CHS Pics | On Broadway, you can buy your Valentine a short story by Saab

CHS found a different kind of Valentine’s Day gift for sale on Broadway Monday morning. Author and artist Saab Lofton was on the plaza at Seattle Central with stories for sale.

“Here, this is one of the best Lesbian vampire stories,” Lofton said Monday, leafing through his stapled stacks of stories. His tales mix explorations on race and privilege with science fiction and bizarre twists on mainstream characters. What if Superman is Black?

It’s all a little weird and not completely romantic — in other words, perfect for your Valentine.

Lofton said he’s back in Seattle after a stint in Las Vegas and that he might turn his attention to stories from the neighborhood. You can find him sometimes on Broadway — look for the Valentine’s sign this week — or at saablofton.com.

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Five years later, seven-story project moving forward at Broadway and James

Demolished (Image: King County)

Demolished (Image: King County)

Those enjoying a free ride on the First Hill Streetcar may have noticed one of Broadway’s old buildings was torn down last week. At the corner of Broadway and James, the former home of Yasuko’s Teriyaki and, now long ago, El Mestizo, and the 1906-built, two-story, 4-unit masonry apartment building they called home has been demolished.

The path for the 550 Broadway project is an example of the roadway large projects around the neighborhood sometimes take as financing windows open and close and the review and permit process trundles forward. In this case, the teriyaki restaurant’s owner Yasuko Connor also owned the old building and sold to developers in 2011 for $3,339,000, according to county records. That knowledge might soften the blow of sadness fans of the restaurant felt when it finally shuttered last fall. The acquirer was George Webb and the Stratford Company, the prolific real estate investor and developer we last reported on amid accusations of economic evictions at a recently acquired Capitol Hill apartment building.

Coming soon

Coming soon

The developers moved forward a plan for a seven-story, mixed-use apartment building at the site. Here’s our report on the design review from late 2011. Then the project seemingly went on ice as the process to do something with the property ground to a halt. Finally, in December 2014, Webb’s company flipped the property and the permitted development project for $7.5 million to Seattle-based Intracorp Real Estate.

While the first round of permitting expired last spring, the company was able to submit and updated application. In December, the city approved the plan for a seven-story building designed in 2011 with 5,000 square feet of commercial space and underground parking for 110 vehicles. With the old building demolished, hopefully it won’t take another five years for construction to begin.

First Hill Streetcar will get its lion dance grand opening — but the free ride ends soon

The First Hill Streetcar vs. The 60 (Image: CHS)

The First Hill Streetcar vs. The 60 (Image: CHS)

75 years — and some major testing delays — later, streetcars returned to Capitol Hill in January. The launch was a rush job with little ceremony. But officials say the 2.5-mile, 10-stop route connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill will get its celebration February 13th. The celebration will bring to an end the free ride for the route which has enjoyed more riders than expected thanks to its no-fare introductory period.

Starting Monday, February 15th Tuesday, February 16th riders will need to purchase $2.25 adult fare at station platforms using an ORCA card or ticket machines. 3,000 riders are expected to use the streetcar every day — though many have been critical of the delays the FHSC sometimes encounters as it travels in the traffic lane, sharing space with automobiles, buses, and the occasional, extremely poorly parked car or truck.

Developer, Sound Transit ‘really close’ on $25 million deal for Broadway light rail properties

Those birds are still flying over the concept renderings for the future Capitol Hill Station development

Those birds are still flying over the concept renderings for the future Capitol Hill Station development

8446655114_9e5d1f2e6e_o (1)As controversy swirls around its plans for an anchor tenant in the project, a representative for Gerding Edlen said the developer is “really close” to finalizing its big deal with Sound Transit to create 100,000 square feet of housing, commercial, and community projects on the now-empty land surrounding Capitol Hill Station.

“We’re working really closely with Sound Transit to a deal structure that works for us and them,” Gerding Edlen partner Jill Sherman tells CHS.

“It’s been extremely productive.”

The light rail station and the 3.1-mile U-Link subway line between downtown and the University of Washington via Broadway is slated to open March 19th. But the “transit oriented development” around the project likely won’t begin construction until late 2017.

More good news for the process to shape the development came for the Capitol Hill Champion community group this week with word it has received a $10,000 grant from the city to boost its “outreach and advocacy for community priorities” on the massive development.

