Sound Transit ready to select developer for Capitol Hill Station retail+housing sites — UPDATE: ‘Master Developer’

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station "site A" from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station “site A” from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

SiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1The multi-site retail and housing project that will surround the Capitol Hill light rail station between John and Denny will be one of Broadway’s defining features for decades to come. Now it’s time to find out who gets to build it.

After having nearly six months to score bid proposals from four development teams, Sound Transit is expected to announce the winning developers this week. The four-site project will include 100,000 square feet of “transit oriented development,” including housing, commercial, and community spaces.

The winning developer team will need to be confirmed by the Sound Transit Board, which is expected to happen at this Thursday’s meeting.

UPDATE 1:28 PM: Sound Transit has announced that Portland-based Gerding Edlen Development’s bid as a “master developer” for all properties has ranked highest in the selection process. Plans call for 418 apartments with 38 percent of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A third of the units will have at least two bedrooms.

Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites, not including the affordable housing site. According to the 262-page bid document, construction for Site A is slated to start around summer 2016 and last through August 2017.

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

In a win for neighborhood activists, the developer plans to include space for a community center and daycare with subsidized rates, and signaled its intention to sign a 24-year lease with the Broadway Farmers Market. Letters of intent from the farmers market and Bright Horizons were included in the winning bid packet, as was a proposal for a LGBTQ office space called OutSmart Co-working.

On the retail side, Gerding says it heard the neighborhood’s calls for smaller storefronts to accommodate local independent shops and will include such spaces in the project. The developers are also seeking an anchor tenant for a larger space, and are already in talks with “a northwest-based neighborhood grocer interested in expanding operations to Seattle.”

Plans for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Gerding says it plans to work closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to select a retail broker and future tenants.

Seattle architecture firms Hewitt and Schemata Workshop were both tapped by Gerding to help design the buildings, which will be subject to a streamlined design review process.

“This development will be a neighborhood asset for decades to come,” said Sound Transit Board member and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement. “As a centerpiece of the Broadway business district, with affordable housing, a farmers market and a daycare, this proposal envisions a community for all to enjoy.”

The project’s affordable housing building, Site B-North, was intended to be developed and run by a nonprofit housing organization, but Gerding’s nonprofit partner pulled out from the project last year. Gerding says it intends to find another nonprofit partner to run the site.

Scenarios for leasing and purchasing the two acre Broadway property were both included in Gerding’s bid document. Sound Transit has valued the properties at $25 million. Contract negotiations are expected to last through the end of the year.

Framework for the plaza that could be home to the Broadway Farmers Market (Image: Gerding Edlen)

Framework for the plaza that could be home to the Broadway Farmers Market (Image: Gerding Edlen)

"We will ask the Chamber to participate in discussions about retail uses and help us connect directly with local Capitol Hill retailers who may have an interest in locating onto the site." (Image: Gerding Edlen)

“We will ask the Chamber to participate in discussions about retail uses and help us connect directly with local Capitol Hill retailers who may have an interest in locating onto the site.” (Image: Gerding Edlen)

Site B South (Image: Gerding Edlen)

(Image: Gerding Edlen)

We’ve added the full Gerding Edlen proposal at the end of this post.

Original report: In addition to the selection announcement, Sound Transit officials said details of the winning proposals will also be released ahead of Thursday’s vote. It will be the first time the public gets to see plans from any developer that competed for the project — an especially significant moment for one community group that has spent years trying to shape the project around a set of neighborhood priorities.

“I’m so nervous this week,” said Cathy Hillenbrand, former chair of the Capitol Hill Champion group, who worked on the community priorities to shape the project for six years leading to this week’s announcement.

The released proposal should also answer some longstanding questions on the future of the TOD project and how it gets built.

Among the biggest questions is if the properties will be built by one master developer or if the sites will be divvied up to multiple developers. Sound Transit left open the possibility of both arrangements in its request for proposals last year. The four finalists and what sites they’re bidding for include:

  • Capitol Hill Housing – Site B North
  • Gerding Edlen – Master developer for all sites
  • Jonathan Rose Companies/Capitol Hill Housing – Master developer for all sites
  • Lowe Enterprises – Sites A, B-South, and C

One wrinkle in the list is that Capitol Hill Housing is the only nonprofit entity vying to develop Site B North, a property reserved for affordable housing that is supposed to be developed by a nonprofit housing organization. Gerding’s nonprofit housing partner, Bellwether Housing, pulled out from the project last year.

Another question mark is how the winning developer will incorporate a community space into the project. The Champion has voiced strong support for including a community space into one of the sites. Others want to see an LGBTQ center to welcome light rail passengers as they enter Capitol Hill Station.

"Work will continue throughout 2015 to complete the University of Washington Station in preparation for the start of U Link service in early 2016. This photo, taken last fall, shows track work underway at the station. The 3.15-mile U Link line connects the UW to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle." (Image: Sound Transit via Flickr)

“Work will continue throughout 2015 to complete the University of Washington Station in preparation for the start of U Link service in early 2016. This photo, taken last fall, shows track work underway at the station. The 3.15-mile U Link line connects the UW to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle.” (Image: Sound Transit via Flickr)

One or more of the developers represented at this 2014 forum will build the TOD site. (Image: CHS)

One or more of the developers represented at this 2014 forum will build the TOD site. (Image: CHS)

The plan for affordable housing on the site is another issue that will be closely scrutinized by community groups. Developers were allowed to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above the minimum affordable housing requirements.

Given Sound Transit’s in-depth bid requirements, the proposal could also offer far more design details than would ordinarily be available this early in the building process.

