Across ‘the I-5 canyon’ from Capitol Hill, Convention Center expansion plans take shape

(Image: LMN Architects)

(Image: LMN Architects)

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 11.33.48 AM

Sometime after the planned start of construction in 2017, you’ll have a new view of things from Plymouth Pillars Park (Image: LMN Architects)

The next wave of design review board sessions to matter most for Capitol Hill will cover projects that aren’t on Capitol Hill. We’ll focus on the biggest — by far — first as the design plans to shape the $1 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center are slated to get their first public review next Tuesday, May 19th.

With the first review focused on “context” and “urban design analysis,” here’s how the project’s planners are illustrating the proposed buildings will fit into the connective area just over the “I-5 canyon” from Capitol Hill. “The WSCC Addition project has the opportunity to stitch the adjacent neighborhoods together with a similar blend of street level activities, making the proposed facility an intergral (sic) player in the richness and identity of this urban setting,” the planners write.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 11.44.05 AMHere’s how LMN Architects describes the convention center’s expansion:

The proposal is to apply for Master Use Permits for development of a convention center addition on a site consisting of 3 blocks: Site A: 1600 9th Avenue, Site B: 920 Olive Way, and Site C 1711 Boren Avenue, that will collectively form the proposed Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition Project. The 3 block site is bounded by Howell Street to the north, Pine Street to the south, 9th Avenue to the west, and Boren Avenue and I-5 to the east. Terry Avenue and Olive Way divide the site on the interior. Street and alley vacations will be required for this project.

The proposal tackles some specific “urban design” problems you might be familiar with from your walks up or down the Hill. For Pine from Capitol Hill, for example, the planners say their proposal will “bridge the gap between Capitol Hill and downtown” and “capture both the dynamic granular character of the Capitol Hill and the large-scale civic character of Downtown. It will also, “encourage pedestrian activity through urban streetscape amenities,” naturally.

The future view from Pine (Image: LMN Architects)

The future view from Pine (Image: LMN Architects)

Here are some more of the “opportunities”documented in the proposal neighbors around Capitol Hill, First Hill, and beyond might be interested in:

  • Engage in meaningful dialog with the adjacent landmarks of the former Camlin Hotel and Paramount Theatre
  • Create a transition in scale between Downtown and Capitol Hill
  • Fill in the corner of Pine Street and Boren Avenue to complete the urban block
  • Shorten the bridge over I-5
  • Take advantage of the exposure created by the I-5 canyon and site topography to create a meaningful addition to the Downtown skyline
  • Contribute to the evolving character and increasing density of the transitioning neighborhood
  • Promote Olive Way as a desirable pedestrian connection across I-5 connecting Capitol Hill to Downtown
  • Create a prominent corner at the edge of I-5
  • Bridge the gap between First Hill and South Lake Union
  • Fill in the corner at Pine Street and Boren Avenue to complete the urban fabric
  • Improve Boren Avenue as a pedestrian connection

And, of course, keep Seattle competitive in the convention biz: “Washington State Convention Center has had to turn away more than 300 conventions in the past five years,” KIRO reports.

CHS wrote here about the massive project and some of the Capitol Hill-driven initiatives being pushed for inclusion as the blocks between the Hill and downtown are reimagined and rebuilt. This rendering from LMN doesn’t appear in the early review materials but will give you an idea of the end goal — that’s Pine you’re looking at:Screen-Shot-2015-03-02-at-10.45.15-AM-600x402

The proposed structure would encompass the land along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today. The WSCC has already acquired $56.5 million worth of land between 9th and Boren, and Howell and Olive Way that had been home to a car dealership (and will be used as parking in the meantime). In March, the county condemned the last piece of private property needed to be acquired for the expansion. The Convention Center is currently “in negotiations” to acquire the transit center land from the county for its expansion.

The numbers behind the expansion are impressively large:

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 11.32.29 AMCONVENTION CENTER PROGRAM
5 stories above grade
2 stories below grade

  • 250,000 SF of Exhibition Space*
  • 120,000 SF of Meeting Space *
  • 70,000 SF of Ballroom Space*
  • 280,000 SF of Lobby & Circulation*
  • 510,000 SF of Support Spaces*
  • 500-800 Parking Stalls*
  • 200,000 SF of Loading Area*
  • Street-Level Retail & Restaurants

All of the * starred items are “approximate” measurements, the architects note.

Two additional parcels north of Olive Way are also shown in the massing renderings with representations of the developments the WSCC is hoping to pursue. Those projects would go through separate review processes. “Potential Residential or Commercial co- development with street level uses is being studied for feasibility,” the proposal notes.

According to the proposal document, the Department of Planning and Development has requested for the Convention Center components of the reviews to go through multiple “early design guidance” sessions. The first session next Tuesday will focus on “the applicant’s context and urban design analysis for this large and significant project,” according to LMN.

