Agreement on $17M+ land lease will put Capitol Hill Station development on track for fall 2019 opening — UPDATE

In spring 2018, developer Gerding Edlen will finally break ground on the 100,000-square-foot Capitol Hill Station commercial, housing, and community space project. To do it, the developer needs to sign a land lease for the Sound Transit-owned property.

On Thursday, the Sound Transit board will vote on three 99-year lease agreements to hand over control of Sites A, B-South, and C — the paved over, fenced off parcels along Broadway between E Denny Way and E John. If approved, it would put Gerding on track to finish the project in fall 2019.

UPDATE (3:20 PM): The Sound Transit board unanimously approved the lease agreements Thursday afternoon, paving they way for Gerding Edlen to dive into the design phase of the project. “Today is a really exciting day,” said Sarah Lovell, a member of Sound Transit’s “transit orientated development” staff.

In addition to some 400 apartments, the project will include a retail “bazaar” anchored by a grocery store. Portland-based New Seasons Market and Capitol Hill’s Central Co-op are currently vying to take over the space. The project is also slated to include a daycare, community space, and permanent home for the Broadway Farmers Market.

Board members said the project would be an example for all future TOD projects along the expanding light rail system. Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff praised his staff following the vote, saying many had lived and breathed the deal for the past six months. “It’s easily the most ambitious TOD action the agency has ever taken,” he said.

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Sound Transit light rail cell service rollout begins with downtown-Capitol Hill-UW tunnels

Your three minute and change light rail rides through the tunnels to downtown and UW via Capitol Hill Station might seem a little longer. Tuesday, the switch was flipped to turn on the neutral host 4G LTE cell network — a multi-carrier network with data — built to eventually service all of Sound Transit’s underground light rail stations and tunnels.

Wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie built and runs the network and is working with Sound Transit to roll out the service segment by segment, carrier by carrier. Anybody annoying you this week by grunting “uh huh” over and over again is a T-Mobile customer. Soon, Verizon and AT&T “uh huh” grunters will follow. Seattle Transit Blog reports Sprint has yet to sign a contract to be part of the early service deployment.

There have already been a few early adopters, of course: Continue reading

Capitol Hill Champion wants to hear from all corners for light rail station development focus groups

The Capitol Hill Champion group is looking for community feedback about the development around the light rail station on Broadway.

CHC is specifically interested in hearing from Capitol Hill residents who haven’t been as vocal so far in the design process and is looking for focus group participants this fall.

The first of four focus groups includes seniors, families with small children and people with accessibility or mobility challenges. The second group will be made up of artists, students and the nightlife community. The next group includes small business owners and workers — especially those in the service industry. The final group will consist of social service professionals and people who are homeless.

To participate in a focus group go to tinyurl.com/CHCFocusGroupApp.

The Champion is a joint project from the Capitol Hill Community Council and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce that began in 2010. The organization has been advocating for community design priorities during the light rail development.

First look at how light rail, route revisions have changed Capitol Hill bus ridership

Over the weekend, CHS’s Re:Take history series took a look back at some of the lost bus routes of Capitol Hill. We don’t have to look back far in time to find the changes. Late last year, Metro planned out a wave of revisions and reroutes to optimize its service around the opening of light rail service to Capitol Hill Station and UW.

Now, the Seattle Transit Blog has provided the first look at how ridership on the altered bus lines has changed in the first months as ridership on light rail has soared.

STB grouped the impacted Capitol Hill routes into a set of winners…

  • Route 11: up 38% — The #11 is likely absorbing demand on Pine Street east of Broadway for former Route 10 riders unwilling to walk to Link. Continue reading

Why Sound Transit is not rolling out more 3-car light rail trains

Southbound trips

Northbound tripsSound Transit may consider it an encouraging problem to have that the chief complaint among riders of its recently expanded light rail system is that trains are sometimes overcrowded. During last week’s Sound Transit board meeting, members asked transit officials to respond to public demand for more capacity and explain why more three-car trains are not running on the mostly two-car system.

It turns out that even with the huge boost in ridership since the Capitol Hill and UW stations opened in March, Link light rail is still well within its capacity on most trips.

“We cannot guarantee that everyone will have a seat during peak hours, nor was that how the system was designed or funded,” said David Huffaker, Sound Transit’s deputy executive director of operations. Continue reading

Here’s what comes next for Capitol Hill Station development

As trains swiftly carry thousands of passengers through Capitol Hill’s subway station every day, the process to develop the area above ground continues to inch forward.

Next week, the Sound Transit Board is expected to approve a sale agreement for one parcel, known as Site B-North. The vote during the July 28th meeting will pave the way for Capitol Hill Housing to start designing and building an 86-unit affordable housing project. In August, the board is expected to approve land leases for the three other sites so developer Gerding Edlen can move forward with its plan to build 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-11.12.06-PM-600x406Sound Transit has not yet publicly released the lease agreements or the preliminary agreements signed earlier this month, saying that it may compromise negotiations with other developers should the Gerding deal fall through. The agency, which purchased the Broadway sites between E Denny Way and E John and demolished them in 2009 to build the underground station, has previously said the parcels were worth around $25 million and that Gerding was aiming for a 75-year deal to lease the properties.

