There it is. Just as 2016 staggers to a close, market analysts — with a heavy stake in the outcome — say, looky, Seattle rents may have finally reached a “turning point” after years of mostly unabated increase. Will 2017 be the year Capitol Hill rents finally break? If so, 2016 will be marked as the final thrust of the old way of Seattle boom development as the new HALA-throttled marketplace is finally whipped into shape. For the pessimists — or, perhaps, optimistic landlords — if rents haven’t really turned that climb upside down and Seattle’s affordability crisis continues, then, well, 2016 will represent more of the same even as our intentions grew. Here is a look at how the year in development played out on Capitol Hill.
+ CHS Year in Review 2016 | Capitol Hill’s most important stories
+ 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
CHS YIR 2015 — Our first look at the new Capitol Hill
CHS YIR 2014 — More than supply and demand
CHS YIR 2013 — Capitol Hill development and the quest for affordability
CHS YIR 2012 — The re-development of Capitol Hill
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. But there were real actions in 2016 to address Seattle’s — and Capitol Hill’s — “affordability crisis.” More projects were completed with at least a component of affordable units and nonprofits like Bellwether, which now operates six affordable buildings across Capitol Hill, further emerged to help lead.
Meanwhile, the groundwork was laid for a path for the city to try to build its way out. Led by Mayor Ed Murray, 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, though, were set up to be even meatier with a one story increase in allowable building height along with new “mandatory housing affordability” requirements for all new residential construction in many areas but even more (potentially!) helpful upzones that would put more midrise-style construction in neighborhoods currently restricted to single family-style homes. And in 2016, we found a new way to pay some of this. City Council member Lisa Herbold 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.
CAPITOL HILL STATION
Speaking of levy money, the year ended with the mayor pledging $8.7 million from the money set aside by the future-loving voters of Seattle, circa 2009 to help Capitol Hill Housing develop Capitol Hill Station’s Site-B North parcel, the eventual home to a110-unit, “permanently affordable” building at the site of the bustling transit hub. It was already a massive year for the block of Broadway stretching between John and Denny when the new light rail station opened in March after a decade of demolition, boring, and construction. The change was striking. And there is more to come. The year ended with the first public design review for the four seven-story buildings with 427 market-rate and affordable apartment units, and more than 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space destined to rise from the empty lots surrounding Capitol Hill Station. Seattle Central was also preparing for the change across the street. If the process stays on track, the new buildings will open just in time for CHS Year in Review… 2019.
DEMOLITIONS AND NEW THINGS
Not everything that happened in 2016 around Capitol Hill was part of a decade-plus development cycle. Though many of the smaller project were anything but small. Demolition at Broadway and Madison cleared the way for a much-anticipated 16-story Whole Foods mixed-use apartment building… more Broadway demolition at Denny revealed, once again, the neighborhood’s auto row past… tearing things down was also at the core of an ongoing issue that flared in 2016 with houses slated for redevelopment drawing squatters and drug use… not a landmark, the old mortuary that became 11th Ave’s Hugo House was torn down as construction began on the new six-story mixed-use building the literary nonprofit will return to inside a 10,000-square-foot center including six classrooms, offices, two performance spaces, and space for writers… 2016 was mostly free of some of the more traumatic real estate deals and demolitions of the past though a few favorites did, indeed, get gobbled up… some NIMBYs roared… some NIMBYs were defeated… the Odd Fellows building was put up for sale — or trade… the Colman building was lined up for “re-tenanting”… a new wave of seismic overhauls began thanks to an expanded list of risky buildings from City Hall… some of the Hill’s oldest buildings saw their ancient sewer connections break … we found out what the Piecora’s building will — eventually — look like… plans for a Harvard Ave hotel were hatched… a seven-story development with a rooftop restaurant and “marketplace” planned for Melrose/Pine moved forward… also, progressing, plans for Seattle’s first Passive House-certified, net-zero energy, mixed-use development at 13th and Pike… area schools also used 2016 to gear up for projects ahead as Seattle U readied plans for a 12th and Madison development including a 10-story dorm and Seattle Academy prepared plans for a new $48 million middle school at 13th and E Union…. and the Excelsior, the eight story, 203-unit, 180 parking space, preservation incentive boosted (but not landmarks worthy) development, that rebuilt and rose above the block of Pine at Melrose where the original Bauhaus stood, opened for new commercial tenants and residents as Capitol Hill’s newest “luxury community.”
KELLY SPRINGFIELD — REI — VALUE VILLAGE — OFFICES
Speaking of preservation incentive boosts, the long and winding plan to redevelop 11th Ave’s old auto row building once home to Capitol Hill’s Value Village — and long ago REI and longer ago the Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Company — advanced to a landmark-protected, honed-down office and commercial development set to finally dig in sometime in the new year.
SEATTLE ASIAN ART MUSEM
While 2016 lacked some of the classic “neighbors vs. development” battles of the past on big, mixed-use projects on Capitol Hill, much slow-or-no-growth energy was spent on a plan to overhaul and expand Volunteer Park’s 83-year-old Seattle Asian Art Museum. The planned fall 2017 project would expand the Asian Art Museum 3,600 square feet into the park from the east side of the 1933 historic building to make room for more display space to represent South Asia and India as well as fix infrastructure issues including a climate control system and seismic upgrades, and make the museum ADA accessible.
It only seemed like the entirety of the rest of the area’s slow-or-no-growth energy was deployed in Madison Valley. 2016 was a contentious year for development in the neighborhood as CHS broke news that the longtime owners of the much loved City People’s garden center were selling the land and had plans to close by the end of the year to make way for a new development on the site. Even the inclusion of the PCC grocery chain at the center of the plan couldn’t placate neighbors concerned with the scale of the project. The development was dealt a series of setbacks through its first steps in the review process. 2016 ended with City People’s announcing the delayed project will allow it to stay in business in Madison Valley through 2017.
AFRICATOWN, CAPITOL HILL HOUSING, AND PAUL ALLEN
Just as some of the more classically contentious development in Central Seattle played out off Capitol Hill, some of its most hopeful — and challenging — also took place away from Broadway and Pike/Pine. In the Central District in 2016, a framework was created that many will watch for its potential to create “inclusive development” in neighborhoods across the city. Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building and its memorandum of understanding with Africatown, The Black Community Impact Alliance, and Centerstone lays out eight agreements between the organizations including what could amount to a massive milestone in strengthening the black community around 23rd and Union — ownership of the building. The six-story 24th and Union project is slated to be home to 115 studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom affordable apartments and four commercial spaces and the design of the building will incorporate African-American inspired art as well as incorporate salvaged bricks from the old Liberty Bank, the region’s first black-owned bank. A similar framework could also shape the block-long Midtown Center across the street that ended 2016 with preparations for a much-anticipated redevelopment. Meanwhile, at 23rd and Jackson, Paul Allen’s Vulcan spent 2016 moving into the neighborhood. We can watch in 2017 to see if, too, will be part of the ripple of inclusive development passing across the Central District.