‘You would be standing in a parking lot right now’ — Remembering the push for Broadway Crossing

A new message added to the Broadway Crossing building last week is a tribute to the community efforts — and one key community leader — who helped make possible the 2007-built, mixed-use affordable housing development rising above a Walgreens and forever shaped the edges of the waves of redevelopment that would follow over the next decade and beyond in the neighborhood. The addition of the small tribute precedes changes coming to the “Neighbours Alley” area around the building’s lobby that will further the efforts.

Ann Donovan, president of the Capitol Hill Community Council from 1999-2005, was honored last week during a small ceremony inside the lobby of the Capitol Hill Housing-built development at Broadway and Pine. The new etching on the glass of the E Pine entrance includes a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead and a short tribute to the efforts of Donovan and others to help make the project possible:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

The power of community is real. If not for the actions of a few members of the Capitol Hill community in 2003, you would be standing in a parking lot right now. Their action, through the Capitol Hill Community Council and under the
leadership of Ann Donovan, led to a far better solution: a multi-use building with affordable homes for families in the heart of our walkable, vibrant neighborhood.

“Thank you, Ann, for everything you continue to do for our neighborhood and also for other people who are experiencing similar difficulties in life to you,” fellow neighborhood activist Andrew Taylor said at the small gathering last week.

Donovan, who has faced serious health issues, has helped organize cancer awareness events in recent years.

Capitol Hill Housing’s development of the Broadway Crossing might be the kind of victory future Seattleites look back on in similar light to other successful community-led efforts like the Seattle Freeway Revolt. Walgreens was set on redeveloping the corner where Chevron service station stood with a new drugstore. At the time, Walgreens reportedly didn’t do mixed use. And the neighborhood around Broadway and Pine? In the early 2000s, not everybody knew there was a neighborhood to fight for.

“For most people, all that was here, really, was a way to get from Madison Park to downtown. Or to come get your luxury car serviced,” Chuck Weinstock, Capitol Hill Housing’s CEO from 1998 to 2007, said during his remarks at the ceremony. “There wasn’t a notion of there being a neighborhood even though there were dozens of vibrant small businesses, and lots of tenants who called this place home.”

Weinstock recalled the development process at the time in Seattle as much more of an open discussion — the sessions were “a lot wilder than they are now.” “People had a sense of the threat,” he said. The Walgreens developers, Weinstock said, wanted to use their existing template for a single-story store and a pharmacy drive-thru. But amid Donovan and community opposition, Capitol Hill Housing got a call. “We don’t know who you are, but everybody says we need to talk to you.”

Chevron gas station at Broadway and Pine, 2000 (Image: Rob Ketcherside)

The result is the Broadway Crossing rising where the Chevron once stood. It includes 44 apartment homes — including 28 two-bedroom units — for “households earning 30%, 40%, 50%, and 60% of area median income.” The building’s streetscape includes tiles echoing the patterns that run along Broadway. It also added a new set of dance steps to the Broadway sidewalk art. Somehow, the original set failed to include the Cha Cha. The Broadway Crossing project rectified that oversight. And, of course, Walgreens opened on the ground floor.

Not every community battle on Capitol Hill has been won since but the moment helped shape at least a few of the waves in the storm of redevelopment that was to come. UPDATE: See Phil’s comments below regarding the connections between the Broadway and Pine Walgreens development and the 15th Ave E drug store.

Today, Capitol Hill Housing has more mixed-use and collaborative efforts underway along Broadway.

Above Capitol Hill Station, its under construction Station House project will be the “transit oriented development’s” key affordable housing component.

Across the street from Broadway Crossing on the southeast corner of Pine at Broadway, CHH is working to develop affordable housing on the land currently home to a parking lot adjacent the planned new YouthCare homeless youth facility.

And on Broadway Crossing’s block, CHH is developing The Eldridgea preservation-boosted seven-story affordable housing development on the property of the auto row-era Eldridge Tire building.

But another, smaller Capitol Hill Housing-boosted project in the works might be closest to the vision expressed in the tribute to Ann Donovan.

Alongside the Broadway Crossing lobby, the alley connecting Pike to Pine just west of Broadway is also set for transformation that is hoped to enhance the neighborhood and surrounding streets. The process to create “a new design and activation strategy” for the alley will begin in November with a workshop to begin shaping the plan:

Neighbours Alley Workshop

It’s the kind of thing most probably couldn’t have imagined in 2002, but thanks to people like Donovan, Taylor, and Weinstock, there’s a neighborhood here, still, to serve.

 

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5 thoughts on “‘You would be standing in a parking lot right now’ — Remembering the push for Broadway Crossing

  1. I lived here at the time. Chuck Weinstock’s remarks are overstated to the point of obnoxiousness, and there were DEFINITELY discussions about the alley then as well as now.

    Many of the businesses we know and love today already existed, some in the same locations, others in different locations. Still others were different businesses but the same use – ie, this space was a bar then too, but a different bar.

    The idea that people thought there was no neighborhood here would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting. What people are we talking about? Straight people with more money than sense? The bridge and tunnel crowd, looking for a party? Or folks who live in Madison Park?

    But thanks for the Walgreens, I guess. It beats a parking lot. Now the neighborhood has two Walgreens. Hooray.

  2. re: “Not every community battle on Capitol Hill has been won since”

    I think the timeline is off a bit, here. As I remember, the community push that led to this property’s radical change in design and work with Capitol Hill Housing (then CHHIP) was driven by the earlier unfortunate replacement of City People’s on 15th with a suburban-style drug store with a surface parking lot and the windows painted over.

    This property, built to the lot lines, with affordable housing above the drug store, masonry that blends with the surroundings, and full visibility in the windows, was a neighborhood victory that came about right around the time I got involved with organizations Ann and Chuck were then part of, and it made a lasting impression on me.

    • “the earlier unfortunate replacement of City People’s on 15th”. I attended a Capitol Hill Community Council meeting, chaired by Anne, that was working on the 15th Avenue Walgreen’s. I recall that had some minor triumphs: no drive-thru and no giant free-standing sigh. I recall that the residents of the Anhalt building just across the alley from the Walgreen’s were very involved in that battle. You’re right: the struggles with the Walgreens on 15th primed the pumps for the Broadway one.

  3. I would concur with Moving On’s recollection. I’ve been here for years prior to that time, and nobody but the most oblivious would say there was no neighborhood there to protect. Even those Madison Park people he flippantly maligns wouldn’t say there was no “there”, there. Just because people may have lots of money doesn’t mean they support paving over everything in sight. Struggles like this are rarely with other neighborhoods– they’re with corporate developers that will do as little as they can get away with, anywhere they can.