Group representative Mel Burchett tells CHS the Champion plans to use the funding to learn more about the needs of specific groups around the Hill:

Specifically, we want to hold smaller meetings/charettes with focus groups in coordination with the development team for the sites.  We don’t know yet what priorities our groups will focus on, or specifically who these groups will be.  We plan to review our outreach to-date and target groups that we feel have been  underrepresented at our larger meetings (such as parents with small children, students, seniors, etc)

Earlier this month, CHS wrote about the growing need for senior housing on Capitol Hill but Champion representatives said it is too early to say what the focus will be for the group’s work to shape the coming projects.

“We are just beginning to develop our strategy, and plan to re-survey the community soon,” Burchett said.

A five-year fight to shape the bidding process for the developments with community priorities including affordable housing and a market plaza culminated in last year’s selection of Gerding Edlen as the “master developer” for four project areas around the future light rail station. Because of the community guidelines, developers were allowed to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above the minimum affordable housing requirements.

According to Gerding Edlen, the company will purchase the property planned for affordable housing property from Sound Transit and sign leases for three other parcels. Sound Transit said the land was worth around $25 million and that Gerding Edlen was aiming for a 75-year deal to lease the properties. Continue reading

Labor groups oppose New Seasons Market as candidate for Capitol Hill Station tenant

Screen-Shot-2015-04-21-at-1.49.04-PM1-600x366Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 6.31.18 PMA Portland-based grocery chain believed to be the frontrunner to a large retail space on Broadway is already facing opposition from labor organizations that say the company is anti-union.

New Seasons Market has not been publicly identified as the anchor tenant for the four-site retail and housing development to surround the U-Link light rail Capitol Hill Station, but labor and advocacy groups believe it tops the list.

Last year developer (and fellow Portlander) Gerding Edlen said they were in talks with a northwest-based grocer interested in expanding to Seattle to become the anchor tenant to the “transit orientated development” project. New Seasons does fit the bill, though neither Gerding nor New Seasons have publicly confirmed a deal.

In a letter to the Sound Transit Board, eight Seattle unions and advocacy organizations said they are concerned with “an anti-union climate” at the stores and cite Seattle’s Metropolitan Markets or PCC Markets as better choices.

UPDATE: Gerding partner Jill Sherman confirmed New Seasons was the grocer the company had been in discussions with through the bid process, but said no final decision has been made on a tenant. Sherman has also met with the group Puget Sound Sage, one of the letter’s signatories.

“We have been made aware of the concerns,” Sherman said.  “New Seasons is very well respected in our market for their businesses practices.”

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Broadway’s new post office is not pretty — but it’s open

Postal customers who were surprised to find the Broadway post office closed over the weekend will also probably be surprised to find the service reopened Monday after a move to its new Capitol Hill home.

They should read CHS.

The US Post Office has moved its facility two blocks north on Broadway into the giant retail space left empty by the exit of OfficeMax. The office supply chain’s signs still hang above the address — 212 Broadway E for those of you into this kind of thing. The new facility remains in the veritable juicy middle of Capitol Hill just up the street from the about to open Capitol Hill Station.

Inside, you will find most of the space has been devoted to processing and banks of post office boxes. The retail counter is smushed into a back corridor. The red and blue paint is still bright. Government posters have yet to be posted. The racks and shelves of packaging material, etc. were yet to be stocked. Continue reading

Broadway businesses wary of a two stop extension to First Hill Streetcar

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

BroadwayStreetcar_factsheet_090315_optionb-01As Capitol Hill piles on the transit projects in 2016, some business owners want the City to pump the brakes on an expansion to the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway.

Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director Sierra Hansen says some of the organization’s members are less than thrilled about the prospect of more street construction and a proposed tax on businesses to help pay for the two stop addition.

“People were really excited two years ago…  but I think the (First Hill Streetcar) delay has made people nervous,” she said. “I think the emphasis has focused away from expanding the lines and more on connecting the lines.”

The First Hill Streetcar line finally opened last Saturday, returning streetcar service to Broadway for the first time in 75 years — but only after more than a year of delay on the project.

The Broadway Streetcar calls for adding two streetcar stops on Broadway — one at Harrison and a new terminus at Roy — that would extend the First Hill Streetcar route and accompanying Broadway Bikeway by a half mile starting in 2017. The new stops are estimated to serve 1,000 riders per day by 2030.