Members of the Capitol Hill Champion group have been planning and anticipating the milestone for years after helping to forge a development agreement that included community benefits like space for a farmers market and affordable housing. “It’s exciting we’re finally getting to this point,” said Champion co-chair Brie Gyncild Continue reading

Central Co-op says lease issues behind Tacoma closure

A Central Co-op checker

A Central Co-op checker

Only months after merging with the grocery cooperative, Central Co-op announced Monday it has closed Tacoma’s Central Co-op 6th Ave location after after what it says was a protracted and ultimately unsuccessful negotiation on a new lease:

Dear South-Sound Owners and Community,

Effective July 18, 2016, the Central Co-op 6th Avenue site in Tacoma is closed for business and a search for a new location in the Tacoma area has been initiated. Our Board of Trustees made this decision after months of lease negotiations failed to produce a mutually agreeable set of terms between the landlord and the Cooperative. The closure of the 6th Avenue location is a sad and unexpected turn of events. After years of operating at this location, we were confident that all parties could come to an agreement that would benefit our business, our membership, and the property owner. We continued negotiations until we realized that a solution was beyond our reach and made the decision to close in order to give ourselves time to exit in a responsible manner. Our team is actively evaluating other sites in the Tacoma area with plans to re-open.

Our union contract with UFCW Local 367 includes language for closure and layoffs that will guide our process with the staff of the 6th Avenue location.

We remain committed to our South-Sound membership. Our Co-op’s staff and trustees are focused on finding a new location for our Tacoma operations. Throughout this process we will continue to serve our South-Sound community with events, community partnerships, and regular Co-op news updates. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Champion seeks support for Denny festival street plan

Turns out, just because CHS calls something a festival street doesn’t make it an official City of Seattle festival street.

The Capitol Hill Champion group is drumming up community support for its push to convince the Seattle Department of Transportation powers that be — hi, Seth Geiser! — to officially designate the street for future festival purposes.

The city’s festival street program allows streets that aren’t considered vital arteries to be closed to traffic “for pedestrian-focused special events.” The newly one-way Denny already has already debuted as a quasi-festival street — most famously as host of the Capitol Hill Station grand opening celebration’s street fair.  Continue reading

Here’s why Capitol Hill Station’s escalators were reversed

Light rail travelers at Capitol Hill Station over the holiday weekend had to do a double-take — or worse:

Riders were surprised to find the “up” escalator was suddenly the “down” escalator — vice versa. Continue reading

Developers finally reach key milestone in Capitol Hill Station retail, housing project

Screen-Shot-2015-04-21-at-2.03.07-PM-600x7811-600x781Developers behind the retail and housing project that will surround Capitol Hill Station have reached a long awaited milestone towards starting construction.

CHS has learned that Gerding Edlen has signed an agreement with Sound Transit that lays out, among other things, the terms of a $25 million land lease for the project site along Broadway between E Denny Way and E John.

In March, a representative for the Portland-based developer told CHS the two sides were “really close” to signing a so-called term sheet. The preliminary agreement sets the terms for Gerding Edlen to lease three sites from Sound Transit and purchase the fourth, where Capitol Hill Housing will build an 86-unit affordable housing development.

“It took more than a year for them to negotiate the term sheet, in large part because structuring a lease instead of a purchase and sale proved complicated,” said Brie Gyncild of the Capitol Hill Champion, a community group that has worked for years to insert neighborhood priorities into the project.

Sound Transit has 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

Council member O’Brien wants Central Co-op to anchor Capitol Hill Station development

Favorites-1-of-4-1-600x400Council member Mike O’Brien has made an unexpected endorsement, not for a political candidate, but for a Capitol Hill grocer.

In a letter to the developer of the four-site retail and housing project that will one day surround the Capitol Hill Station, the District 6 rep expressed his support for Central Co-op to become the development’s anchor tenant over Portland-based New Seasons Market. Both grocers are vying to occupy the future prominent retail space on Broadway, poised to be an extremely high-trafficked site given the thousands of light rail riders who are already moving through the block daily.

Members of the 16th and E Madison co-op announced in April to pursue a second location in the “transit orientated development” following reports that developer Gerding Edlen was in talks with New Seasons.

A group of labor organizations and Council District 3 rep Kshama Sawant previously voiced concerns about an “anti-union climate” at New Seasons stores. Citing Central Co-op’s early implementation of a $15 minimum wage and “spirit of sustainability,” O’Brien said the Capitol Hill-born grocer would be a better fit for the neighborhood.

“I was in the room when they announced their desire to pursue the TOD space,” O’Brien said in his letter. “I was inspired by the energy and excitement of hundreds of people, all of whom are owners of the business, turning their energy towards a common goal and vision.” Continue reading

U-Link construction workers sue Sound Transit contractor over discrimination

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Workers boring the U-Link tunnel in 2012. (Image: CHS)

Three African American construction workers who helped build the Capitol Hill light rail tunnels during 2011-2012 say supervisors gave skilled minority laborers menial tasks, denied overtime based on race, and were openly hostile to black workers.

The allegations were made in a civil lawsuit filed in a Seattle federal court earlier this month against Traylor Brothers, a company that had formed a joint venture with Frontier-Kemper to bore the the U-Link twin tunnels between Capitol Hill and the University of Washington stations. Continue reading