Developers seek ‘creative tension’ for leaning towers project on First Hill

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.04.59 PMThe Frye Art Museum is expanding, but not in the way you might think. The First Hill museum announced plans to develop a parking lot it owns at Terry and Cherry into a 450 unit, mixed-use project. The project faces its first design review Wednesday night.

Promises to create a “canvas” within the “emerging culture of First Hill” remain to be seen, but plans for a new two-tower development would certainly standout amid the neighborhood’s rising skyline. The designs from Seattle architecture firm Perkins+Will calls for two towers that lean away from each other as they rise 33 stories high and connect at the top by a thin walkway.

Plans for the Westbank Frye Highrise include 5,500 square feet of commercial space and underground parking for 250 vehicles. The unique design also has a less aesthetic rationale: complying with zoning requirements for space between towers above a certain height. Developer Westbank takes its first turn before the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

707 Terry Ave
Design Review Early Design Guidance to allow 450 residential units above 5,500 sq. ft. of commercial space. Parking will be provided for 250 vehicles below grade. / View Design Proposal (PDF)

Review Meeting: January 27, 2016 6:30pm, Seattle University, 1000 E. James Way, STCN- Student Center 210 Multipurpose Room
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3021510 View Permit Status | View Land Use Notice
Planner: Holly Godard

As part of the agreement with Westbank, Frye will reportedly own some of the apartments in the building to support the museum. The parking garage will include spaces for museum goers, though it may not remain free. David Buck, president of the Frye board, said the museum will benefit in other ways as well. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar launch party planned — only question is when — UPDATE: SATURDAY SOFT LAUNCH

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

As of last Wednesday, Seattle Department of Transportation officials have a plan for the event to launch the First Hill Streetcar including a Pioneer Square celebration and a Jackson Street lion dance. But when that party will happen remains a mystery after SDOT representatives said “possible delays” mean the launch date still can’t be announced.

An update on the much-delayed project linking Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill is expected Friday afternoon when SDOT director Scott Kubly will bat leadoff in an unusual session of the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee which usually meets on Tuesdays. With the MLK Day holiday, the “director’s report” session and the committee meeting were pushed back to Friday.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 12:03 PM: It’s official. Service begins Saturday — and rides will be free:

First Hill Streetcar Gets Rolling!

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is excited to announce promotional service on the First Hill Streetcar Line will begin midday on Saturday, January 23.  This “soft launch” will feature free rides to introduce the new service, and will be followed in the weeks to come by a grand opening and community celebration.

Funded by Sound Transit, the First Hill Streetcar connects the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Central District, Little Saigon, Chinatown-International District, and Pioneer Square. The First Hill Streetcar line is just one part of the Seattle Streetcar system that will help provide new mobility options, support economic growth, and strengthen connections in the urban core.

Thank you to the communities, neighbors, and businesses along the line for bearing with us during construction and testing. We appreciate your patience and support. We are excited to see you on the First Hill Streetcar discovering Seattle’s neighborhoods and attractions, commuting to work, and linking to other modes of travel. Learn more about how to ride the streetcar.  Stay tuned for details on the grand opening events to follow.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 3:03 PM: Kubly said service is planned to begin at 11 AM Saturday and that rides will remain free until any issues are worked out of the system. Expect “a grand opening with a more celebratory feel to it then another week of free rides and then we’ll start charging,” Kubly said.

UPDATE 1/22/2016 8:59 AM:  An email sent to “community partners” Thursday afternoon says to get ready, the First Hill Streetcar’s “soft launch” is Saturday. To translate the rather thickly worded message, service is slated to begin and the streetcar will be open to the public Saturday, January 23rd. So, dinner in the ID this weekend?

Dear Community Partners,
I understand that in the past couple of days there might have been confusion caused by news of a soft launch of the First Hill Street Car (FHSC) this coming Saturday. This news might have been confusing because it was unclear whether this soft launch was in lieu of the grand opening celebrations that SDOT had been working with community and neighborhood partners to plan.
I want to clarify that the intent for this coming Saturday is not to replace the celebratory events we want to hold in our neighborhoods, but to ensure that a soft launch of the FHSC is successful and we can ensure that the streetcar is in fact operational. The attached letter articulates SDOT’s commitment to this process and our continued interest in working with our community partners to finally celebrate the successful opening of the FHSC line.

Continue reading

Department of Homeland Security and SPD training ties up Madison

Boren_Madison (1)If you’re wondering why traffic on Madison was a nightmare Thursday, blame a Department of Homeland Security-led training exercise involving Seattle Police near 6th and Madison.

SPD confirmed the training Thursday morning but referred CHS to the federal agency for more information. We’ve asked DHS for more on the nature of the training and the planned duration. The federal agency offers local law enforcement agencies a wide variety of “training opportunities,” according to its website.

Thursday morning, traffic backed-up to Boren and beyond as vehicles were re-routed around the training area for access to I-5. There were no local announcements of the training session.

