There have been many large commercial projects on Capitol Hill over the last decade, but none have the power to shape the neighborhood’s future more than the redevelopment of the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station. As the project heads for Early Design Guidance on Wednesday, now is the last real opportunity for the Capitol Hill community to shape the project. Let the East Design Review Board, Capitol Hill Champion and Gerding Edlen, the developer, hear your input.
While Gerding Edlen has an excellent team and their early design proposal is strong, five design issues need to be addressed to make this a great project for the neighborhood.
- Make the Market Hall the heart of the development. Expand the European-style Market Hall to include all of Site A South as was outlined in Gerding Edlen’s winning bid. Reject the current preferred massing for Site A South, which is inconsistent with the original project proposal. The location of the residential lobby and leasing center in Site A South reduces the area of the Market Hall by over one-third and disconnects it from other retail spaces. It was already smaller than is optimal, and this change is unacceptable. Move the residential lobby to the middle of Site A North along Broadway and reduce its footprint by 50%. Activate the pass-through between Site A North and Site A South with market stalls that open directly onto it from both sides. Carry the Market Hall concept across the festival street to Site C. Stalls should be smaller than what is identified in the proposal (200-300 ft2) so there is room for more small businesses and a critical mass of original shops to make the Market Hall a true destination. The Market Hall should have a mix of local farm produce, specialty food shops, and local artist stands. The Market Hall should provide a 7-day-a-week anchor for the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market, which will occur in the plaza once or twice a week. We should look to Pike Place Market and the many beautiful markets in European cities such as London, St Petersburg, Istanbul, Paris, Helsinki, Florence as precedent.
- Add café space along Cal Anderson Park. Putting eyes on Cal Anderson Park to increase public safety is a goal for the Capitol Hill Council and the Capitol Hill Ecodistrict. It should be a priority of this project as well. The entire south side of the ground floor of Site B should be a cafe facing the park. This will require removing the two ground-floor lofts facing the park from along the south side of Site B. Site C should also have a cafe facing Cal Anderson Park. This is the approximate historic location of Café Vivace. It would be great to see it return. Seattle has far fewer cafes/restaurants in or adjacent to parks than other cities. It would be a missed opportunity to not activate the park side of this development.
- Work with Sound Transit to integrate new construction seamlessly with Sound Transit Light Rail buildings to avoid gaps and dead ends. The gaps and dead ends between the proposed new buildings and the Sound Transit buildings are bad design, dangerous and unacceptable. Sound Transit does not need access to maintain a cinder block wall. All parties should push Sound Transit to remedy the situation.
- Hold the developer to their commitment to include a grocery store. Gerding Edlen’s winning bid included a grocery store as part of the site plan. Madison Market and New Seasons have expressed interest in the space. At the design open house, the developer indicated that they are considering non-grocer tenants. If City People’s Garden Store wants to move up from Madison Valley, I support it. If the developer want’s to extend the Market Hall into Site A North, I support it. Otherwise, unless both grocery stores pull their names out of considerations, we should hold Gerding Edlen to their commitment.
- Require the use of high quality finishing materials. This new development will be the gateway to Capitol Hill for many and should have a high bar for design and finishing materials. The design guidelines for the adjacent Pike Pine neighborhood specify preferred finishing materials are brick, masonry, concrete, wood and metal. No cement board please.
Many will argue that the building should also be taller or that it should contain more affordable housing units and fewer parking spaces. While I agree with the sentiment, this train has already left the station. Focus on what can be changed through design review. Send your comments to the East Design Review Board (PRC@seattle.gov) and Capitol Hill Champion (firstname.lastname@example.org) by December 14th.