Development on the four, seven-story mixed-use buildings surrounding Capitol Hill’s light rail station is proceeding toward a groundbreaking this spring, possibly in late April, according to Jill Sherman. Sherman is head the project for Gerding Edlin, the Portland-based developers leading the project.
The date has some community members ready to celebrate. Brie Gyncild of the Capitol Hill Champion group said her organization is hoping to host some festivities to coincide with the start of construction.
“We’re just excited we’re going to have a groundbreaking,” Gyncild said.
Sherman expects the construction to take about 21 months, assuming there are no significant delays, putting the opening in early 2020, as has long been planned.
Sound Transit opened the U-Link extension and the new station below Broadway in March 2016. It has grown to serve around 7,000 riders a day at the stop. In August 2016, Sound Transit signed a 99-year lease with Gerding Edlen to develop the properties it had acquired surrounding the station.
When complete, the development will span three buildings around Capitol Hill Station. It’s planned to house 428 residential units – 41% of which (176 units) will be designated affordable housing. There will be 31,150 square feet of residential space, and 216 parking stalls for cars, and 254 parking stalls for bikes. Designs for the project were finalized in October.
Developer Gerding Edlen is leading the project with designs from Hewitt and Schemata Workshop. Capitol Hill Housing will develop and operate the affordable housing component of the projects in Site-B North. The affordable housing will be reserved for those under 60% Area Median Income (or below $40,320 for one person; $51,840 for three people). The development’s retail component, meanwhile, has been planned to include a grocer and a daycare facility.
The scale of the project is one reasons experts say there may be a lull in the Capitol Hill-area development pipeline as the market prepares to digest the four new buildings and a small wave of equally large-scale development in the Central District.
When construction along Broadway begins this spring, the housing and retail projects will have been more than a decade in the making. The community process to shape the projects began before 2011 as the Capitol Hill Light Rail Stations Site Urban Design Framework document was published, distilling information shaped over a period of years in the community. In 2013, the City Council approved a development agreement allowing developers to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above minimum affordable housing requirements. The design review component of shaping the projects began in December 2016.
Sherman said that before the construction begins, the developers will work to inform the community about potential disruptions. For example, one of the three sites will require some excavation work, meaning there will be dump trucks rumbling around the area. Sherman said that they’ll need to develop a logistical plan, which will need to be approved by the city, to handle that. Once the plan is in place, they’ll inform the community.
During the construction period, neighbors can expect to see typical construction fencing; no return of the big red wall. Sherman said they will keep pathways open so that people will be able to access all of the light rail station entrances and exits.
Sherman said that the firm is working with a potential anchor tenant, but has not yet signed a lease. She declined to disclose any further details, and would not comment on whether or not the anchor would be a grocer. It had long been discussed that the anchor tenant was going to be a grocery store, but most if not all the stores which showed an initial interest have backed out.
A potential daycare, another community priority, is still pending. The site will be challenging for a daycare since there will not be any easy spot for parents to drop off and pick up their children. Sherman said the city has forbidden restricting street parking for that purpose during peak times.
While it may be possible to use space in the building’s parking garage, that would not be ideal, Sherman noted. She said they are still looking for a provider who will be willing and able to work with those constraints.
You can view the detailed plans — including street improvements — for the new construction here:
Surrounded by new housing and new street-level retail, the development’s large central plaza will also likely become the permanent weekly — or more — home for the Broadway Farmers Market. In 2010, Sound Transit issued a letter of intent recognizing the nonprofit’s desire to move its market into the plaza once construction is completed. Inclusion of the farmers market in the space has been a long-held community goal for the project. The market has also been considering increasing its presence on the Hill with possible night markets.
Gerding Edlin is also nearing signing a Memorandum of Understanding with a group that plans to build an AIDS memorial in the development’s large central plaza.
At this point, Sherman said, they are still soliciting bids on the project, and hoping they come in within the budget. They have gotten multiple bids, she noted. The bidding will end later this month, and the project will likely be awarded in March.
The development will return commercial activity around the corner of Broadway and John for the first time since 2006.