Coalition says Convention Center expansion’s proposed public benefits aren’t enough

At a Thursday Seattle Design Commission meeting, Washington State Convention Center expansion project leaders presented the public benefits package proposed to justify the vacation of three alleys for the $1.6 billion downtown project. An exact value of the vacations hasn’t been determined, but a coalition of community groups has been leading the push to make sure the package benefits the surrounding neighborhoods.

Representatives with the Community Package Coalition, made up of nine community groups, argue that WSCC’s proposed benefits aren’t enough.

“The size of the public benefits package is nowhere near fair,” said Alex Hudson, executive director of the First Hill Improvement Association said Thursday.

The investments are “critical” to make sure the neighborhoods around the Convention Center are “improved and not degraded,” Hudson said.

“We have people that are asking that we do certain things for the neighborhoods, but we don’t have opposition to the project,” said Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group, the development firm managing the expansion project for the WSCC.

WSCC’s proposed benefits focus on three areas — affordable housing, the city and Downtown Seattle Association’s Pike Pine Renaissance project, and community projects including a Lid I-5 Study, Freeway Park improvements and downtown bicycle improvements. For some of the projects, WSCC proposes proving funding for them, not heading the design and implementation of them. It’s a lengthy, detailed roster of potential neighborhood improvements from downtown up to Capitol Hill. We’ve embedded the full package proposal, below. Continue reading

Seattle council member throws support behind I-5 lid

screen-shot-2015-12-15-at-4-44-19-pm-1The Lid I-5 group started 2017 with a financial boost in its push for a $1 million study of bridging the gap over the interstate between Capitol Hill and downtown. It also is getting some valuable political support. Seattle City Council member Sally Baghsaw’s District 7 covers downtown. In January, she added her voice off support in a call for studying the possible lid:

We can create a “public land make, not a land take” that could be available for affordable housing, more parks and green space, and private office space to help pay for it.  As other big cities have shown, this is one way we can create new real estate for public/private partnerships and make our Downtown greener and more Age-Friendly.

“I fully support Lid I-5 in District 7, and recognize this is a project that will be envisioned and completed in phases over the next decade(s),” Bagshaw writes.

The Lid I-5 group has proposed a $1 million lidding study as part of the public benefits package the City Council must decide on that will accompany the the massive $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. Other important neighborhood projects are also lined up to be part of the package meant to offset the loss of public right of way from street/alley vacations involved in the expansion.

The Lid I-5 group says there is also growing momentum in City Hall behind its idea for a “short term” “proof-of-concept” lid project at Pine and Boren that would cost around $10 million to complete.

If you think lidding I-5 sounds too far fetched, Bagshaw, in her typical colloquial style, says, not so fast, buster.

“Visionary? You bet. Pie in the sky? No way,” she writes. “It’s what we need to increase green over gray and another way to make our city truly Age Friendly.”

You can learn more at

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

Seattle responds to President-Elect Trump with rallies, protests — UPDATE: March on Capitol Hill

Broadway. Capitol Hill. Seattle. Washington. USA.

A photo posted by Anica (@anicacihla) on

broadway_epike-2UPDATE 6:20 PM: Thousands of protesters splintered off a planned rally and march at Westlake Park and headed up E Pike toward Capitol Hill Wednesday night.

Police estimated the crowd at more than 700 marchers moving onto Capitol Hill. UPDATEx2: Police say the group has fully formed and is closer to 5,000 to 6,000 marchers.

The rally started at 4 PM and included speakers denouncing the election victory of Donald Trump and celebrating the call for a general strike on Inauguration Day. After a march toward the downtown Federal Building, the protest circled back toward Westlake and began to splinter.

“Not my president” chants and signs proclaiming fights against racism and homophobia were the order of the night.

The protest was peaceful and there were no reported arrests as of this update.

UPDATE 6:45 PM: It is not clear where the march is headed as the protest has reached 10th Ave E and Prospect near St. Mark’s.

