If Seattle is to “build its way of out” its affordability crisis, the market seems to be indicating that Capitol Hill, for now at least, has done enough. Design review, the most public component in Seattle’s development process, has slowed to a trickle in the East District covering Capitol Hill and parts of the Central District. There is only a single project on the East review board’s calendar this month; last year there were six. After a small pulse of activity in January, looking ahead, the calendar doesn’t appear much more robust. In 2017, there were more than 30 reviews scheduled for major projects in the area.
The simplest explanation could be that we’re simply built out. Liz Dunn, the Capitol Hill-based developer behind Chophouse Row, said she wasn’t sure what might be behind a slowdown, except that all the sites just might finally be built.
There are other indicators that also point to a construction slowdown. The number of active cranes dropped over the past six months. We still have more than any other city in the US, but this is the first time the number has gone down in years.
Seattle has built more than 300 new apartment buildings since 2010, many of them in this area. Recently, some analysis suggests rents have stabilized, and even dropped in parts of the city, a possible indicator that supply has finally caught up with demand.
And the supply is going to keep going up in the neighborhood in the near term. The development at Capitol Hill Station, the Bonney-Watson project, a building on what used to be Piecora’s, new development at 23rd and Union and more at 23rd and Jackson, mean there will be hundreds of new units available in the next couple years.
Only time will tell if this is a blip or the start of a trend, but people who study development issues across the city and on Capitol Hill point to a number of possible reasons. Continue reading