair Richard Conlin said Monday that officials will look at the agreement as a template for future transit oriented development around Sound Transit projects.

Of the more than 400 apartment units possible across the five sites, the agreement sets groundwork for nearly 40% 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. The total could climb close to 50% if Site D is developed in conjunction with Seattle Central Community College as student housing.

In exchange, developers will be able to build above current height restrictions on the parcels — in some cases, the 85-foot limit will be 45 feet above current zoning. Projects will also be subject to a streamlined design review process that will be especially efficient should any developer end up working on multiple parcels under the agreement.

CHS detailed the agreement’s particulars here as the plan took shape late last year.

The next community push for inclusion in the process, it seems, will come as the formal “request for qualifications” begins later this fall and potential bidders and their plans are assessed.

In addition to the affordability requirements, officials also tout a few more progressive milestones reached in the Capitol Hill process. Access to a quasi-public plaza that could be utilized by a year-round Broadway Farmers Market is required by the agreement — though the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance is not specified by name in the documents. A provision for the possible creation of a community center in the project is included. The development agreement, Conlin said, also represents the first time the City of Seattle has set a parking maximum for a development — the projects must keep the parking to living unit ratio below 0.7. It will also, Conlin added, require the creation of parking for more than 260 bicycles.

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23 thoughts on “Council finalizes plan to build Capitol Hill Station development to 85 feet in exchange for affordable housing

  1. Wow, that should cast a very lovely shadow over Cal Anderson Park. No doubt the upper floors will not be for the “affordable housing” portion. This is another clear sign of how much the City Council of Seattle only cares about $$$ in hand. Someday they look back and ask why do we have that super tall building in the middle of everything else? Greed…..

    • @michael: The sun usually shines from the south, not the NW. An eight maybe nine story building is nothing, look around, there’s a five story building across E John which has been there for quite a few years.

    • Any multi-story building on the plot south of Denny will shade the north end of the park on summer evenings, but of course the sun is setting at that point anyway so probably not a big impact.

  2. It it absolutely wonderful that affordable houosing will abut the park. Very few opportunities exist for this to occur in a major metropolitan area. Even if a luxury building went in, which is doubtful, the proximity to the park is a unique opportunity to create an urban community. Affordable does not have to be ugly however, and the design board should do its due diligence.

  3. Michael, if these buildings to the north of Cal Anderson cast a shadow over the park, we’ve got a lot more to worry about than tall buildings. Here in the PNW, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. And btw, there’s probably a link to a “shadow study” somewhere amid the myriad of steps Justin has covered about this process. But that would require actual work on your part.

  4. This is heading, as I was afraid it would, towards an architectural disaster. It was bad enough when a 6 story building is allowed next to the diminutive, one-story light rail entrance, but now an 85 foot building will overwhelming it! And then there was all of the discussion in public meetings about light and shadow casting on the interior “public” space to say nothing about the impact on the Broadway side. Not only was that brushed aside, but the decision was to make the issue worse. Next, the decision to break down the development into parcels with the potential of 5 different designs reduces the possibility of a unified architectural statement on the east and west side. When you look around at the quality of most developer created multifamily developments now under construction or recently built, it is easy to see how this site, with so much potential, will turn out to be not only a dog, but a big dog.

  5. I’m all for well-done urban planning and architecture, but surely there are worse things to worry about than a building being tall. Goodness, we live in a growing city- relax and move to the suburbs if you can’t handle it. Make it tall, make it small- whatever, but please open the damn light rail station as quickly as possible. Please.

  6. “Affordable Housing”.
    Always worth a giggle when I read that. Hmmm…$30,000. I’ve not met many service industry workers who make that much. I do know many who make minimum wage, though.

  7. We already have an 11 story building near the very top of Capitol Hill (Capitol Park apartments) and you don’t hear people complaining about it’s height. It’s not even near a retail/transit core! 85 feet on Broadway is nothing.

  8. Is that a rendering of the final design? Towering, non-descript, blocky gray walls?? Really, this is the best the designers – with community input – can do???

    At least it’s comforting to see a couple token trees out front…

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  10. These are all great reasons for Seattle to approve the referendum in November electing city council-members by districts rather than at-large. This way, they will all be responsible to people in reality, not the abstract!

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