The protest joins rallies and marches in cities across the country Wednesday night.

UPDATE 7:05 PM: As the march reaches Roanoke, it appears the protest is headed for the University of Washington. Police have been busy coordinating with state troopers to make sure I-5 onramps and exits are blocked off to the protesters.

Police are also busy in downtown Seattle where five people were shot and a search for the gunman seen leaving the area is on. The shootings were first reported around 6:45 PM long after the marchers had left the area.

UPDATE 7:36 PM: The remaining large group of marchers is crossing the University Bridge and leaving Eastlake. There have been reports of some scuffles with police but still no arrests and no reports of significant damage.

UPDATE 9:00 PM: The march has continued with protesters circling through the University District and the UW campus. There have been some attempts to enter I-5 but so far groups have not been successful in reaching the freeway and disrupting traffic on the interstate.

UPDATE 9:41 PM: Marchers, still numbering around 2,000 according to police, were last reported headed south on Eastlake back in the direction of downtown Seattle.

Continue reading

Remove I-5

Tuesday night, the Lid I-5 volunteer group ( achieved an important milestone with an invitation to present in front of the Washington State Convention Center board of directors to “share their work on community engagement, their motivations and goals, and how the Convention Center can contribute to making the vision a reality.” CHS reported in September on the group’s progress as it pursues the inclusion of funding for a lid study in the public benefits the planned expansion of the convention center must deliver.

But when it comes to addressing the rift created by having a major freeway bisecting the city and keeping Capitol Hill neighbors from more freely mixing with their downtown brothers and sisters, maybe simply lidding I-5 isn’t enough. Maybe the massive freeway canyon should be filled and the city repaired:

For several hours a days, the freeway and extensive network of interchanges are gridlocked into a major obstacle rather than an asset. And to make the loss all the worse, the land adjacent to Downtown, South Lake Union, and Eastlake is extremely valuable. If you haven’t noticed, land in those neighborhood is worth a crazy amount of money. The Seattle Times got $62.5 million for two full blocks it sold to Onni Group in 2013. Removing I-5 between I-90 and SR-520 would free up more than 50 blocks by my rough calculation, which could mean more than a billion dollars worth of land. Stricken with budget shortages, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) might be forced to sell off Downtown Seattle land to finance its tireless efforts in suburbia.

What could Capitol Hill and our Central Seattle neighborhoods gain in the cauterization?

Eastlake and South Lake Union flow smoothy into Capitol Hill without I-5 in the way. First Hill suddenly becomes integrated with Downtown and Pioneer Square, providing much easier and more pleasant pedestrian access. The hole blasted in the International District disappears. Intersections that used to cause big problems for bus reliability like Denny Way and I-5 would move more steadily rather than getting backed up from on-ramp traffic. And in I-5’s absence, Sound Transit’s growing light rail network can pick up the slack to carry commuters Downtown.

Check out the whole thing here: What’s Better Than A Lid? Remove I-5 Entirely From Central Seattle.

What’s next for the push to Lid I-5

(Image: Lid I-5)

(Image: Lid I-5)

Getting a logo was a major step for members of the Lid I-5 campaign. Then they got a movie. Now they have a website. What started as a few concept drawings has grown into a small but dedicated group of architects and community members seeking to capitalize on a massive new downtown convention center by attaching to the project plans for lid over I-5 between downtown and Capitol Hill.

The group’s new website, which launched last week, will be a place to track progress on the campaign and store a rapidly growing library of supporting materials. Ideas have included reconnecting streets for better transit, creating a wide open green space, and using the lid to build affordable housing.

Lid I-5 organizer Scott Bonjukian says the group is currently “working on a lot of background tasks” as the Washington State Convention Center Addition project appears to have slowed down in its complicated design review process. The $1.6 billion WSCC addition 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.

