Coalition says Convention Center expansion’s proposed public benefits aren’t enough

At a Thursday Seattle Design Commission meeting, Washington State Convention Center expansion project leaders presented the public benefits package proposed to justify the vacation of three alleys for the $1.6 billion downtown project. An exact value of the vacations hasn’t been determined, but a coalition of community groups has been leading the push to make sure the package benefits the surrounding neighborhoods.

Representatives with the Community Package Coalition, made up of nine community groups, argue that WSCC’s proposed benefits aren’t enough.

“The size of the public benefits package is nowhere near fair,” said Alex Hudson, executive director of the First Hill Improvement Association said Thursday.

The investments are “critical” to make sure the neighborhoods around the Convention Center are “improved and not degraded,” Hudson said.

“We have people that are asking that we do certain things for the neighborhoods, but we don’t have opposition to the project,” said Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group, the development firm managing the expansion project for the WSCC.

WSCC’s proposed benefits focus on three areas — affordable housing, the city and Downtown Seattle Association’s Pike Pine Renaissance project, and community projects including a Lid I-5 Study, Freeway Park improvements and downtown bicycle improvements. For some of the projects, WSCC proposes proving funding for them, not heading the design and implementation of them. It’s a lengthy, detailed roster of potential neighborhood improvements from downtown up to Capitol Hill. We’ve embedded the full package proposal, below. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | Where will the new Convention Center workers live?

"The Addition will add approximately 250,000 square feet of exhibition space, 125,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 60,000 square feet of ballroom space to the current Convention Center capacity," according to the WSCC

“The Addition will add approximately 250,000 square feet of exhibition space, 125,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 60,000 square feet of ballroom space to the current Convention Center capacity,” according to the WSCC

By Joel Sisolak and McCaela Daffern

The most expensive public works project in Seattle’s history is quietly heading toward City Council approval. Let’s hit pause and consider how the project will impact adjacent neighborhoods and how the developer should internalize costs that will otherwise fall on Seattle taxpayers, including the cost of housing the development’s own workforce.

In case you’ve missed it, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) is slotted for a makeover to the tune of $1.6 billion dollars – an eye watering price tag bigger than Safeco and CenturyLink combined. It will reshape a large part of Seattle’s city center, result in four years or ongoing construction, disrupt downtown traffic, and permanently remove 1.28 acres of streets and alleyways to use by the public.

And the benefits are less than certain. WSCC claims that the addition will provide “a host of economic benefits, including as much as $240 million annually in visitor spending, as many as 3,900 direct and indirect jobs.” Continue reading

Seattle council member throws support behind I-5 lid

screen-shot-2015-12-15-at-4-44-19-pm-1The Lid I-5 group started 2017 with a financial boost in its push for a $1 million study of bridging the gap over the interstate between Capitol Hill and downtown. It also is getting some valuable political support. Seattle City Council member Sally Baghsaw’s District 7 covers downtown. In January, she added her voice off support in a call for studying the possible lid:

We can create a “public land make, not a land take” that could be available for affordable housing, more parks and green space, and private office space to help pay for it.  As other big cities have shown, this is one way we can create new real estate for public/private partnerships and make our Downtown greener and more Age-Friendly.

“I fully support Lid I-5 in District 7, and recognize this is a project that will be envisioned and completed in phases over the next decade(s),” Bagshaw writes.

The Lid I-5 group has proposed a $1 million lidding study as part of the public benefits package the City Council must decide on that will accompany the the massive $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. Other important neighborhood projects are also lined up to be part of the package meant to offset the loss of public right of way from street/alley vacations involved in the expansion.

The Lid I-5 group says there is also growing momentum in City Hall behind its idea for a “short term” “proof-of-concept” lid project at Pine and Boren that would cost around $10 million to complete.

If you think lidding I-5 sounds too far fetched, Bagshaw, in her typical colloquial style, says, not so fast, buster.

“Visionary? You bet. Pie in the sky? No way,” she writes. “It’s what we need to increase green over gray and another way to make our city truly Age Friendly.”

You can learn more at lidi5.org.

