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

Concerned about costs, logistics as public process heats up, Convention Center expansion makes big change

Smack in the middle of the ongoing flow of public process, the Convention Center team has made a big change

Smack in the middle of the ongoing flow of public process, the Convention Center team has made a big change

There was big news over the weekend for the $1.4 billion project to expand the Washington State Convention Center. But likely of more importance to Capitol Hill residents, businesses, and organizations interested in leveraging the massive project to create a better connection between Pike/Pine and downtown are two upcoming milestones for public comment as a community push for more lidding of I-5 moves forward.

  1. Street vacations: Comments on the WSCC‘s street vacation petition (available online in PDF form), due March 18 to: moira.gray@seattle.gov
  2. Environmental Impact: Comments on the WSCC‘s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) (available on the WSCC website), due April 11 to: info@wsccaddition.com

The group Friends of Lidding I-5 sent a bulletin on the milestones to its update subscribers early Monday.

Street vacations = public benefits
Regarding the vacations — in which the city would deed ownership of what is currently public right of way to ease the expansion’s construction and development or related projects — the Friends group said it is calling for a short list of public benefits in exchange for the vacations. “In light of the large scale of the project and the unusually high number of requested street vacations, PPUNC is drafting a letter requesting public benefits that go above and beyond the currently proposed improvements around the site,” the group writes.

Here are the asks:

  • Have the WSCC complete Plymouth Pillars Park by lidding I-5 adjacent to the dog run; this will be the first, modest step in adding valuable open space to an existing network.

  • Have the WSCC fund a comprehensive feasibility, urban design, costing, and programming study of a freeway lid between Pike Street and Olive Way to include affordable housing, neighborhood businesses, and open space components. Such a study would cost in the order of $0.5 to $1 million

  • Direct the applicant to create the kind of civic grandeur and empowering public realm its central location, program, cost, and impacts dictate; design Olive Way as a complete street with active uses on both sides, and design the Boren Avenue and Pine Street sides to work with future lids

Because of its size and scope that will incorporate two additional developments across the street from the planned new Convention Center Hall, one track of public benefits discussion for the project will be handled in what is called the Planned Community Development process that gives developers a more streamlined set of public reviews. The Convention Center planners have told city officials they prefer a plan for part of one of the developments to include affordable housing and the mix of three new buildings planned for the project — the apartment tower, a new office development, and the new convention center expansion — to incorporate street and pedestrian amenities to satisfy their public benefits requirements.

CHS wrote about the various public benefits discussions surrounding the Convention Center expansion projects earlier this year as the project began its tour with the Seattle Design Commission, one of the myriad review processes that will — slowly — shape it. Meanwhile, the next round of design reviews is tentatively scheduled for May. Continue reading

Convention Center developers start new planning stage with public benefits on the table

Screen-Shot-2015-11-17-at-4-1.56.37-PM1Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.05.54 PMDevelopers for the $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion are continuing their march through a myriad of reviews with a trip to the Seattle Design Commission this week.

The series of meetings, which are open to public comment and could span most of the year, were triggered when the Pine Street Group developers requested permission to remove portions of three alleys and two streets in the project area — Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station. In exchange for taking over the streets and alleys, City policy requires the project include improvements to the surrounding area.

Sorting out what those public benefits could be will be a key part of the conversation that happens in the coming months, starting with Thursday morning’s Design Commission meeting at City Hall.

The Design Commission process plays out in two stages. First, the WSCC will go through three “urban design merit” meetings to present their proposed street vacations and show how the design of the project could improve the surrounding right-of-ways. For instance, commissioners may look for the inclusion of street level commercial space to ward off pedestrian un-friendly walls.

In the second phase, the commission considers added public benefits. Design Commission director Michael Jenkins said commissioners typically look for long-term community benefits beyond the scope of the project itself, like enhanced sidewalks, street furniture, and public open spaces. Continue reading

Lid I-5: The Movie

lidI-5Last week, Seattle’s only newspaper finally jumped on the I-5 lid bandwagon. “The time Is right to fix the I-5 disaster,” they say. The grand — Big Lid — vision for an I-5 cap from Patano Architects the Stranger focused on is one vision for how to address the project. We featured the big, shiny, 45-acre vision on CHS back in September.

