In 2015, CHS readers voted the unveiling of the soon to open Capitol Hill Station as the most important story of the year. We would wager it is likely to top the list again in 2016. The opening of the $110 million or so light rail station was one of the big stories CHS covered in 2016. There were others including a busy year for our neighbors in the Central District as one of the classic storylines from Capitol Hill — shockingly large land development deals — migrated to the south away from Pike/Pine. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill struggled with gun violence. The topsy turvy year also included stories of terrible evil and sad tragedies mixed with just enough intrigue and hope to keep you reading and us writing to find out what happens next.
+ CHS Year in Review 2016 | Capitol Hill’s most important stories / Top 10 Most Read / Top 10 Most Commented
+ The year in Capitol Hill pictures
+ Plans to build our way out of it, the year in Capitol Hill development
+ Pizza, no palaces, and the real world — the year in food+drink
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Now Open: Capitol Hill Station
On March 19th, 2016 things changed forever on Capitol Hill — again — as dignitaries cut the ribbon at Capitol Hill Station’s Broadway and John entrance and ushered in the start of service on the the $1.9 billion, 3.1-mile U-Link extension. The opening marked the end of seven years of demolition and construction on the busy street in a process that ripped a hole — really, two twin tunnels — in the block and connected Capitol Hill to downtown and UW with four-minute rides.
CHS wrote about the project more than 270 times in those years. We’ll probably do a few more as the project to build four seven-story buildings with more than 400 market-rate and affordable apartment units and a new Broadway plaza around the station plays out in 2017 and beyond. “We’re building neighborhoods you can walk in. We’re building neighborhoods with great transit,” Mayor Ed Murray said before joining King County Exec Dow Constantine to cut the ribbon in March. “And right where we are, there will be affordable housing and open space. That’s the future.”
The First Hill Streetcar, too, kicked into service in 2016 but with a much quieter approach than its light rail cousin. Still, you can mark the date: January 23rd, 2016 — even if a planned extension never gets built — streetcars returned to Capitol Hill after a 75-year absence.
Years of concern about the cost of living in the densest neighborhood in one of the densest cities in the nation continued in 2016. Along the way, it seemed like those concerns were growing — not shrinking away. Seattle had a “renting crisis” in 2016. But there were real actions in 2016 to address Seattle’s — and Capitol Hill’s — “affordability crisis.” The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda produced proposals for upzoning areas across Seattle and Capitol Hill changes that would allow taller buildings in the neighborhoods around Capitol Hill Station and concentrate seven-story office towers just off Broadway. HALA changes in the Central District were set up to be even meatier with a one story increase in allowable building height along with new “mandatory housing affordability” requirements and upzones that will put more midrise-style construction in neighborhoods previously restricted to single family-style homes. City Council member Lisa Herbold also drove a bold accounting sleight of hand that will produce a new $29 million affordable housing bond. You can add that the to the pile of hope for the future accumulated this year after Seattle voters easily approved a new $290 million housing levy in August. Herbold’s counterpart, District 3 rep Kshama Sawant, meanwhile, scored a win for renters by pushing through a cap on move-in fees in Seattle. The neighborhood also rallied to save itself as the Capitol Hill Ecodistrict helped organize a Renters Summit that could pave the way for a true renters’ commission in the city. Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative was born in 2016 and will continue fighting for tenants rights in the neighborhood in the new year.
In 2016, outreach workers from the Downtown Seattle Association spread their work to Capitol Hill to make contact with homeless people living in the area and try to help them get off the streets. Outreach often started with offering people socks or blankets to open up a conversation. You have to begin somewhere. Homelessness remained an epidemic in Seattle and on Capitol Hill in 2016. Despite moments of inhumane pushback, the city is putting $12 million toward homelessness in 2017, added a director to manage the city’s response, and put an “interim” plan in place to try to get more people off the streets. The effort got off to an inauspicious start, however, missing its end-of-2016 deadline for establishing a new “navigation center” to be a cornerstone in the plan. Looking for signs of hope? Progress was made on establishing safe consumption sites in the city and experiments like the Central District’s Tiny House Village look like a small success. Meanwhile, two sets of human remains found in Interlaken Park reminded us of the sadness in our midst and the tragedy of people being lost — literally — to addiction.
Gun violence on Capitol Hill
In November, 31-year-old Jacob Osborne-Bash was gunned down at 13th and Olive in what police described as a targeted assault. The murder was part of a string of shootings and gunfire incidents across Capitol Hill in 2016. It was a reminder that gun violence knows no neighborhood borders as police stats showed shootings on the rise across the city. In August, a woman in her 20s survived being shot in the chest near Broadway and Pike. The “last call” shooting incidents heightened concerns about nightlife safety around Capitol Hill’s booming bar and club scene.
The Real World
CHS broke the news on the arrival of the MTV “reality” show’s cast on Capitol Hill — and all of the warped and weird plot twists along the way:
Producer shall have the right to refer to the Property by its actual name or any fictitious name, and the right to attribute actual or fictitious events as occurring on the Property, and the right to replicate the Property and use such replication in Producer’s sole discretion.
We asked why some neighborhood business owners decided to play along. And why some didn’t. We also told you what it was like being in the same bar as Real World: Seattle. But, full disclosure: We never watched a single episode of the resulting season. Not a one.
Ingrid Lyne murder
A terrible murder mystery took only days to solve but included a grisly April find of body parts left in a recycling bin outside a home near 21st and Pine. John Robert Charlton of Snohomish County was quickly tracked down and arrested for the murder of missing Renton woman Ingrid Lyne. Charlton was charged for murder after police said he killed the 40-year-old Swedish Medical Center nurse and mother of three inside her Renton home, stole her car, and dumped her remains in at least two Central District recycling bins.