Capitol Hill real estate moguls step in with $20k push for group backing Lid I-5 study, $10M+ Pine-Boren lid

The Lid I-5 campaign announced it has secured $20,000 in contributions thanks to two Capitol Hill real estate investors to help its push for a plan that could cover the interstate “in the city center and other neighborhoods.” The group says there is also growing momentum in City Hall behind its idea for a “short term” “proof-of-concept” lid project at Pine and Boren.

Michael Malone of Capitol Hill developer Hunters Capital promised a $10,000 donation to the group if it could raise another 10 grand to match. Lid I-5 announced Joe Nabbefeld, broker at Windermere Capitol Hill, stepped up with the contribution. The funding raised the group’s total raised to more than $30,000 in 2016. Continue reading

Leave Paul Allen out of it: Ask for an I-5 lid study

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Nobody needs Paul Allen to pay for building a new lid over I-5 — not yet, at least. Nope. All we need at this point is a public benefit investment of less than 1/10th of a percent of the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion to fund a $1 million study of lidding I-5 thus renewing the severed historical bonds between Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Eastlake, and downtown Seattle and ushering in an era of peace and prosperity in the central city.

CHS wrote here about the quest for the lid plan to be included in the project’s public benefits package. Wednesday night, you can attend a WSCC expansion open house just down the Hill and/or let the Seattle Design Commission know your thoughts via email at SDC_Administration@seattle.gov.

WSCC Public Benefits Open House

A December push to make I-5 lid plan a ‘public benefit’ from $1.6B convention center expansion

The next big step in the Washington State Convention Center’s downtown expansion plan is a discussion of public benefits of the massive project. The meeting is set for December 7th, and Lid I-5, the community group looking to secure funding for a plan to better connect Capitol Hill to downtown, will be there.

“It’s important not only to our group, but also to the surrounding community,” said John Feit of Lid I-5.

As part of the now $1.6 billion expansion plan, the convention center is asking for the city to hand over three alleys, and the land under two existing streets, Olive Way and Terry Avenue. In exchange for these publicly-owned areas, the center essentially has to pay for them.

In most cases like this, the payment is not in cash, but in some form of public benefit, such as a new public space that meets the value of the public area the developer takes over and adds new resources or features for the city. The exact value of the areas has yet to be announced, but Lid I-5, among a number of other groups, is jockeying for a chance at some of the expected funding. Continue reading

Remove I-5

Tuesday night, the Lid I-5 volunteer group (lidi5.org) achieved an important milestone with an invitation to present in front of the Washington State Convention Center board of directors to “share their work on community engagement, their motivations and goals, and how the Convention Center can contribute to making the vision a reality.” CHS reported in September on the group’s progress as it pursues the inclusion of funding for a lid study in the public benefits the planned expansion of the convention center must deliver.

But when it comes to addressing the rift created by having a major freeway bisecting the city and keeping Capitol Hill neighbors from more freely mixing with their downtown brothers and sisters, maybe simply lidding I-5 isn’t enough. Maybe the massive freeway canyon should be filled and the city repaired:

For several hours a days, the freeway and extensive network of interchanges are gridlocked into a major obstacle rather than an asset. And to make the loss all the worse, the land adjacent to Downtown, South Lake Union, and Eastlake is extremely valuable. If you haven’t noticed, land in those neighborhood is worth a crazy amount of money. The Seattle Times got $62.5 million for two full blocks it sold to Onni Group in 2013. Removing I-5 between I-90 and SR-520 would free up more than 50 blocks by my rough calculation, which could mean more than a billion dollars worth of land. Stricken with budget shortages, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) might be forced to sell off Downtown Seattle land to finance its tireless efforts in suburbia.

What could Capitol Hill and our Central Seattle neighborhoods gain in the cauterization?

Eastlake and South Lake Union flow smoothy into Capitol Hill without I-5 in the way. First Hill suddenly becomes integrated with Downtown and Pioneer Square, providing much easier and more pleasant pedestrian access. The hole blasted in the International District disappears. Intersections that used to cause big problems for bus reliability like Denny Way and I-5 would move more steadily rather than getting backed up from on-ramp traffic. And in I-5’s absence, Sound Transit’s growing light rail network can pick up the slack to carry commuters Downtown.

Check out the whole thing here: What’s Better Than A Lid? Remove I-5 Entirely From Central Seattle.