The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council is open to the big vision — but it is also taking small steps to add a planning process for a new lid over I-5 to the development of the Washington State Convention Center expansion.

In December, CHS reported on PPUNC’s efforts to include a study for a new I-5 lid in the planning process for the expansion as part of the convention center’s “public benefits” for the project. This week, PPUNC’s chair John Feit shared a 15-point update on the group’s push for lidding I-5 and opening the possibility for creating room for housing and commercial development, park space, and restoring the connection between Capitol Hill, First Hill and downtown. Get ready for a big meeting in February, a fundraising campaign, and a community design charrette:

  1. We will start crowd sourcing soon so we can hire a project manager
  2. Seattle Parks Foundation will be our fiscal agent
  3. We will also be directly soliciting donors (developers, property owners, and the like)
  4. We are also applying for a DON small and simple grant
  5. Capitol Hill Housing is lending a hand with logistical support Continue reading

New I-5 lid could be a ‘public benefit’ of convention center expansion

See? We already have one (Image: City of Seattle)

See? We already have one (Image: City of Seattle)

If you thought CHS was sensationalizing the connection between the $1.4 billion plan to expand the Washington State Convention Center and the fantastical schemes to build a lid over I-5 to connect Capitol Hill to downtown and South Lake Union, you may have been correct. But a little Capitol Hill bias hasn’t stopped City of Seattle officials from beginning to look at the I-5 lid as a real opportunity.

“This concept is a continuation of our city history,” City Council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen said during a pre-Thanksgiving session to discuss early planning for the project. “Ever since I-5 was first planned in the 1950s, people were very concerned about what I-5 would do to downtown Seattle, cutting off neighborhoods, basically obliterating parts of the International District.”

It’s not just Rasmussen saying something nice for the Capitol Hill constituency as he prepares to leave the council. Sally Bagshaw, who will lead downtown’s District 7 starting in 2016, said at the committee meeting she is prepared to help push for the creation of the important “connector” and is looking for a community organization to take the lead like Allied Arts did for the Seattle Waterfront project.

The most likely community leader at this point is the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council that has been advocating for better pedestrian connections as part of the planning of the downtown convention center expansion. “CM Bagshaw was a leader in Allied Arts’s efforts. The lid would be in CM Baghsaw’s district, and she will be a strong voice for us moving forward — but we must lead the effort,” a PPUNC update following last week’s meeting read. Continue reading

Ahead of ‘major’ announcement, Convention Center developers come to Hill to show off latest models


Community members inspect a model of the new convention center at the Capitol Hill Branch library. (Image: CHS)

It could be the most expensive development project in Seattle history, but plans for a new Washington State Convention Center at the footsteps of Capitol Hill have barely caused a ripple in Seattle. Officials involved in the project now want to make some waves. King County Executive Dow Constantine and WSCC chairman Frank Finneran planned to hold a media conference Wednesday morning for “a major announcement regarding plans for convention capacity and benefits to the region.”

The planned development with a price tag near $1.4 billion 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. Plans are currently in the works to phase buses out of the existing transit tunnel in order to vacate the space. Details on a land sale between WSCC and the County could be part of the announcement.


Also noted: The WSCC expansion has a new “ADDITION” logo

UPDATE: The WSCC has reached a deal with the County to buy 4 acres in downtown for $147 million. Under the agreement, King County Metro will get a total of $283 million in principal and interest payments over 30 years. WSCC will also contribute $5 million to affordable housing, though it won’t be required to develop the properties on or around the center. The deal, which must be approved by the County Council, keeps the WSCC addition on track to opening in 2020. WSCC will provide adequate off-site layover space for Metro Transit during construction, the announcement states. Buses will continue to use the site and operate in the transit tunnel until 2019, when additional light rail service is added.

