In 2012, CHS reported on the wave of new development re-shaping Capitol Hill and bringing with it a flood of new apartment units. Yet rents continued to rise. The urbanists said build more and build now. The slow growth camp said enough is enough — the only people who will benefit from the next seven-story building are the developers. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. 2013 in Capitol Hill development was a year to work out some of these tensions as development projects continued to be planned and started across the Hill while grassroots groups found some success in reining the most aggressively dense projects in. Meanwhile, battle lines were drawn over a renewed push for better preservation of Pike/Pine’s few remaining auto row buildings and affordability advocates laid the groundwork for major victories on 12th Ave, at 23rd and Union and in the heart of Broadway.
A look at the past year in Capitol Hill development is below.
Despite a flood of new apartment units entering the market in 2013 and 2012, Capitol Hill continued to chew up some of its most loyal, lovable residents and spit them out this year. Rents continued to soar in the city and especially on Capitol Hill as housing control became a legitimate political issue. The challenging trends hit buildings new and old. Meanwhile, it didn’t get any easier to buy a home (unaffordable to most residents already living on the Hill… with the rare exception) or buy a condo (seller’s market). Single-family home properties in zones transitioned to multifamily housing soared in value as developers looked to cash in on the demand. The tidal convergence left some residents asking, “What happened?” There was a house there this morning.
There were also signs of hope. Capitol Hill Housing’s project melding affordable apartments, theater space (and East Precinct parking), 12th Ave Arts completed its capital campaign and construction progressed following its February groundbreaking as the project moved toward its 2014 opening. Meanwhile, CHH also announced its plans to develop an affordable apartment building at 23rd and Union.
Those projects and a few more smaller examples, however, may be overshadowed in history by the finalization of a community driven development plan for the Sound Transit-owned land around the future Capitol Hill Station that will allow projects along this part of the Broadway core to soar to 85 feet in exchange for the creation of affordable apartment units in the buildings.
The affordability progress on Broadway didn’t come without a fight. For a time, Capitol Hill groups stirred up by the deep push of multifamily development to the borders of the area’s residential zones targeted the Broadway height to make a stand. That push was rebuffed. But while the slow growth movement couldn’t elect a mayor, it did help change the way Seattle selects its City Council. Groups focused on slowing down the rate of change on Capitol Hill also succeeded in laying groundwork to gum up the works around the densest of high-density development — the aPodment.
Even with the concerns about affordability on the Hill and in the city, Seattle was pressured to rein in development of one of the ultimate weapons of the “densinista” front. Community feedback — especially at middle of the work day City Council sessions — cried out for a change and for closing the loophole in the way Seattle handles the much-maligned and mostly laissez faire development process for the boarding-home style buildings.
While some were subject to design and environmental review, most were not. Along the way, CHS showed you what it looked like inside one of the mini-apartments to try to take some of the boogey man out of the debate. The result of the back and forth was a new set of rules proposed to regulate the microhousing industry. There is some irony, we suppose, as Reasonable Density Seattle will begin 2014 fighting the very legislation the group pushed for in 2013. Meanwhile, developers were nimble and creative — CHS reported on a wave of permitting for rowhouse/townhouse-style development cresting in the neighborhood to end the year.
Preservation incentives boosted Pike/Pine projects to epic proportions
While only one of the projects saw a shovel of dirt turned in 2013, much of the dirty work was done in 2013 to build some of the most massive developments Pike/Pine has ever seen. After a long fight over just how much preservation would be required for it to take advantage of the neighborhood’s generous “character building” incentives, a 250-unit project at 10th and Union forged a few compromises and won design approval after agreeing to “preserve” the old Davis Hoffman building. As construction began, however, it was revealed that developer Alliance was going to have to tear the old building down anyway given what was said to be its poor condition — and build it back up brick by brick to complete the planned development.
The crumbles for another Pike/Pine preservation /development behemoth were financial, not masonry. The giant 260-unit Pike Motorworks project underwent a re-start in 2013 as the developer’s funding window came and went and, fortunately for them, came again. The mixed-use project replacing the old BMW dealership was slated to begin demolition as the New Year approached.
Not many will miss the parts of the auto-row era buildings not incorporated in Pike Motorworks. The same cannot be said for the third gargantuan Pike/Pine development in our 2013 review. The gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts that began in 2012 with our first reports about a massive, neighborhood-changing project at Melrose and Pine continued into 2013 as the drama around rejected landmarks and ejected tenants played out. In 2013, the final redesign for the Bauhaus block was approved. Demolition and then construction will be a story in 2014 and into 2015. Bauhaus, someday, is slated to return to the corner as part of an eight-story, 200+ unit mixed-use development incorporating two old auto-row era buildings and tower over a block of E Pine at Melrose — with ample parking, naturally.
The continued utilization of the neighborhood’s preservation incentives for the most-incredibly giant — though not so incredibly tall — set the groundwork for further strengthening of the conservation program. Developers have balked. 2014’s year in development review will include an item or two about the battle over the new rules.
Meanwhile, even the most preservation-minded and Capitol Hill-local of developers set the stage for gigantism in Pike/Pine’s next wave of development. Hunters Capital acquired two E Pike auto row buildings in 2013 and intends to turn one of them into an eight-story showcase of preservation+development done right.
Other projects sought to expand the successful urban environment fostering so much growth in Pike/Pine. While some projects like this one at 12th and Pike that displaced a host of funky merchants are simply filing in, others are expanding the neighborhood’s development both in space and — stay with us, here — in time. First, the start of rumblings toward further development on the core E Pike area’s southern edge bubbled to the surface at Broadway and Union and in the Central Agency project driven by Capitol Hill legend Jerry Everard.
Another legend of Hill development began work on her effort to create a project expanding Pike/Pine’s growth into the non-nightlife daylight hours. Liz Dunn’s office building and mews project on 11th Ave broke ground in 2013 as the developer looked to complete her Piston Ring triptych. The project will add some 27,000 square feet of office and commercial space to the neighborhood — and only two penthouse-style apartments.
She won’t be alone. 2013 also brought the start of planning for redevelopment of the old REI building now home to Capitol Hill icons Value Village and the Stranger. That project — slated for a January 2014 start of the design review process — is being planned as a new Pike/Pine office building.
- The Bill’s Off Broadway building was also not a landmark.
- This E Madison victorian was also not a landmark.
- Hugo House? Not a landmark.
- The flood of new projects also means a flood of creative marketing — some of it more over the top than others.
- The Belroy got back to 80+ years of apartment living on Capitol Hill.
- Ada’s Technical Books transformed an old 15th Ave E house-style book shop.
- Construction began on a development melding a landmark Anhalt with a modern apartment building at 16th and E John.
- The demolition of the B&O happened in spring followed by the start of construction of the six-story apartment building that will replace it.
- Construction also began on this apartment building overlooking Dick’s Drive-In. Meanwhile, next door, the design for Hollywood Lofts on Broadway was approved.
- The Taco Time building on E Madison struggled through the design process.
- Capitol Hill’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral cathedral completed a construction project on hold for 80 years.
- Some Capitol Hill landowners got ahead of coming earthquake readiness mandates.
- A wave of development was started at Capitol Hill’s high-priced private schools. Frontrunner Northwest School’s new gymnasium (+theater +cafeteria +field) at Pike/Bellevue got a 2012 start — its debut will be a 2014 story.
- The Pine+Minor and 19th and Mercer buildings opened.