Two tragedies on the streets marked 2016. In May, 27-year-old Desiree McCloud died of her injuries following a crash near 14th and Yesler that friends and family say was caused by the First Hill Streetcar tracks that run down the center of the street. 79-year-old Max Richards died in September after he was hit by a driver while he crossed Belmont Ave E on a walk with his dog. Richards’ wife Marilyn Black remembered her husband’s routine including a stop at nearby Barjot for a breakfast snack before continuing his walk with his dog Pink. “It was a beautiful fall morning, I bet he just felt on top of the world,” Black told CHS. A community call for a safer crossing at the site of the collision and across Capitol Hill followed. The city also rolled out new lower speed limits across Seattle’s arteries. Meanwhile, though investigators said it could not be determined what role the streetcar tracks played in McCloud’s death, the city has said it will look at ways to make new streetcar routes planned downtown safer for cyclists.
The August arrival of a naked Donald Trump statue on E Pike was a fitting symbol of the weird year in politics in 2016. The ultimate political battle of the year on our Capitol Hill may have very well played out in March as Bernie Sanders supporters squared off with Hillary Clinton backers in community meeting spaces across the neighborhoods for Caucus Day 2016.
This fissure in the Democratic ranks was also fully on display in the battle to follow 7th District Rep. Jim McDermott who announced his retirement after 14 terms. Sanders headlined a rally for Pramila Jayapal in October as she faced off with Capitol Hill resident Brady Walkinshaw for the seat in D.C. in a battle the pitted the new socialist-leaning wing of the Democrats against the party’s “I’m with her” establishment. By November’s election, the future for the 7th District, at least, was firmly under the Jayapal wing of the party. Meanwhile, a new Capitol Hill resident will lead the 43rd District in Olympia after affordable housing advocate Nicole Macri’s victory. “As I reflect on the shockingly disappointing results of the presidential election and the uncertainties that may lie ahead, I feel so fortunate to belong to a community of people that shares an optimistic vision for the future,” Macri wrote in a message to supporters. Others worked to prepare for the incoming Trump administration. The Gender Justice League launched an emergency fund for name, gender marker changes while others formed a Capitol Hill Neighborhood Action Council to organize resistance and protect “targeted groups.”
Big deals in the Central District
In past years, the drama and concerns about big land deals from big developers have played out around Pike/Pine. In 2016, the money was flowing around the Central District. In February, CHS broke the news that Vulcan was paying $30.9 million for six acres at 23rd and Jackson with a plan to redevelop the shopping center that includes the neighborhood’s Red Apple. Meanwhile, the year ended with news California-based multifamily housing developer Lennar is working with Regency Centers to develop the 2.4-acre Midtown Center block at 23rd and Union including a project with Central District community nonprofit Africatown that will give the organization an ownership stake in the mixed-use development. Across the street, Africatown will also be part of a community partnership working with Capitol Hill Housing to develop the affordable Liberty Bank Building. Playing the part of Bauhauses and Piecora’s-es past, Madison Valley’s City People’s was the subject of much community teeth gnashing as the garden store announced it was closing in 2016 to make way for a mixed-use development anchored by grocer PCC at the site. After community pushback helped throw the designs for the project back on the drawing board, City People’s ended the year with a plan to stay open through 2017.
Food+drink financial implosions
We documented the highs and the lows of Capitol Hill food and drink in 2016 here. One chapter deserves a callout in this big picture round-up. In the spring of 2016, mysteries of the sudden Bauhaus closures were revealed as CHS reported on the bankruptcy of owner Joel Radin, documenting some $1.6 million in debt the businessman rolled up with friends, family, and banks as he operated a small chain of Bauhaus cafes and a popular Ballard pizza joint. Even Radin’s dog — value $20 — was subject to the filings. Another ambitious owner found himself in a similar place to Radin in 2016 as Brian McCracken, founder of the Tavern Law family of businesses, was hit with a $1.2 million judgement over a family loan and debts that spiraled out of control. The subsequent bankruptcy filing documented some $2.4 million in debts. His 12th Ave Old Sage location will soon reopen as the home to Katsu Burger and Tavern Law found financially sound if not high profile new ownership. Meanwhile, we saw what was probably the highest profile failure in the recent boom times of Capitol Hill food and drink as Chop Shop — the centerpiece restaurant from Ericka Burke’s Volunteer Park Cafe family of businesses in a much-lauded new project from Capitol Hill superstar developer Liz Dunn — closed suddenly in August after only one year of business.
Also worth remembering…
A new legendary Hillebrity was born… Uncle Ike’s opened on Capitol Hill… and remained a target for protesters in the CD… the s-path near Lowell Elementary was fenced-off… we found out what the Piecora’s building will look like (if it ever gets built)… community groups pushed for a plan to build a new lid over I-5… Microsoft began running larger employee shuttles across the Hill… the plans for a seismic overhaul and expansion of Volunteer Park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum were the subject of vigorous debate.
Cal Anderson and Volunteer Park, centers of activism
The neighborhood’s green spaces also provided Seattle with gathering places for protest — and remembrance. Cal Anderson became a center-point for anti-Trump protests and crowds at a neighborhood forum overflowed into the park this fall in the wake of the election. The Seattle Women March Against Hate ended at Cal Anderson. And the park was the setting in June as thousands tearfully counted to 50 to mark the victims of the Orlando gay club shooting. “This is what pride looks like,” one woman in attendance told CHS. “This is how strong we are.”