As part of vacating public right of ways the developers will be required to propose a series of “public benefits.” That’s where Lid I-5 hopes they will be able to insert their proposal. To help convince the commission, the group is working on compiling the results off the group’s well attended design charrette in May. Continue reading

Seattle vigil follows police shootings as city attempts at SPD reform continue — UPDATE

UPDATE 9:53 PM: Around 2,000 people rallied and marched through downtown Seattle Thursday night with a handful of skirmishes with police reported.

Meanwhile, Chief O’Toole has “directed officers to work in pairs as much as possible,” according to the Seattle Times, after Dallas officers were killed and injured in an ambush style attack during an anti-police violence march in that city.

UPDATE 7/8/2016 1:55 PM: Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has issued a statement on the Dallas shootings and confirmed that SPD officers will work in pairs. The chief also touched on the department’s use of force reform efforts in her statement. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to work with all of our city’s communities to ensure that police officers do not use unnecessary force, that children are safe on their streets and in their schools, and the brave men and women of the SPD all go home to their loved ones at the end of the day,” O’Toole said.

Original report: Black Lives Matter activists have called for a vigil and rally in Seattle’s Westlake Park Thursday night to mark the latest in a continuing string of police killings of black men across the nation:

#BlackLivesMatter Stand with Andre Taylor and Not This Time against the rash of police shootings against Americans who are detained or in custody; the most recent death: Alton Sterling. Demonstrate to Seattle and WA State Government that the citizens of this city and State, will no longer tolerate country-wide the continued homicides by police officers without independent investigation and with indeterminate accountability. The Community speaks!

Seattle Police officials and Seattle City Hall have so far been silent on the two latest deadly shootings that have sparked a wave of protest after being caught on video and widely shared around the world. UPDATE: The mayor’s office has scheduled a 3:30 PM media conference to “deliver remarks on the recent officer involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.”

UPDATE 3:50 PM: Flanked by members of his cabinet, Mayor Ed Murray spoke on the pain and sadness of the deadly police shootings and defended his office’s dedication to reforming the Seattle Police Department and deploying body cameras across the entire force.

“I know that the black community is walking with a heavy heart, and with a sense of outrage, a sense of injustice, and fear. Had (Philando) Castillo and Sterling been white, I believe that they would be alive today,” Murray said. Coming days are “not going to be easy as a result of these shootings,” Murray said before turning his attention to the problems of race and policing in his own city.

Continue reading

Celebrating 40 years of Seattle’s first I-5 lid: Happy birthday, Freeway Park

Sunnier days in the '70s in Freeway Park (Image: City of Seattle)

Sunnier days in the ’70s in Freeway Park (Image: City of Seattle)

The group determined to reclaim and revive the public asset is celebrating Jim Ellis Freeway Park’s 40-year history of bridging the gap and the interstate between Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown Seattle.

The park was founded on July 4, 1976, after years of Seattle civic leader Jim Ellis pushing for a park over I-5 to reclaim some of the space taken up by the interstate for community use. This weekend, the Freeway Park Association will celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the park’s opening and the group’s efforts to reclaim the space from decades of neglect.

“Freeway Park was the first park to lid over a freeway to reconnect communities that had been cut by that highway,” said Freeway Park Association’s Riisa Conklin. Conklin said the green-covered 5.2-acre park is essentially a “fertilizer box” situated over the highway.

The park is celebrating its 40th on Sunday, July 3 from 11:30 AM to 2 PM. The festivities will include a bluegrass band, free kettle corn, face painting, and a community kite painting project. All parts of the celebration are free and open to the public. A blues and jazz concert follows starting at 2 PM. Continue reading

Capitol Hill developer will match your $10K donation to the Lid I-5 campaign

A heads-up to any wealthy fans of the idea to build a lid over I-5 near Capitol Hill: Local developer Mike Malone will now match your single $10,000 donation to the Lid I-5 campaign.

A tall order, yes, but serious proponents of the plan say there is much more organizing and designing to be done to keep the momentum going. So far the group has raised $22,000 to hold a public feedback session and to hire a strategy consultant. Continue reading