You can check out the latest conditions on the CHS Traffic Cameras page.

Design review reminder: Whole Foods, Broadstone First Hill buildings

The Broadstone First Hill development

The Broadstone First Hill development. Where are those guys going?

Wednesday night will feature a solid three hours or so of talking and planning about First Hill’s future.

We’ve already told you quite a bit about the 16-story, mixed-use Whole Foods building destined to open at Broadway and Madison in 2018. It will be on the design review docket Wednesday night. But so too will be the 8-story, 338-unit gargantuan Broadstone First Hill, slated to rise where a much smaller apartment building and a parking lot call home today at Terry and James just off Broadway. Between the two, we’re talking about projects that will create more than 600 new apartment units in the neighborhood.

Judging by the number of babies in the renderings, First Hill growth is a theme. Here is how developers Alliance Realty Partners and Encore Architects describe the project: Continue reading

Aiming for 2018 opening, corner retail space added to Broadway’s 16-story Whole Foods project

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 11.57.53 AM

Here’s one way to get small retail spaces included in Capitol Hill’s new projects. In their latest designs for a 16-story apartment tower and Whole Foods, developers have repurposed a bike storage area for a small retail space on the corner of Harvard and Spring.

The change was made in response to a November design review meeting where board members raised concerns that a bike storage area would not be welcoming to pedestrians. The bike stalls were moved to a different part of the building.

There are no details yet on a potential tenant for the 760-square-foot space, which will pale in comparison to the nearly 50,000 square foot, two-story space Whole Foods will occupy once the project is complete. But it could be a new commercial opportunity for some aspiring entrepreneur, nonetheless.Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 11.42.03 AM

It’s been almost a year since the design review board first saw plans for the 16-story apartment tower at Madison and Broadway. On Wednesday, developers behind the project will take what could be their last turn before the board.

1001 Broadway
View Design Proposal (6 MB)

Review Meeting: January 13, 2016, 6:30pm, Seattle University, 901 12th Ave, PIGT -Pigott 304 Classroom

Review Phase: REC–Recommendation See All Reviews
Project Number: 3019050 View Permit Status | View Land Use Notice
Planner: Lindsay King

Plans from developer Columbia Pacific Advisors and architects Tiscareno Associates call for 265 residential units and 358 below grade parking spaces. The project will require demolition of the existing three-story medical office. Columbia estimates work on the site will start by early summer and the entire project will be complete in mid-2018.

A representative from Whole Foods tells CHS the store is on track to open during the first quarter of 2018. Whole Foods is planning a standard format store, but customizes its offerings of prepared and made-to-order foods for each location. Whole Foods is currently studying the restaurant and grocery competition in the area, said the company representative, and will conduct direct surveys closer to opening to determine what customers want from the store.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 11.43.09 AMArchitects made a few other design changes ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. Additional stone was addd to the Madison-facing facade to create greater separation between the Whole Foods and residential entrance, and the building’s “corner roof brow” was extended for some extra flair.

In its announcement of the project, Columbia cited the coming First Hill Streetcar line and proximity to First Hill’s hospitals and nearby Seattle University as important factors in choosing the Broadway and Madison location. The developers acquired the property in 2008 for $21 million, according to King County Records.

Hugo House announces interim First Hill home until 2018 return to Capitol Hill

In December, CHS reported on the six-story, apartment development set to create a new 10,000 square-foot writing center home for Hugo House. Tuesday, the literary nonprofit and the Frye Art Museum announced Hugo House will move to First Hill during the demolition and construction:

“We love the Frye and are delighted to become partners in the Museum’s ongoing plan to build a cultural and intellectual anchor on First Hill,” said Hugo House Executive Director Tree Swenson. “Hugo House at the Frye keeps us close to Capitol Hill, which is central for our students, teachers, and so many people who attend our events. Visitors to our temporary home on First Hill will be pleased to find the same coziness and writerly atmosphere they’ve loved for years at the old Hugo House.”

The move to the Frye-owned building is planned to take place in “mid-2016.”

Hugo House's interim home (Image courtesy Hugo House)

Hugo House’s interim home (Image courtesy Hugo House)

“Hugo House will operate a full schedule of readings, classes, book launches, workshops, teen programs, and more at the Frye while its new building is being constructed,” according to the announcement. Hugo House will continue to offer “more than seventy classes per quarter” in the Frye’s building at Boren Avenue and Columbia.

Hugo House events will be moved to the Frye’s auditorium with Elliott Bay Book Company and the Sorrento Hotel also pitching in.

Hugo House announced it will also start new programs during its stay on First Hill including “manuscript consultations and writing-group matchmaking.”

The 11th Ave development project is planned to be open by 2018 and will have room for Hugo House classrooms, offices, performance spaces, and studios for writers as well as a street-level cafe.