On Monday night, LMN Architects presented some of its most recent design concepts at the Capitol Hill Branch Library, which included a massive cardboard model of the center and its surrounding blocks. However, developer Pine Street Group’s Jane Lewis told CHS in an email that the new drawings would not yet be distributed publicly: Continue reading

Capitol Hill critics say Convention Center design a rush job — UPDATE

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.18.09 PM

(Images: LMN Architects)

UPDATE 10/7/2015: The board voted Tuesday night to allow the expansion project to move forward to the Master Use Permit, or MUP, stage but the project’s city planning rep tells CHS there will be more opportunities for public feedback as the design and approval process plays out. At least two “recommendation” level design review meetings are expected along with the process related to street and alley vacations necessary to complete the expansion.

Original report: As the public review process rolls forward for the expanded Washington State Convention Center, a Capitol Hill community group is continuing to raise concerns that the project’s hurried pace is leaving out meaningful input from neighborhoods on a range of required public benefits.

For months, the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council has been pushing to insert Capitol Hill priorities into the public project with a $1.4 billion budget — a figure that exceeds the cost to build CenturyLink and Safeco Field combined.

“It’s almost as if there was another convention center being built in Seattle and they want to get theirs finished before it,” PPUNC chair John Feit told CHS.

Affordable housing, a transit hub, and creating open public space were just a few of ideas generated during an public open house in September. Some of the disconnect between community members and the Pine Street Group, which is managing the project for WSCC, may stem from differing views of how surrounding residents will interact with the project.

According to Pine Street principal Matt Griffin, the convention center is ultimately less about creating a destination for neighbors and more about patching over I-5. “

One of the most important things we can do for Capitol Hill is increase that pedestrian link between Capitol Hill and downtown,” he said.

But it’s likely the project will be asked to do more. Because of its scale, the project is also being managed by a Planned Community Development process in which this kind of once in a generation project may be planned in a unified process if public benefits including low-income housing, historic preservation, or public space are included. It’s rare for Seattle to see projects on this scale — the planned convention center expansion and a set of surrounding developments designed to accompany the project represent one of the few times the process has ever been undertaken.

An October 1st memo from DPD director Diane Sugimura documents five priorities for the WSCC is to consider as it utilizes the PCD process:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.37.37 PM Continue reading

A freeway lid in push for Hill-friendly convention center expansion? Thinking too small — How about a 45-acre park along I-5?

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.19.44 PM

(Images: Patano Architects)

(Images: Patano Architects)

Following a hearing on the “public benefits”of the $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion plan with a reported strong Capitol Hill-leaning set of community priorities, an even more ambitious initiative has apparently been rekindled by the opportunities in the project.

A concept for a “linear park” along and over I-5 from Patano Studio Architecture is being revived with hopes that the community effort to shape the Convention Center’s Pine Street expansion can possibly align with a massive initiative that would create an expanded meeting facility, a giant hotel, a 20,000-seat arena, and a 45-acre park along I-5 connecting Capitol Hill and neighborhoods east of the freeway with downtown:

The C.A.P. proposal solves multiple issues, our growing city can thrive from the complexity of the challenges facing its citizens. We can have a beautiful public park, a destination convention center, a downtown sports arena and affordable housing. Each of the neighborhoods have multiple opportunities to tie the city back together at large and small scales. Focus on the public amenities, public input and evolutionary process that the C.A.P. infrastructure supports will allow the development of the concept over time.

The concept is purely in the vision state at this point but some advocates believe the time is ripe to renew the push to lid I-5 — and they are hoping to harness energy from Capitol Hill community and development activist group the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council to make it happen.

UPDATE: Erik Barr of Patano tells CHS the push behind the concept is starting a “big idea” for Seattle. “That’s how Freeway Park started. Freeway Park started as an idea,” Barr said, calling the proposal “an opportunity for people to think about things in the big picture.”

