A colorful start to Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar testing

Mayor Murray and King County Council and Sound Transit board rep Joe McDermott take a ride (Images: CHS)

Mayor Murray and King County Council and Sound Transit board rep Joe McDermott take a ride (Images: CHS)

In front of a rainbow assortment of new trolleys, the first completed tram for the First Hill Streetcar — sky blue — took a very important load of passengers for a 600-foot ride Friday morning as testing for the system has moved into full motion.

It only required one “reboot.”

“This is another step in our efforts to get streetcars running throughout Seattle,” passenger and Mayor Ed Murray said to the media assembled to cover the event at the system’s International District maintenance facility.

Inside, workers were assembling three more cars set to join the fleet including a hot pink number one Seattle Department of Transportation representative said captured the, um, “modern energy of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.” The colors of the multi-hued cars were “inspired” by the “different characteristics” of the neighborhoods the 2.5 mile streetcar route travels through — Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill. Continue reading

City Council Notes | First Hill ‘prototype parks,’ smart meters, ‘No Construction Parking’ signs in Pike/Pine

Walking your cat through the First Hill Public Realm

Walking your cat through the First Hill Public Realm

Here’s a look at this week’s Capitol Hill-centric highlights from the Seattle City Council’s chambers:

  • First Hill Public Realm report: The council’s transportation committee will hear an update on a program to create more public spaces in the densely-packed First Hill neighborhood. CHS reported on the First Hill Public Realm plan earlier this year. Tuesday, representatives from SDOT and Seattle Park will tell council members about what comes next for the initiative — including two “prototype” parks on University St:Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 2.32.35 PM
  • Pedestrian report: Tuesday’s transportation committee meeting will also include a briefing on the latest annual report from the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board. Looking forward, the board report says the body’s focus on 2015 is on the big picture: “The update of the Pedestrian Master Plan (PMP) will occupy a substantial share of the board’s focus and activity in 2015.”
  • Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 2.48.07 PM‘No Construction Parking’ signs: In SDOT’s March update to the council, the report notes a small improvement for residents and businesses pinched by ongoing construction in central Pike/Pine — “To keep parking open for businesses, we collaborated with contractors working on 10th and 11th Ave between E Union and E Pike to manufacture and install ‘No Construction Parking’ signs”
  • Smart meters update: Wednesday’s meeting of the energy committee will include an update on the $94 million program to build an “advanced metering” system in Seattle to replace the outdated manual process used today to determine energy consumption and billing. The council will hear that negotiations for a vendor to build out the system are expected to begin in April and that the current plan calls for residents who might have concerns including privacy or health to be able to opt out of the smart metering program for a yet to be determined fee. Initial meter installations are expected to begin this fall with “mass meter deployment” (run, paranoid residents, run!) by June 2016.Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 2.52.54 PM
  • Another City Council candidate: James Keblas, former head of the city’s film and music office and currently working with Capitol Hill-based creative agency Creature, will run for an at-large seat on the council.
  • Pike Place Market expansion: Monday, the full council approved legislation from committees on a $34 million expansion of Pike Place Market and an ordinance updating the muni code to prohibit eviction of renters from apartments if landowners haven’t registered the property’s units with the Department of Planning and Development. The council also approved a clean-up of Seattle’s “cable communications” ordinance reportedly designed to better recognize changes in technology and address issues of inequity for cable customers:
    The new Code changes are intended to improve competition and customer service by eliminating cable franchise districts in favor of a more flexible provision that opens the entire City to competition. The Code also contains new requirements to ensure equity and build-out service to low-income households, enhanced call answering standards and reporting, and more flexibility and protections for residents and owners living in condos and apartments.

First Hill apartment asbestos issue a cautionary tale for tenants in old buildings

Cadence acquired The Broadmoore four years ago (Image: King County)

Cadence acquired The Broadmoore four years ago (Image: King County)

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When the property managers at a First Hill apartment building recently began drilling holes in the walls to install a new heating system, resident Eric Stapelman was immediately alarmed.

Worried that the dust flying around contained asbestos, the chef-owner of E Pine’s Shibumi called the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to have the Terry and Jefferson building tested. Initial results found asbestos levels in remnants from drilling were two times the allowed limit, according to the agency’s report obtained by CHS. The agency ordered Cadence Real Estate to stop the work.

Cadence acquired the 1911-built building in 2011 for $5.1 million, according to county records. The company has acquired property across the area including E Pike’s The Winston which it acquired for $4.3 million in late 2011.

While a second round of testing with more precise instruments found levels were not actually harmful, a PSCAA spokesperson told CHS the stop work order at The Broadmore will stay until Cadence hires an asbestos contractor to do another round of testing. Candence did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

In the meantime, Cadence put up plastic containment areas in some units where work remains unfinished. “The fact that they’re having people live in the apartments and not offering them a place to go… they’re turning people’s lives upside down,” Stapelman said.

UPDATE (3/20): In an email to CHS, Cadence principal Barrett Johnston said the company has been working with tenants to get the new heating system installed as fast as possible.