As the project enters its final design phase with construction slated to start as early as the end of this year, funding remains a question mark. So far, SDOT has secured $10 million in federal funding and $4 million in state grants toward construction, putting the project roughly $10 million short. Continue reading

Date set for opening of Capitol Hill Station, start of U-Link service — UPDATE: 3/19/16

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In 2014, CHS took a walk through the tunnels (Image: CHS)

In 2014, CHS took a walk through the tunnels (Image: CHS)

More than six years after the first fences went up and five years after the tunnel boring first began, Sound Transit has picked a date to open its new U-Link light rail line connecting downtown to Montlake via Broadway’s new Capitol Hill Station.

An announcement of the expected March launch date is planned for Tuesday’s lunch hour at the underground station along Broadway between John and Denny.

Via ulink2016.org/station-tour

UPDATE 12:42 PM: Service will begin Saturday, March 19th, one week ahead of a planned restructure of Seattle’s Metro bus routes. Here’s Sound Transit’s promo for the big day:

It’s time to celebrate the opening of the University Link light rail extension! Service to Capitol Hill and University of Washington Stations begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 19, 2016. We are planning for a day of fun and adventure, with activities and entertainment for all ages. Visit ulink2016.org to learn all about U Link and our Launch Day plans.

The new sign was up for Tuesday's announcement

The new sign was up for Tuesday’s announcement

Speaking inside the Capitol Hill Station, Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled a countdown clock to the 10 AM departure of the first U-Link train from the University of Washington Station to Capitol Hill.

“This is actually going to be an incredibly positive moment on Broadway in its history,” said Murray, a longtime Capitol Hill resident. “This is going to create businesses and restaurants once again on Broadway.”

Sound Transit is planning a celebration on Capitol Hill to commemorate the launch. Officials said details would be coming soon. A week after the two new stops open, Metro busses will begin new routes to better connect riders to the stations. “It will be a real change to the way people get around,” Constantine said.

By 2030, around 14,000 Capitol Hill riders are expected to board the light rail trains each day. However, a Sound Transit spokesperson said that a revised projection would show even more usage as the system improvements in Sound Transit 2 were not factored into the original estimates. Sound Transit estimates that from 2015-2017, light rail’s average weekday ridership will increase by about 26,000 boardings.

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Light rail fares are based on how far riders travel. Traveling south from Capitol Hill, adult fares start at $2.25 to go as far as the SODO station, $2.50 to Othello, $2.75 to Rainier Beach, and $3 to Sea-Tac Airport. The fare from Capitol Hill to Husky Stadium will be $2.25.


(Table courtesy @GordonWerner)

The March service start is a major point of pride for Sound Transit and Constantine, who praised the agency for its early completion of the two stations and twin-bored tunnels. Of course, “early” depends on when you start counting. Plans for the line were first drafted in 2000, but the project timeline was rebooted in 2008. From that mark, starting service in March would put the project six months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget.

Bike parking will be available at the station entrance at E Denny Way by the time trains are running, according to Sound Transit. Eventually, bike cages will be added as part of the “transit orientated development” that will surround the station in the coming years.

Tuesday brings the second announcement of a major Capitol Hill transportation project’s start of service — though it won’t see the same rapid turnaround from announcement to operations. Last week, Seattle Department of Transportation officials followed a Friday announcement of the start of the First Hill Streetcar line with a Saturday return of streetcar passenger service on Broadway for the first time in 75 years.

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First Hill Streetcar begins service with free rides — UPDATE

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First departure from Broadway and Denny (Image: CHS)

Go take a ride on the First Hill Streetcar. Saturday, the 2.5-mile line connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill begins service. During the “promotional service” period, rides are free. The first streetcar should be leaving the Broadway and Denny end of things around 11 AM Saturday. Got a picture or video of your first ride? Send it to CHS.

UPDATE 1:35 PM: A bright yellow streetcar on the grayest of Seattle days was filled with around 60 riders and a driver named Tom for the first departure of the First Hill Streetcar from the Broadway/Denny stop Saturday morning.

With a “clang clang” and a round of applause, the streetcar departed just after 11:20 AM after getting the go ahead from operations that the train carrying Mayor Ed Murray and a huddle of dignitaries and community representatives had departed from Pioneer Square on the other end of the 2.5-mile route. On a day when the launch of the new $138 million streetcar line had already been downplayed by Seattle Department of Transportation officials, Murray also distanced himself from the brightly painted set of six shiny, new, Czech-designed cars. The mayor said he inherited a project that was delayed but was now happy the line was running.

The streetcar is on nextbus.com... it's official!

The streetcar is on nextbus.com… it’s official!

