In the midst of the many reviews and public oversight shaping the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center is one special process designed to determine the public benefits developers must provide as part of the $1.4 billion expansion project that will reshape the connection between downtown and Capitol Hill.
A public meeting has been scheduled to identify concerns about the site and to receive public input into establishing public benefit priorities, which may include low income housing, townhouse development, historic preservation, public open space, implementation of adopted neighborhood plans, improvements to pedestrian circulation, urban form, transit facilities and, or other elements that further an adopted City policy and provide a demonstrable public benefit.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at (Seattle City Hall 600 4th Ave/601 5th Ave, Bertha Landes Room). Written and/or oral comments may be submitted prior to the meeting or at the meeting.
All meeting facilities are ADA compliant. Translators or interpreters provided upon request. Please contact the Public Resource Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 684-8467 at least five business days prior to the meeting to request this service.
Written comments may be submitted through September 2, 2015 and should be submitted to PRC@seattle.gov or mailed to:
DPD – Attn: PRC
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019
Here is how the meeting will work according to DPD:
The public meeting is meant to provide an overview of the proposal so the public can offer feedback on the range of public benefits that should be considered by the Department of Planning and Development. After the meeting, staff will development a PCD report identifying at least three public benefit priorities that should be addressed as a part of the approval process. These benefits are separate from what will be required for the alley/street vacation process.
According to the city, public benefits may include low-income housing, historic preservation, and public space.
Representatives for the Convention Center tell CHS they aren’t sure what they’ll hear from the public come Wednesday night but that affordable housing is already planned for the future developments due to requirements from King County attached to some of the property involved.
Another parcel owned by Sound Transit comes with its own set of requirements. How all of these entitlements shake out — and how they mesh with the project’s planned $1 billion+ budget — will be the subject of negotiations between the WSCC and local governments in coming months.
WSCC reps say they are also committed to creating an active and more-engaged next generation for the center that creates a better connection to the surrounding streets — though a recent $3.5 million effort to upgrade the streetscape is reportedly unrelated to the larger goals around the expansion.
Wednesday night’s public benefits hearing will be the community’s chance to add more requirements to the puzzle.
Here is how a city spokesperson explained the PCD process:
A PCD allows for comprehensive development of large tracts of land in downtown zones. The PCD provides benefits to the developer that allow for greater development flexibility over multiple sites within the tract in exchange for physical improvements (public benefits) greater than what would be anticipated at the individual site level. For instance, it allows any one site within the tract to exceed its allowed floor area, as long as the overall development potential with in the tract is not exceeded. The PCD process also allows the developer to extend permitting over a longer time frame than what would be permitted for any individual development site.
Given its limited geographic focus and the rarity of projects on the scale of the WSCC, you might not be surprised to learn Seattle’s PCD efforts are rare. The most recent example came as Amazon planned its massive wave of development.
The design process for the project also continues with a third early design guidance session planned for October. As part of the design reviews, WSCC developers are also planning to complete a “codevelopment” process to design “a 30-story building with 428 housing units and a 16-story building with 595,000 square feet of office space” just north of the project as part of the expansion. WSCC plans to sell the codevelopment properties to help fund the convention center expansion.
Powered by its bonding authority, the WSCC has already acquired $56.5 million worth of land between 9th and Boren, and Howell and Olive Way that was home to a Honda dealership. King County’s transit center block is also on the WSCC’s acquisition target list. WSCC hopes to begin construction on the expansion by 2017.
As the public benefits discussion takes shape, a representative for the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council said the group is hoping to coordinate with the Downtown Seattle Association and may have found an unexpected ally in its efforts to push for a better pedestrian connection along Pine and over I-5 as the Convention Center expansion plan is finalized. Representatives for the landmark-protected Paramount Theater are also preparing to weigh in on the expansion and could help cement commitments to prevent big blank walls from greeting residents and workers as they move up and down Pine.