What’s next for the push to Lid I-5

(Image: Lid I-5)

(Image: Lid I-5)

Getting a logo was a major step for members of the Lid I-5 campaign. Then they got a movie. Now they have a website. What started as a few concept drawings has grown into a small but dedicated group of architects and community members seeking to capitalize on a massive new downtown convention center by attaching to the project plans for lid over I-5 between downtown and Capitol Hill.

The group’s new website lidi5.org, which launched last week, will be a place to track progress on the campaign and store a rapidly growing library of supporting materials. Ideas have included reconnecting streets for better transit, creating a wide open green space, and using the lid to build affordable housing.

Lid I-5 organizer Scott Bonjukian says the group is currently “working on a lot of background tasks” as the Washington State Convention Center Addition project appears to have slowed down in its complicated design review process. The $1.6 billion WSCC addition will be built on land along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today.

As part of vacating public right of ways the developers will be required to propose a series of “public benefits.” That’s where Lid I-5 hopes they will be able to insert their proposal. To help convince the commission, the group is working on compiling the results off the group’s well attended design charrette in May. Continue reading

Major outage knocks out power to downtown Seattle

A major power outage caused by equipment failure at a substation swept across downtown Seattle from Pioneer Square to the waterfront Wednesday just before noon. The outage could last hours, according to Seattle City Light. UPDATE: City Light has bumped up its estimate and now predict service should be restored by 12:40 PM. Some reports of restored power began to trickle out around 12:15 PM. UPDATE x2: Power was restored around 12:30 PM. City Light says no customer count is yet available but around 12,000 meters were involved in the outage. The investigation of the cause of the equipment failure is underway. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual forum: 5 projects to ‘gearshift’ the Hill

Imagine the CHS comments section come to life. You know… a deep, well-informed conversation about the most important issues and opportunities facing Capitol Hill and the people of Central Seattle. With fewer trolls and people complaining about my tiptoes typos.

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual community forum is Thursday night, the location is Hill-convenient at E Pike’s Summit Event Space, the tickets are free and still available. The theme? Gearshift:

When people talk about “shifting gears” they often mean abruptly changing direction or the topic of conversation. This idiom is confusing. On a bicycle, shifting gears has little to do with changing direction. Rather, shifting gears on a bike is about maintaining an optimal effort for maximum efficiency. It’s about making on-the-fly adjustments to keep moving over uneven terrain without getting exhausted. Shifting gears is more appropriately a metaphor for resilience.

Some important and smart people will be there:

On May 26th, five professional urban planners and passionate community organizers will introduce these ambitious projects in a rapid-fire series of Pecha Kucha-style presentations followed by an opportunity for each guest to participate in a facilitated discussion about one of the five projects. Presenters include Sierra Hansen of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Scott Bonjukian of Lid I-5, Alex Brennan from Capitol Hill Housing, Zachary Pullin of the Capitol Hill Community Council and Tonya Lockyer of Velocity Dance Center.  Civic leaders (City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien are confirmed) will be there to listen and respond to your comments.

This year’s forum will be a little different with multiple presentations on a set of hot topics undoubtedly culled from recent CHS archives:

The evening will feature five projects with the potential to increase the resilience of the neighborhood. The five projects:

The annual forum — CHH says this is the 9th edition — has been out in front on a variety of important initiatives and issues around the area while foreshadowing big projects to come from the city and the nonprofit developer. In 2015, the forum discussed gentrification and development in the Central District. In the year since, we’ve followed as massive projects have taken shape, more are coming, and the challenges of change have taken new forms in the community that CHH is slated to become an important new part of.

Capitol Hill Housing’s work around Capitol Hill, meanwhile, continues as the nonprofit developer of affordable housing enters its 40th year. It has been selected to be part of the Capitol Hill Station development to operate an 86-unit affordable apartment building at the site. As part of its mission to build “vibrant, engaged communities,” the 40-year-old community development corporation has frequently found itself outside the traditional role of housing developer. Through the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, CHH organized the pedestrian zone pilot project and will launch a transit pass program for tenants, and a shared parking pilot.

Gearshift: Capitol Hill Housing’s Community Forum 2016 is Thursday, May 26 starting at 5:00 PM at The Summit, 420 E Pike. Free tickets are available here.