Seattle Central pursues rare opportunity to expand Broadway campus

The Site D development will tower over Capitol Hill Station's western Broadway entrance (Image: CHS)

The Site D development will tower over Capitol Hill Station’s western Broadway entrance (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill’s community college is currently negotiating a deal that could bring a new technology center or on-campus faculty housing to its Broadway campus. It’s a rare opportunity for Seattle Central College to expand with building height departures already in place, made possible by the arrival of light rail on Capitol Hill.

Five sites surrounding Capitol Hill Station were acquired by Sound Transit for construction of the light rail facility — what’s left is to be transformed into dense “transit oriented development.” Four of those sites will be developed into housing, retail, and community space by Portland-based firm Gerding Edlen. SCC was given a right of first refusal to develop the fifth property, known as Site D, which surrounds the west entrance of the Capitol Hill Station at Broadway just south of Denny Way.

Representatives for Sound Transit and SCC have confirmed the two sides are working on a deal for the college to acquire the property, but offered few details on the status of the negotiations. In a 2015 report on its “major institution master plan” SCC said it was also working with developers to explore options for the site.

Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, who was confirmed as SCC president in May, recently told CHS that creating faculty housing on Capitol Hill was a major priority. “Most faculty and staff cannot afford to live on Capitol Hill,” she said, According to Edwards Lange, the average faculty member at SCC makes around $57,000 a year.

Once it secures Site D, Edwards Lange said SCC will engage in a public process to determine priorities for the property.

In 2013, the City Council approved legislation to allow developers to build to 85 feet along Broadway in exchange for meeting affordable housing requirements. The agreement laid out other site requirements and allowances as well. Specific requirements on Site D include building 18-foot sidewalks along Broadway with weather protection overhangs and a minimum amount of landscaping.
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Site D is the smallest lot among the TOD sites, but the building will fill out around 93% of the property, the highest percentage among the sites. It is also adjacent the current northernmost stop of the First Hill Streetcar line.

The Capitol Hill Champion, a group that has worked for years to insert community priorities into the TOD project, is pushing for SCC to include public restrooms in in the development, which they say SCC is considering. The Champion says it is already meeting with SCC to discuss community programming ideas.

If the college opts not to take the site, Sound Transit would find a new developer for the project to include retail and some affordable housing.

With limited space around Broadway, SCC has been expanding at its other branch locations on South Lake Union and the Central Area. However, the college is considering one other novel idea to expand on Capitol Hill: building on top of the college’s E Pine parking garage. Edwards Lange said the college first needs to determine if the garage could even structurally support such a project.

Meanwhile, Gerding Edlen is closing in on a deal to lease three properties and purchase a fourth from Sound Transit to develop the mixed-use project about the recently opened subway station. CHS recently reported how Central Co-op is campaigning to become the anchor tenant of the project. Plans also call for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, which envisions “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes.”

The Broadway TOD retail spaces are poised to be extremely high-trafficked sites given the thousands of light rail riders who are already moving through the block daily. The opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station has has boosted light rail’s popularity to new highs as average weekday ridership estimates near 60,000 daily riders. The light rail station and the 3.1-mile U-Link subway line between downtown and the University of Washington via Broadway opened in March. For now, the TOD sites remain paved over and fenced-off empty space.

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9 thoughts on “Seattle Central pursues rare opportunity to expand Broadway campus

  1. Glad to see SCCC expanding. I just hope if they do build on the parking garage it doesn’t push Hot Mama’s out.

  2. Seattle Central College can’t even maintain the facilities they have. The Broadway campus is filthy and the the buildings are in disrepair. There aren’t enough custodians to keep the place even marginally clean. The water is rusty in parts of the building, ceiling tiles are falling down, and there are leaks everywhere.
    While the average faculty pay is 57k a year, keep in mind that the majority of faculty is part-time, temporary, and hired on a quarterly basis.
    I don’t see how they can afford to expand. The new Health Education Center at Pacific Tower cost over $56 million and the school has no clue how they’re going to pay to maintain it and pay the lease.

    • Many of your comments are certainly true, but not indicative of the overall environment on campus. However, a new president has taken over recently, and many exciting things are already beginning to change. Further, projects that were long stalled for reasons never clearly stated are now being tackled. As far as this expansion, there are plenty of professors who live too far away from SCC to be available to their students as much as they’d like, and this potential move could alleviate a lot of that.

    • I wish this property was being developed by Capitol Hill Housing rather than Seattle Central. They are not a good Capitol Hill neighbor. The Math and Science building may be the most poorly designed development ever constructed on Capitol Hill, and the buildings and landscapes they own are poorly maintained. They don’t deserve a first option on this property.

  3. 57k a year is very close to the median income for the area.. Lots of people are able to find housing for that much and even less than that per year..

    I make less than that and have been living within walking distance (okay maybe 10-12 blocks) for over 10 years.

  4. With the light rail literally stopping right at their campus now, why should it be a priority for faculty to live on Capitol Hill? Lots of people can’t afford to live on Capitol Hill now (including probably the bulk of the students). Why are their faculty “more special”?

    • I agree. It is not ok that the housing on site D would be reserved for SCC faculty….it should be open for all, since Sound Transit is a publicly-supported agency. It would be much fairer if Capitol Hill Housing managed this site….faculty could still rent there if they qualify.

  5. Seattle Central College is a longstanding and valued member of the community. Capitol Hill Housing is proud to work alongside SCC, and has our full faith that SCC’s acquisition and development of site D will help create a more vibrant space around what is already becoming a major transit hub. Any negative comments about SCC are not the position of CHH.

  6. The average salary of 57,000 in all likelihood for full time faculty. Part time faculty, which constitute the majority of instructors, can’t make that. I’ve been teaching there full time for over 20 years and my salary is 64k. And I know for a fact that one of the highest paid faculty in my entire division. (It’s easy to get state employee salaries online.)

    And, no, $57,000 is nowhere near the median in Seattle. That number was over $71,000 in 2014.

    If you think Olympia has screwed K-12 teachers (and I know some of you don’t) what they’ve done to community college faculty and staff is worse.