Process begins to finalize convention center expansion public benefits package including affordable housing, street improvements

The process is underway for the City of Seattle to shake out a final deal for handing over public right of way to the developers of the Washington State Convention Center expansion.

The Seattle City Council’s sustainability and transportation committee chaired by Mike O’Brien held its first session on a proposed vacation of “Block 33, Block 43, Block 44, Olive Way & Terry Avenue” to make way for construction of the estimated $1.6 billion Convention Center addition and development that will create a massive new exhibition facility across I-5 between Pike and Olive Way.

Last fall, a coalition of community groups reached agreement on a $80 million package of public benefits proposed to offset the value of the lost public right of way necessary to complete the WSCC addition as designed.

Summary of WSCC Addition Public Benefits and Investments
Item$ MM
Community Package Projects
Freeway Park Improvements$10.0
Lid I-5 Study$1.5
Pike-Pine Bicycle Improvements$10.0
Olive Way Pedestrian Improvements$0.5
8th Ave Bicycle Improvements$6.0
Terry Ave Promenade$4.0
Affordable Housing$29.0
Subtotal$61.0
Other Public Benefits (current estimate)
Pike-Pine Renaissance Pedestrian Improvements$10.0
9th Avenue Pedestrian Improvements$0.6
Public Art$1.9
Historic Building Lighting$1.0
On-Site Features$8.1
Improvements to Olive Way$0.2
Subtotal                                                                             $82.8

While Community Package Coalition’s work was widely celebrated there may be room for movement in some of the line items — especially affordable housing. Nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing had proposed more than $50 million in affordable housing benefits as part of the vacation package but ultimately the line item shook out to less than $30 million. Developers on the project the Pine Street Group is already on the offensive about any possible push to add more to the $82.8 million package. Pro-business voices including Capitol Hill business owner Dani Cone of Fuel Coffee have also been recruited to call for the vacation package legislation to be finalized in order to move the WSCC addition construction forward as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, O’Brien asked Pine Street Group’s Matt Griffin about a planned series of three phases over ten years after the start of construction under which the $82.8 million package will be funded, many aspects of which would hinge on state funding at the legislative level.

The benefits coalition represented community groups and nonprofits including the First Hill Improvement Association, Lid I-5, Capitol Hill Housing, Cascade Bicycle Club, Central Seattle Greenways, Housing Development Consortium, Freeway Park Association, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

The WSCC expansion will add five stories above ground and two stories below ground totaling a little more than 1.2 million square feet of space, in addition to a 200,000 square foot loading dock and 500-800 parking spaces. Bringing thousands of truck trips to the area, most of the construction will rise above the land that has been home to King County Metro Convention Place Station, roughly bounded by Pine and Howell streets and 9th and Boren.

The process to shape the final vacation legislation will tick up another level in two weeks when City Hall hosts a public hearing on April 18th.

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3 thoughts on “Process begins to finalize convention center expansion public benefits package including affordable housing, street improvements

  1. This project is a total scam.

    WSCC promised existing taxes would pay for it, then lobbied to increase taxes on small hotels. (The state funding the public benefits package is supposedly hinging on)

    Attendance hasn’t increase in twenty years despite the facility doubling in size during that time, and there’s no hard evidence that doubling in size again will be any different.

    The project schedule is pushing buses out of Convention Place Station early causing ripples throughout the regional transportation network have not been resolved, and the WSCC has been less than helpful in finding solutions.

    Shut it down.

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