Demolition at 15th and Howell

"Bob, what have we done?" (Image: CHS)

“Bob, what have we done?” (Image: CHS)

Longtime readers of the site know CHS is your leading source for Capitol Hill demolition porn:

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Though our own pace of demolition postings has slowed, it’s not because the development pace has finally slowed down and fewer demolitions are happening on Capitol Hill — we recently tallied 94 demolition permits in 2013, 70 in 2014, and 67 through September 2015.

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Tearing down Ballard? DPD demolition-related permitting activity, 2015 (Source:

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But the location and scale of the tear-downs has changed. The era of ripping down a block of old buildings in the heart of Pike/Pine — for now — has passed. The recent demolition that quickly and mostly quietly came at 15th and Howell is an example of a ripping apart of an older building we might skip these days, leaving Twitter and Facebook to document the mildewy smell of splintered boards and piles of twisted metal mixed with yellowed insulation.

Tuesday, it inspired a CHS Community Post documenting the old apartment building mid-demolition — and then the corner was cleared. The recent increase in ejected furnishings and old appliances from the apartments being spread around the neighborhood had come to an end.

What’s next is another thing neighbors on Capitol Hill have become more accustomed to. Construction will soon begin on an “urban apartment building” with 57 “small residential units.” The microhousing from developer Greenbuild and designed by Caron architects got its final approval from the design review board about a year ago last January. When it is complete, the corner will have traded two buildings with 8 units for nearly 60 averaging 341 square feet a piece.

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Vulcan shares an early view of the redevelopment of 23rd and Jackson

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By Ross Armstrong, UW News Lab / Special to CHS

Community members packed the Seattle Central Wood Technology Center Thursday night (Image: Ross Armstrong)

Community members packed the Seattle Central Wood Technology Center Thursday night (Image: Ross Armstrong)

Vulcan’s plans for the southeast corner of 23rd and Jackson appear to be on a fast track following a set of community meetings in the Central District last week. The developer said it is gearing up for a design review process from a project with some 570 apartment units to begin — perhaps — as early as next month. Meanwhile, attendees at one of the community meetings unsurprisingly expressed concerns about the real estate giant’s development plans and the rapid change coming to the area.

Central District residents turned out in droves Thursday night to see early design concepts for a new apartment complex in the neighborhood from Vulcan and Runberg Architecture Group. Much of the community focus was on affordability and whether the project’s planned mix of units was right for the neighborhood. One mother spoke up about her two sons who had decent paying jobs but had to move away due to the costs.

Plans submitted to the city describe a complex of two five-story buildings and two seven-story buildings, interconnected around a courtyard. In all 570 units are planned in the 693,000 square-foot project. The project does not yet appear on the Design Review Board schedule but Vulcan representatives said they plan to begin the public process in March. Continue reading

Group calls for support of ‘HALA-Approved’ tax break for low-income friendly landlords

12540546_508685349303219_5586000605697343763_nThe Seattle For Everyone group — “a broad coalition of affordable housing developers and advocates, for-profit developers and businesses, labor and social justice advocates, environmentalists and urbanists, all united to build an equitable, prosperous, thriving, and inclusive Seattle” — Monday night sent its members a call to rally support for Washington Senate Bill 6239:

Pass the HALA-Approved Preservation Tax Exemption Today!

The fiscal cutoff in Olympia is hours away, which means we need to make sure the Senate Ways & Means Committee knows how important it is to advance SB 6239 immediately! This bill will give local communities the option of creating an important tool to preserve and improve affordable housing in our communities.

We also need to send a message to King County Assessor John Wilson and ask him to support the HALA-approved Preservation Tax Exemption bill as well. Assessor Wilson introduced legislation for his own idea of a preservation program, which was entirely separate from the multi-month stakeholder process that brought together affordable housing advocates, race and social justice organizations, developers, property owners, human service advocates, and local governments in agreement behind SB 6239. He is now requesting to have significant affordability provisions in SB 6239 removed or weakened. His changes, if successful, would weaken the program and result in less affordability for King County residents Worse, there is a serious risk that any last-minute attempts to radically change the proposal during a short legislative session could result in the bill not being advanced whatsoever.

URGENT: Click Here to Take Action to Save the Preservation Tax Exemption Today!