Vote for First Hill’s pavement parks

20150808_120116In 2015, First Hill community groups and the City of Seattle worked to solve a neighborhood puzzle: how to create more open space in the densely packed neighborhood. The result was two prototype “pavement to parks” projects. The First Hill Improvement Association is now stumping for support for the project in a vote recognizing the best “urban street transformation of 2015″ —

The two pavement parks along University Street are up for StreetsBlog USA’s Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015! Please take a moment to vote in favor of our neighborhood’s creative adaptation of an unsafe intersection into a community gathering place!

The First Hill neighborhood is a dense urban community home to high rise residential building, major medical institutions, educational, and commercial uses — and a scarcity of public open space. Rising land values and development pressures have made acquiring traditional space for a new park difficult. So, in 2014, the First Hill Improvement Association partnered with three city agencies — SDOT, DPD, and Parks- to explore a concept sweeping the country: repurposing land in the public right of way from pavement (especially awkward public intersections or overly broad streets) into new uses as community gathering areas — pavement parks!

Through the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan, two pilot pavement parks were created on First Hill: one at University Street and 9th Avenue, the other at the intersection of University, Union, and Boylston (UUB). The first of their kind in Seattle, these pavement parks have been embraced by the First Hill community, and function as a public living room for many residents. Particularly at UUB site, it’s common to see small gatherings of people sitting, talking, eating, and enjoying themselves outdoors in what had formerly been an unsafe five leg intersection.

These spaces accomplish the two fold mission to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety, and to provide community gathering spaces!

We’re not going to lie. The First Hill project has its work cut out for it — it stands in a distant fourth place as of this posting. It’s difficult to argue against the current top vote getter: a project to redesign 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in NYC to be safer for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

The cough syrup defense: Legal strategy emerges for doctor accused of murdering his First Hill family

Chen in 2011 (Image: CHS)

Chen in 2011 (Image: CHS)

The legal team for Louis Chen, accused of stabbing his partner and young son to death inside a First Hill condo in August 2011, is preparing to mount an unusual defense for the doctor.

According to legal documents filed with King County Superior Court in a dispute over an expert witness in the now four-year-old case, Chen’s lawyers plan to contend that their client was suffering from psychosis brought on — “in part” — by dextromethorphan, a commonly used cough suppressant:

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.59.12 AM Continue reading

The Sawant? ‘Small efficiency dwelling’ building on 10th faces review

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.24.44 PMTwo projects on opposing ends of the affordable housing spectrum will will take their turn before the East Design Review Board Wednesday night. A proposed “small efficiency dwelling unit” project on Capitol Hill and a nonprofit affordable housing project on First Hill would create a combined 129 new studio-style apartments. The two projects will require the demolition of three buildings and a parking lot, adding needed density to their respective sites. Neither project includes commercial space.

120 10th Ave E
The building at the intersection of a surprising number of Capitol Hill narratives is on track to turn another chapter. Most recently used as the headquarters Kshama Sawant’s City Council campaign, a house and an adjacent apartment building near 10th and E John are slated to come down to make way for a 4-story, 49-unit apartment building. Continue reading

‘Safety Day’ provides preview as riders await First Hill Streetcar start of service

Streetcar Safety Day - 13 of 21

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

“I just hope this means it’s finally going to start running soon”

It was wet, windy, and overcast as small groups of Seattle Department of Transportation representatives, marketing folks, and curious passersby huddled under tents pitched adjacent to stationary, shiny new streetcars at several locations along the tracks as part of SDOT’s “First Hill Streetcar Safety Day,” an event Thursday intended to give the public a chance to check out the streetcars themselves and learn “streetcar safety tips.”

With a streetcar sitting idle at stops at Denny and Broadway on Capitol Hill, 14th and Washington in the Central District, and Occidental Avenue and Jackson near Pioneer Square, members of the public were able to walk inside the streetcars and field questions to the available SDOT and reps from PRR, the public relations firm hired to assist in public outreach for the project. Pamphlets featuring streetcar safety tips were handed out, advising cyclists to cross tracks at a right angle (to avoid falling into the track groove) and telling drivers what to do in the event of a fender bender with a streetcar.

Mostly, the event was an opportunity to show off the long anticipated new-to-the-area transit mode and get the public jazzed on a developing project that has dragged on past numerous deadlines.

Violet, a Seattle Central College student and Madison Valley resident who takes the number 12 bus to get to campus, said that she would “absolutely” be taking the streetcar for getting her closer to the number 7 bus she rides to her job in the Rainier Valley. She did have some qualms about the streetcar seating arrangements, saying the spacious interior seems geared towards having more passengers stand than sit. (Northeast Seattle Greenways and Tom Fucoloro at the Seattle Bike Blog also had some criticisms, specifically that the two vertical bike racks included inside the new streetcars can’t accommodate bulky family or cargo laden bikes.)

Beth and Emma, two Capitol Hill residents who were excited about the prospect of the streetcar (and being able to easily get to and from Pioneer Square), seemed fully aware of the its lengthy rollout. “I just hope this means it’s finally going to start running soon,” said Beth. Continue reading