920 Olive Way

Design Review Early Design Guidance application proposing a 5 level exhibition and meeting room facility, with retail at grade, 800 parking spaces and associated loading docks within the structure. (Washington State Convention Center Expansion).

View Design Proposal(17 MB)

Review Meeting
May 19, 2015 7:00 pm

City Hall

600 5th Ave
Bertha Landes Room
Review Phase
EDG–Early Design Guidance
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19 thoughts on “Across ‘the I-5 canyon’ from Capitol Hill, Convention Center expansion plans take shape

  1. Really wish this project did more to ‘lid’ I-5, similar to the way the rest of the convention center does.

    • Agreed. PUT A LID ON I-5 with a Park!!!! Will cut down on noise and air pollution. More green space for us all.

      • If you agree – please submit public comment to PRC@seattle.gov requesting that the design review board consider a LID over I-5 as overall design and siting of the convention center. I see this as a once in a life-time opportunity to cover the chasm that is I-5.
        Project numbers to reference in your email: Projects #30318096 (920 Olive Way) and #3020176 (1600 9th Ave)

      • Please don’t let pass the opportunity to expand freeway park over I5. How can they not see the enormous benefits to our city of this park as part of the CC? To NOT lid– an INCREASE in (canyon like reflected) freeway noise, the visual ugliness of the I5 scar, the awkwardness and danger of pedestrian flow. Our city and its CC should be a sought after destination, and these plans sure don’t look like that is being created.

  2. What is especially disappointing is the fact that the one of the only benefits of the I-5 chasm is the views of downtown that you get at you approach downtown from Capitol Hill, and all of the massing studies show these views being totally squashed with a truly enormous box of a building. If past projects from this client & architect collaboration are any indicator of the urban design quality of this project (see WSCC bridge over Pike Street), Capitol Hill would be getting a very raw deal: no lidding of I-5, squashed pedestrian views of downtown, and a building of massive scale that is somehow incorporating “urban streetscape amenities.” From a public, non-profit institution, we should demand much better.

    • That is what immediately struck me as well. That massive structure is removing the view of DT from Pine. Not only does it remove an amenity, it completely walls off Capitol Hill losing any sense of connection from DT North.

      I don’t see how this bridges neighborhoods and does anything for pedestrians on Olive or Boren.

  3. Well, any improvement of a pedestrian experience on Boren is starting from a very low point. As these are still massing studies, I believe we have to now urge excellent architecture. ‘downtown’ views are after all, views of building, which this will also be. I don’t believe the WSCC is asking for any zoning waivers, in fact they aren’t even building to the maximum of their envelope, so anybody who has a problem with the size of the structure may be disappointed. At this point, we’ll be well advised to attend the design meetings to offer input on how to break up the mass of this building, as well as to help ensure they use quality materials. From what I’ve seen, this project’s budget is now approaching $1.2 Billion, amd for that a,punt of money, we need to make certain our façade doesn’t look like the servants entrance, while the downtown side has all the glitz and glamor.

    • Yeah, we need some design work. I know that the purpose of a convention center usually demands a big square box, but can we incorporate a little color? A little style? The present beige walls and green glass building is boring at best.

  4. I’m still trying to figure out their budget of $1.2 Billion for what is essentially a fancy warehouse.

  5. Are they decommissioning the Convention Place Station and building over it or actually ripping it out? I get why its closing but this is one area that really needs a station as its a long distance between Capitol Hill Station and Westlake Station (why no Pine/Pike Link station?!?!?) and a lot of development underway in the Denny Triangle which Convention Place station serves. It would be shortsighted to rip it out as one day they may very likely want a spur to serve this station and into SLU.

  6. The Convention Place station is going to be decommissioned by 2021 when Link goes all the way to Northgate there won’t be any room for busses in the transit tunnel. So the Convention Place bus station becomes superfluous. The tunnel from Westlake to Capitol Hill turns S/SE once it leaves Westlake station, and dives below I-5, so there is no accommodation for a station at Convention Place for Link trains.

  7. Hoping the pedestrian experience isn’t ignored on this large block, either. Would be nice to see dozens of small scale commercial spaces on the sidewalk level. Something like the crepe shop at the current site, Little Uncle’s on Madison, or Monorail Espresso on Pike, all are public facing and more inviting than the Cheesecake Factory. This would hopefully allow lots of small indy business from having the opportunity to have a space in a high traffic and volume area at an affordable price.

  8. Justin, thanks for the early notice on this meeting – please submit your comments to DPD if you can’t attend the EDG – this project will have a huge impact – let’s encourage it to be really forward-thinking in how it approaches our streetscape.

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