Community groups pushing for public benefits package have $80M agreement with Convention Center — UPDATE

With reporting by Kelsey Hamlin

The Community Package Coalition has reached an agreement on an $80 million slate of public infrastructure investments surrounding the planned expansion of the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

Details of the agreement were set to be unveiled in a Monday afternoon press conference:

On Monday, October 16th at 1:30 PM, the Community Package Coalition, an alliance of community organizations adjacent to the planned the three-block, $1.6B Washington State Convention Center Addition (WSCCA), will announce results of their months-long negotiations with the developers of the WSCCA to secure a fair public benefits package for the people of Seattle.

The coalition represents community groups and nonprofits including the First Hill Improvement Association, Lid I-5, Capitol Hill Housing, Cascade Bicycle Club, Central Seattle Greenways, Housing Development Consortium, Freeway Park Association, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

UPDATE: Here is the announced roster of projects that made the benefits package cut:

Summary of WSCC Addition Public Benefits and Investments
Item$ MM
Community Package Projects
Freeway Park Improvements$10.0
Lid I-5 Study$1.5
Pike-Pine Bicycle Improvements$10.0
Olive Way Pedestrian Improvements$0.5
8th Ave Bicycle Improvements$6.0
Terry Ave Promenade$4.0
Affordable Housing$29.0
Other Public Benefits (current estimate)
Pike-Pine Renaissance Pedestrian Improvements$10.0
9th Avenue Pedestrian Improvements$0.6
Public Art$1.9
Historic Building Lighting$1.0
On-Site Features$8.1
Improvements to Olive Way$0.2
Subtotal                                                                             $82.8

The coalition has been pushing Convention Center and public officials to create a broader — and more expensive — package of public benefits package required to justify the vacation of three alleys for the $1.6 billion downtown project. Continue reading

Community Package Coalition gains ground in push for I-5 lid study, Convention Center public benefits

A coalition of neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations CHS first told you about in February as the new team pushed for a stronger public benefits package in the planned $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition project is growing. The Capitol Hill Community Council is the latest organization to throw its weight behind the Community Package Coalition.

The alliance including the First Hill Improvement Association and the Lid I-5 group is calling for a $79 million benefits package in return for the WSCC’s plans to take over three alleys, and land under Olive Way and Terry Ave for its expansion and development project:

CHS Pics | Gandalf in the alley, General Organa on Pine, Comicon in Seattle


Ian from Vancouver as Gandalf the Grey (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Maybe someday soon, Emerald City Comicon can be even bigger. But we like it best when the cosplay spills out of the halls of the Washington State Convention Center and onto the streets below Capitol Hill. Here are some of the characters we found Friday en route to and from the convention.IMG_9824 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

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

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

Here’s what designing a new lid over I-5 between Capitol Hill and downtown looks like

On Saturday morning, Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave Arts was buzzing with a different type of creative energy as local architects, designers, and urban planners, as well as interested neighborhood residents sketched out their visions for what a lidded I-5 would look like.

“Look at all these designers go!” John Feit, chair of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, architect, and a key organizer within the Lid I-5 campaign, happily quipped as he moved amongst the work groups observing their discussions.

Powered by coffee and sweet and savory pastries from High 5 Pie, and armed with markers, tracing paper, and maps of central I-5, eight groups of around six people tossed around ideas and sketched out concept designs for several hours on Saturday morning. Feit said that there were around fifty attendees (which was more than they had originally hoped for), a third of whom didn’t come from professional architecture or design backgrounds.

The eight work groups’ visions were big and ambitious. All shared the baseline and assumed goal of creating a large, winding green space atop I-5, accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and cars alike with bike paths, fixed recreational equipment and trees. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Emerald City Comicon 2016 with Martian Girl


(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Christy Lee Elliott is a bartender and social media manager at Linda’s and works as a prop fabricator, painter, and mold fabricator at Ghost Ride Productions in Bellevue. For six years she has combined the two lines of work by organizing Linda’s Prom.

Elliot is also a big fan of the movie Mars Attacks!Tim Burton’s 1996 classic comedic sci-fi. So when it came time to choose a cosplay costume for Emerald City Comicon 2016, held this past weekend at the convention center at the base of Capitol Hill, the film’s iconic Martian Girl character was an obvious pick.

Over 20 hours went into painting spirals on the Martian dress, which was sewn together with the help of Elliot’s mom, “very talented seamstress” in her own right. That 20 hours did not include making the Martian gun, the wig construction, the handbag, or eyeball ring.

The costume was a hit. Elliot was stopped dozens of times by ECCC attendees in the three hours CHS spent with her at the Washington State Convention Center. We asked Elliot a few questions about her experience. Continue reading

2017 Convention Center construction will bring 133K+ truck trips to base of Capitol Hill

map_image_2-LMNComing in at a eye-glazing 516 pages, the draft environmental analysis for building the new addition to Seattle’s convention center is the most detailed account to date of how the massive project will transform Denny Triangle, Downtown, and Capitol Hill.

Around 40 people gathered at the Washington State Convention Center last week to comment on the draft environmental impact study of the $1.4 billion project (included at the bottom of this post).

Truck traffic, especially along the Terry Ave green street, easily topped the list of concerns. While trucks won’t be rumbling up Capitol Hill, the flood of truck traffic arriving in 2017 will impact car, bike, and pedestrian movement between downtown and Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Convention Center expansion hit with $24.5 million lawsuit

There is a $24.5 million fight underway over the decision by the Washington State Convention Center expansion developers to drop the general contractor and construction management company that had been lined up to build the planned 1.2 million-square-foot pavilion along Pine where the King County Metro Convention Place Station is located today.

Last week, lawyers for the Skanska-Hunt joint venture filed a lawsuit attempting to block a rebidding of the job and calling the decision illegal. CHS reported on the Convention Center announcement earlier this month that it was dropping Skanska-Hunt amid increasing concerns about costs and logistics on the project.

According to the filings, Skanska-Hunt was lined up to receive a 2.95% fee on the planned $830 million construction budget for the estimated $1.4 billion expansion. The joint venture’s lawyers say its bid was “30 percent lower than the next high scoring prospective GC/CM” and that the companies are well positioned to complete the project. “Between the, Skanska USA Building, Inc. and Hunt Construction, Inc., have completed 38 convention centers in 32 cities across the United States,” they write.Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 4.33.34 PM

Lawyers for firm Ahlers and Cressman wrote that the Convention Center developers did not specify why they decided to make the change but told the joint venture it was removed “for reasons other than Skanska-Hunt’s performance on the project.”

A legal response to the lawsuit from the Convention Center developers Pine Street Group had not yet been filed with the court as of Monday afternoon.

Though the Convention Center’s expansion will take place across I-5, the planned development’s implications for pedestrian activity and connections between downtown and Capitol Hill has drawn interest and involvement from community groups and those interested in creating more lidded area above the interstate.

The project is approaching another milestone this week as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project is taking public comment and will be discussed in a public meeting on March 29, 5:30 PM, at Room 206 in the Convention Center.

UPDATE April 26 3:27 PM: In a joint statement highlighting the project’s “design and budget issues,” both sides have announced that the lawsuit has been settled and the WSCC is free to proceed in its “contracting process” — presumably to find a new firm to lead the construction:

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.25.33 PM