Barr pointed at the boom times for big midwest and eastern cities that included massive civic projects in the 20th century. “Seattle is having its boom day right now,” Barr said.

PPUNC chair and past CHS contributor John Feit says the convention center expansion will again be on the group’s agenda Tuesday night at its September meeting at the Capitol Hill library:

The Pike|Pine Urban Neighborhood Council

Meeting Agenda

When: Tuesday, September 15, 2015; 6:00 pm – 7:45 pm
Where: Second Floor Meeting Room, Capitol Hill Branch, Seattle Public Library

  1. WSCC expansion advocacy update (John F, 6:00 – 6:20)

  2. I-5 lid design concepts and graphics (Chris P, 6:20 – 7:20)

  3. Coalition building (All, 7:20 – 7:45)

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.21.36 PM

(Image: Patano Architects)

PPUNC has not yet endorsed the I-5 lid or Patano park plan but Feit said he is interested in how the idea might connect to his group’s push to improve the pedestrian connection between Capitol Hill and downtown with a Pike/Pine-friendlier plan for the convention center expansion design.

WSCC reps say they are also committed to creating an active and more-engaged next generation for the center that creates a better connection to the surrounding streets. The design process for the expansion project will continue with a third early design guidance session planned for October. As part of the design reviews, WSCC developers are also planning to complete a “codevelopment” process to design “a 30-story building with 428 housing units and a 16-story building with 595,000 square feet of office space” just north of the project as part of the expansion. WSCC plans to sell the codevelopment properties to help fund the convention center expansion.

“The downtown core and Capitol Hill are experiencing unprecedented growth and development,” the brief document on the lid idea provided to CHS reads. “As the urban core densifies opportunities for significant public green space downtown are becoming difficult to imagine.”

“C.A.P. proposes to insert topography and public park space into the chasm created by Interstate 5.”

The creator of the Patano Architects vision for the I-5 park Christopher Patano was traveling and not available for comment on the proposal or how it might fit in with the convention center plans.

More information is posted at lidi5.com. The Patano document is posted below. Continue reading

Connecting Capitol Hill to downtown, what ‘public benefits’ should Convention Center expansion provide?

What will the $1.4 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center look like? Kinda like this, probably

What will the $1.4 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center look like? Kinda like this, probably

In the midst of the many reviews and public oversight shaping the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center is one special process designed to determine the public benefits developers must provide as part of the $1.4 billion expansion project that will reshape the connection between downtown and Capitol Hill.

MapForNotice20299The Convention Center project’s first Planned Community Development meeting is Wednesday night.

A public meeting has been scheduled to identify concerns about the site and to receive public input into establishing public benefit priorities, which may include low income housing, townhouse development, historic preservation, public open space, implementation of adopted neighborhood plans, improvements to pedestrian circulation, urban form, transit facilities and, or other elements that further an adopted City policy and provide a demonstrable public benefit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at (Seattle City Hall 600 4th Ave/601 5th Ave, Bertha Landes Room).  Written and/or oral comments may be submitted prior to the meeting or at the meeting.

All meeting facilities are ADA compliant. Translators or interpreters provided upon request. Please contact the Public Resource Center at prc@seattle.gov or (206) 684-8467 at least five business days prior to the meeting to request this service.

Written comments may be submitted through September 2, 2015 and should be submitted to PRC@seattle.gov or mailed to:
DPD – Attn: PRC
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA  98124-4019


Here is how the meeting will work according to DPD:

The public meeting is meant to provide an overview of the proposal so the public can offer feedback on the range of public benefits that should be considered by the Department of Planning and Development.  After the meeting, staff will development a PCD report identifying at least three public benefit priorities that should be addressed as a part of the approval process.  These benefits are separate from what will be required for the alley/street vacation process.

According to the city, public benefits may include low-income housing, historic preservation, and public space.

Representatives for the Convention Center tell CHS they aren’t sure what they’ll hear from the public come Wednesday night but that affordable housing is already planned for the future developments due to requirements from King County attached to some of the property involved. Continue reading