On the Broadway end of things, there was a little more enthusiasm. Some riders said they thought they would use the new line to visit the International District to shop at Uwajimaya or go out to eat in Pioneer Square. Some said they doubted they’d ever ride again except when tourists are in town to visit. A few riders said the line represented a more solid, perhaps more dependable kind of transit that they could be more confident in trusting to show up with regularity and provide a comfortable ride.

But it will be a slow ride. Even in light, Saturday morning traffic and with rather quick boarding and exits at the 10 stops along the line, it took nearly 25 minutes to travel from Broadway and Denny to Occidental Square. With the streetcar sharing lanes with with vehicular traffic and on a route that comes sometimes perilously close to cars parked on the street near the tracks, expect slower times when the line is needed most during rush hours.

Nobody but the media photographers trying to capture a small moment in Seattle history really seemed to be in a rush for Saturday’s first rides, however. Most riders were out to see the new streetcars and enjoy a free ride. The $2.25 fare will remain waived through a few weeks while the system ramps up. SDOT director Scott Kubly, who was part of the first ride out of Pioneer Square, is promising a larger celebration complete with lion dancers and a ribbon cutting when the line is ready for a “grand opening” in a few weeks.

The six streetcars travel the 2.5-mile line’s 10 stops every 10 to 15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 10 AM to 8 PM. The streetcar travels in the traffic lane sharing space with automobiles and buses. Most left turns along the route have been eliminated and signals are now coordinated to help keep the streetcar moving. From Pioneer Square to Broadway, the streetcar will operate with power from a single overhead wire. Hybrid batteries will provide power generated through “regenerative braking” on the mostly downhill return trip. 3,000 riders are expected to use the First Hill line every day with fares set by Sound Transit. The standard adult fare is $2.25. After the free period, riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms. You can learn more at seattlestreetcar.org.

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First Hill Streetcar launch party planned — only question is when — UPDATE: SATURDAY SOFT LAUNCH

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

As of last Wednesday, Seattle Department of Transportation officials have a plan for the event to launch the First Hill Streetcar including a Pioneer Square celebration and a Jackson Street lion dance. But when that party will happen remains a mystery after SDOT representatives said “possible delays” mean the launch date still can’t be announced.

An update on the much-delayed project linking Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill is expected Friday afternoon when SDOT director Scott Kubly will bat leadoff in an unusual session of the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee which usually meets on Tuesdays. With the MLK Day holiday, the “director’s report” session and the committee meeting were pushed back to Friday.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 12:03 PM: It’s official. Service begins Saturday — and rides will be free:

First Hill Streetcar Gets Rolling!

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is excited to announce promotional service on the First Hill Streetcar Line will begin midday on Saturday, January 23.  This “soft launch” will feature free rides to introduce the new service, and will be followed in the weeks to come by a grand opening and community celebration.

Funded by Sound Transit, the First Hill Streetcar connects the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Central District, Little Saigon, Chinatown-International District, and Pioneer Square. The First Hill Streetcar line is just one part of the Seattle Streetcar system that will help provide new mobility options, support economic growth, and strengthen connections in the urban core.

Thank you to the communities, neighbors, and businesses along the line for bearing with us during construction and testing. We appreciate your patience and support. We are excited to see you on the First Hill Streetcar discovering Seattle’s neighborhoods and attractions, commuting to work, and linking to other modes of travel. Learn more about how to ride the streetcar.  Stay tuned for details on the grand opening events to follow.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 3:03 PM: Kubly said service is planned to begin at 11 AM Saturday and that rides will remain free until any issues are worked out of the system. Expect “a grand opening with a more celebratory feel to it then another week of free rides and then we’ll start charging,” Kubly said.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 8:59 AM:  An email sent to “community partners” Thursday afternoon says to get ready, the First Hill Streetcar’s “soft launch” is Saturday. To translate the rather thickly worded message, service is slated to begin and the streetcar will be open to the public Saturday, January 23rd. So, dinner in the ID this weekend?

Dear Community Partners,
I understand that in the past couple of days there might have been confusion caused by news of a soft launch of the First Hill Street Car (FHSC) this coming Saturday. This news might have been confusing because it was unclear whether this soft launch was in lieu of the grand opening celebrations that SDOT had been working with community and neighborhood partners to plan.
I want to clarify that the intent for this coming Saturday is not to replace the celebratory events we want to hold in our neighborhoods, but to ensure that a soft launch of the FHSC is successful and we can ensure that the streetcar is in fact operational. The attached letter articulates SDOT’s commitment to this process and our continued interest in working with our community partners to finally celebrate the successful opening of the FHSC line.

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