CHS reported on the Preservation Tax Exemption legislation here among a bevy of Capitol Hill-related bills introduced in the latest session in Olympia. the bipartisan bill would give rental property owners a 15-year break on their property taxes in exchange for reserving a quarter of the building’s apartments for low-income families earning less than 50 to 60% of the area median income.

The Stranger took a look at the Seattle For Everyone coalition here last year. You can learn more about Seattle For Everyone and sign up for updates at

Next week, the Capitol Hill Community Council is also planning an event to help inform the neighborhood about Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda:

12698350_10154537142688696_7839354132057498017_oKnow Your Rights, Grow Your Rights
Thursday, February 18th at 6:30 PM
12th Avenue Arts — 1620 12th Ave
One part education about your existing rights as tenants/renters – one part exploring upcoming opportunities to expand those rights through HALA and other housing efforts in Seattle.

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.

Capitol Hill Community Post | Why renters matter

Renters must be engaged about HALA. After all, renters comprise nearly half of Seattle’s citizenry and it is renters who face getting priced out of neighborhoods by rising rents.

Late last month, Mayor Murray hosted a cheerleading session for the City’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda or HALA. It was a packed room filled with enthusiasm for implementing the 65 recommendations that emerged last July in response to Seattle’s housing crisis. Comments by Sara Maxana, a homeowner in NW Seattle, were a highlight. Referring to the rapidly escalating value of homes like hers and the resulting impacts on renters, Maxana said:

“I don’t see why one class of people, homeowners, should be getting a windfall from the same phenomenon that is causing other people in Seattle to struggle,” she said. “I don’t think that’s okay.”

Before closing the meeting, Murray took a handful of questions from the crowd. “Guy in the Striped Shirt” asked an important question: “How will renters be engaged in discussions about HALA?”

The mayor responded very generally, saying that we need to engage everybody: owners and renters, young and old, etc. and etc. I would respond more directly. Renters must be engaged about HALA. After all, renters comprise nearly half of Seattle’s citizenry and it is renters who face getting priced out of neighborhoods by rising rents.

But engaging renters to address neighborhood issues isn’t easy. Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

New rules supposed to keep sidewalks open, streets safe around Capitol Hill construction

Detour, Sidewalk Closed, Stop!
If a new set of rules work as intended, it should be a lot safer to walk — and drive and bike — around Capitol Hill’s continuing wave of big construction projects. The Seattle Department of Transportation has new rules to govern when and if a developer can close a sidewalk during construction.

The biggest change, according to Brian de Place, street use director for SDOT, is a policy statement that changes the tone for sidewalk closures. As a general rule, it’s expected that Seattle sidewalks shall remain open during construction.

“Closures are a last resort,” de Place said.

As a result, future projects are expected to find a way to keep the sidewalk passable rather than sending pedestrians across streets and around blocks. “That’s out default. That’s our starting point,” de Place tells CHS. “You are minimizing the instances when someone has to cross the street.” The new rules mean a new effort around enforcement. If you see conditions around a construction site which you think are unsafe, report them to Specific locations and pictures can help make sure things get cleared up as quickly as possible.

The old regulations, which date to 2011, did not have as concise a phrase, and didn’t consider keeping the sidewalk open to be the goal, on a policy level. “At the time, it provided some level of consistency, but it didn’t get the city where it needed to go,” de Place said. 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

In the Central District, big real estate deals moving forward along 23rd Ave

It has been seven months since the Midtown Center in the Central District was put on the market last summer, and, as of right now, the hot piece of real estate is still for sale — though a deal is looming.

For now, both the realtors and community stakeholders are mostly mum about the status of the bidding and sale process. Jason Rosauer, vice president and partner at Kidder Matthews, the agency working on the sale, declined to comment, while co-realtor and investment sales specialist Rob Anderson told CHS that “one or two” potential buyers have been identified. “We identified a couple of very strong buyers who have a high level of interest,” said Anderson. “It’s just a matter of working through the process.”

Further south at Jackson and 23rd, Vulcan, the Paul Allen-backed real estate investment company, is eyeing property at the intersection for development and is apparently ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. In December, CHS reported that the company had entered in an “evaluation agreement” for 6 acres on both sides of S Jackson. Next month, Vulcan is holding an open house to meet with the community about the deal: Continue reading