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.
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.