There is peace along E Aloha. In a letter to the school’s Capitol Hill neighbors sent out this week, Holy Names Academy announced it has reached “a mediation agreement” on the City Hall tussle over construction of a new, two-story gymnasium and a new parking lot on the school’s 21st Ave E campus.
“I extend thanks from our HNA community to these neighbors and to everyone involved who worked in good faith to reach this settlement,” Holy Name head of school Liz Swift writes in the brief letter outlining the settlement.
According to HNA, the agreement with a group of neighbors over the project to create a new gym and underground garage, and a new 32-space surface parking lot on the northern edge of the E Aloha at 21st Ave E campus will put construction on track for a June start.
But a few sacrifices were made.
“As part of the agreement, there will be no surface parking lot constructed in the foreseeable future on the north end of the Academy property, adjoining East Aloha Street,” Swift writes. “The agreement also includes considerations of sustainable development, energy efficiency, and other construction and operational considerations.”
In January, CHS reported on an appeal to halt the approval of the planned 237-car underground parking garage below a new, two-story gymnasium brought by neighbors of the North Capitol Hill academy. The appeal based inState Environmental Policy Act requirements followed a 2018 decision by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections allowing the project to move forward.
With the agreement, a May session of the city Hearing Examiner to consider the neighbor’s appeal has been canceled and the case is now dismissed, according to city records.
Holy Names enrolls around 700 students and completed a recent 9,000 square-foot addition to its beautiful dome-capped northern Capitol Hill campus.
School officials had said they needed both the new garage and the new 32-space surface parking lot to relieve parking pressure on the neighborhood. “As you well know, parking has increasingly become more difficult in the neighborhood due to increased housing density, new businesses, and people parking for other reasons,” school officials said in a letter sent to neighbors about the project last year.
But the neighbors group pushed back, writing in the appeal that they “were hoping that someone would do the right thing and consider the historical and environmental impact this project will have on our neighborhood, as well as the input from the immediate neighbors who are overwhelmingly opposed to these retrograde plans.”
“But in the end, money speaks volumes and the school apparently intends to proceed as if the neighbors do not exist and are not worthy of listening to,” the appeal read. “As surprising as it is, that has been their plain message which has not been lost on any of us.”
The lead appellant in the filing in the case was neighbor Shannon Martin. Ten other people are signees of the appeal. The appellant included a petition signed by “more than 100 families who reside in the immediate vicinity of the school.”
The agreement appears to mark another victory for neighborhood groups busy putting the State Environmental Policy Act to work to push back on development projects. The PCC-centered mixed-use project planned for Madison Valley is another recent example. An appeal to require further review of the multimillion parking garage and gym proposal cost the filer $85.
The new plan will still include Holy Names demolishing its current gymnasium to build the underground garage, and rebuild a new gym with the “same height and comparable footprint.” The plan, however, no longer includes the new parking lot along E Aloha for parking large vehicles including buses that would have eliminated the school’s northern trees and lawn that frequently serve as a de facto neighborhood park after classes let out.
Holy Names first announced its plans about 14 months ago. Its quest for better parking solutions for its 700 students and their parents could be a harbinger for similar needs at other private schools including the nearby St. Joseph School. Meanwhile, other area private schools also continue to expand.
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