Whichever team is selected, it will still be significantly limited in how far it can deviate from developer requirements hammered out over the last decade. Sound Transit and the city have already determined how the buidlings will be arranged , their rough size, and generally how each building will function. Even more specific programming details, like the inclusion of a space for the Broadway Farmers Market, were further defined in the community-forged Development Agreement.

Site A, Main Station Block, 118 Broadway East

  • 46,487square feet
  • Mixed-use required
  • Minimum residential unit count–132 including MFTE requirement

Site B-North, Main Station Block, 923 East John Street

  • 15,878 square feet
  • Affordable housing restricted, 100% total units
  • Minimum residential unit count–86
  • No retail

Site B-South, Main Station Block, 123 10th Avenue East

  • 15,459 square feet
  • Minimum residential unit count–85 including MFTE requirement
  • No retail

Site C, South Station Entrance, 1830 Broadway

  • 17,683 square-feet
  • Mixed-use required
  • Minimum residential unit count–94 including MFTE requirement

7981074701_7b6094cec1_o-600x416Even with the developer selected, it will still be a long road to a construction start date. Negotiations to purchase or lease the property could last through the end of the year. Once the final lease is approved by the Federal Transit Administration, the developer team will still need to work through the city’s permitting and design view process, which is expected to last well into next year. Sound Transit has targeted the end of 2017 for final project completion.

A fifth parcel, Site D, will also be part of the final TOD project, but is being reserved for Seattle Central College to exercise a right-of-first-refusal to develop.

The selected developer team will be taking part in a public meeting on May 16th, co-hosted by the Capitol Hill Champion and Sound Transit.

Meanwhile, the $1.8 billion light rail extension connecting downtown to the University of Washington under Capitol Hill is expected to open for service by early 2016. Sound Transit forecasts that by 2030, there will be 14,000 boardings a day at Capitol Hill Station. The transit oriented development around the station on Broadway could add as many as 400 apartments to the site.

UPDATE: While there will be opportunities for the community to weigh in on the individual projects in the proposal as they move through design review, there is an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal as a whole as Sound Transit’s board votes on the matter Thursday. You can provide comments in person (public comment is listed on the agenda early in the Thursday, 1:30 PM session) or via email to emailtheboard@soundtransit.org. Sound Transit provides more information about its public comment process here.

Sound Transit Board Meeting
April 23, 2015
1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom
401 S. Jackson St.

UPDATE: Here is the top-ranked proposal for the property:

Sound Transit Combined – Redacted_Redacted – CROW

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24 thoughts on “Sound Transit ready to select developer for Capitol Hill Station retail+housing sites — UPDATE: ‘Master Developer’

  1. This development will completely change the character of the neighborhood and will create a true heart to Cap Hill. My only gripe with the renderings is that the buildings could use some more architecturally interesting designs. Given that this is public money, though, I’m happy with whatever we can get and understand that function is more important than aesthetics. I just hope that the developer does try to incorporate some public art to the public space.

    • Andy, it’s actually not public money – the developer is spending their own money to create this project, and paying Sound Transit for the opportunity to do so.

      Renderings are just that – renderings. It’s an idea, a concept. This process was very cumbersome and the design had to be moved along very aggressively in order to meet the requirements of Sound Transit’s proposal request, HOWEVER, all of this still needs to go through Design Review. That means that the development team will be flushing out details like this for a long time. Projects like this, especially in Capitol Hill, receive a lot of feedback at Design Review meetings, and I have no doubt that there will be lots of tweaks and changes before anything moves forward.

    • Hey, that thing’s fine by me. One less potential shipping-container facade is always welcome. It looks like it’d be a fun place to live, rather than a dull, monolithic box to house a couple hundred television sets and their attendant workerbees. If we end up in the sixties for designs that we want to live in, so be it.

    • I like a building with balconies. Real balconies, that you can put furniture on. None of that “juliet balcony” business.

    • I agree. The teeny balconies have become so prevalent because they count as “open space” and allow developers to build closer to the property lines. They’re useless for the residents, and negatively impact the aesthetics of a building.

  2. This is VERY exciting for our neighborhood. Gerding Edlen seems to have some great ideas….a community center, subsidized daycare, co-working office, smaller retail spaces, and a retail “bazaar” for startup businesses (reminiscent of the old Broadway Market before QFC moved in). It’s unfortunate that Capitol Hill Housing didn’t get the site B-north, but perhaps Gerding Edlen will bring them in as a partner for that all-affordable building.

    I wonder how often the Farmer’s Market will operate…..if not daily (my hope), at least more than just Sundays.

    • Definitely agree that the Farmer’s Market should be open at least a few days per week, not just one. Doesn’t make sense to create such a prominent spot for the market and then only have it there 1/7th of the time. More like Pike Place and Melrose Market. Also, LOVE that they are including smaller retail spots.

  3. What’s the point of the mid-block passage when Denny is being turned into a festival street and Nagel Place will be pedestrian oriented?

    • Why not? It keeps market visitors from having to cram in from one end of the block or the other. It will help reinforce the impression that this is a public space, not a private courtyard for apartment residents. A free-breathing pedestrian space is also good for exposure of businesses not located in end spots.

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  6. The obsession with the farmers market is puzzling. There’s ample space to put it on once a week but they insisted on a ‘plaza’ for that purpose. That space will sit unused like an empty rink for the rest of the week. Don’t be fooled by the pretty pictures of hordes of people congregating there (for what?). Even more confusingly, they’re putting up a market hall right next to it!? What the heck?

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