I have my EPA RRP certification for lead paint abatement, and we test for this prior to working in units as well. We have spoken with the PSCAA and EPA and have done what they have asked of us. It is unfortunate that we attempted to do everything required of us, and keep the residents safe from any potential hazardous substances, but are still being seen as trying to do things improperly.

By its nature construction is invasive and can be a burden for people living in a work area and we are aware of this and try to make the living environment as comfortable for people as possible. Unfortunately the continued blocking has caused the project to be delayed and some tenants are living in spaces with dust screening still up and no progress being made.

Cadence will also be required to obtain a construction permit from the agency, which it failed to do prior to starting work. Nearly all apartment building owners are required to get a permit from the PSCAA if they are doing significant work inside their buildings.

Once the final round of testing is complete and Cadence performs any necessary asbestos abatement work, the PSCAA spokesperson said the agency would issue a permit which would allow work to continue.

According to PSCAA, a property management company should be able to confirm if its secured the proper clean air permits to do work inside a building. If you’re unsure, contact the agency here.

Stapelman told CHS Cadence has refused his request for the company to pay for a temporary relocation while the work gets completed. He said he will be moving out as soon as he can. “This should not have happened,” he said.

What’s for sale at the newest shop in Pike/Pine? First Hill condos

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

The latest business to move into Pike/Pike won’t be the one selling sex toys, it will be selling condos — 168 of them from a single new First Hill building to be exact.

The sales office for the soaring 24-story Luma condo building will be opening next month on E Pike near Broadway. The space had been occupied by Emerson Salon, which transitioned management and consolidated its space last year.

Marketing company Red Propeller is handling sales for Luma, which is under construction a third of a mile away at Boylston and Seneca. The new addition to Seattle’s skyline will open sometime next year without any commercial or retail space.

It wasn’t just happenstance that Luma’s sales office is opening near the heart of Pike/Pine. Red Propeller is hoping the office location will help the company reach Luma’s target buyers — creative, urban professionals

“What we’re really selling is a proximity and access to First Hill and the Pike/Pine neighborhood,” said Red Propeller’s Stephen Fina. “The sales office immersed in that experience.”

“Live every angle at the intersection of First Hill and the Pike/Pine,” one promotion for the project reads.

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Artist rendering of the coming-soon Luna

The office will be open through summer 2016 when its 4 to 5 employees will move into an office in the completed Luma building, Fina said.

The land the Luma is being built on was purchased by Swedish pension fund adviser Alecta for $4 million in 2010. Another developer paid almost twice that in 2007 with plans for a high-end condo project but that venture got wiped out by the last recession. Before construction, a group of neighbors fought to no avail to scale back the Luma project.

Condo sales offices have been mostly absent around Capitol Hill since the housing market crash in 2007.

Luma developer Lowe Enterprises is one of the only companies to build new condos around Central Seattle and, really, through the entire city. Last year, Lowe vice president Suzi Morris said Luma’s location presented a prime opportunity for condo development in an otherwise tough financing environment.

Fina said he couldn’t speculate about the future of condo development around Capitol Hill, but he said interest in condo ownership is definitely on the rise in the neighborhood.

First Hill Streetcar vehicle testing to begin

A First Hill Streetcar tram being assembled after arrival in Seattle  -- More pictures on City Council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen's Facebook page

A First Hill Streetcar tram being assembled after arrival in Seattle — More pictures on City Council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen’s Facebook page

From the status update presentation

From the status update presentation

Testing will begin this month as Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar line moves toward a start of service this summer. The announcement is part of a series of updates planned as part of Tuesday’s City Council briefing with Seattle Department of Transportation head Scott Kubly on the status of the delayed streetcar line.

“Vehicle manufacturer is six months behind schedule for all vehicles to be ready for service,” reads the first bullet point on the “Current Status” slide in the presentation prepared for the city council’s transportation committee. The full document is embedded below.

Kubly, right, speaks Tuesday morning at the City Council transportation committee briefing

Kubly, right, speaks Tuesday morning at the City Council transportation committee briefing

UPDATE 3/10/2015 10:45 AM: In Tuesday morning’s briefing, Kubly responded to questions about why SDOT’s contract with the streetcar manufacturer didn’t have a stronger incentive for the maker to stay on schedule for a project the SDOT director was intended to begin service last year and how the department provided updates on the situation to the rest of City Hall.

Speaking on the ambitious Move Seattle transit initiatives earlier in the morning, Kubly spent the rest of his time with council bogged down in the difficulties of delivering the start of service on the First Hill Streetcar line.

Laying the fault of the delays on challenges presented by “a combination” of new battery technology, new communications software, and changes in national fire standards, Kubly said that SDOT will change the way it contracts for “liquidated damages” in future manufacturing deals. Liquidated damages are “damages whose amount the parties designate during the formation of a contract for the injured party to collect as compensation upon a specific breach.”

Kubly said in the re-worked First Hill Streetcar deal, owed liquidated damages will be paid in spare parts.

Continue reading

Broadway Whole Foods project design — though ‘too timid,’ ‘too much a solid block’ — approved for next round in review process

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 7.39.02 PMDespite concerns from the board about the building’s unique combination of both bulk and height and with support but also questions from residents concerned about truck traffic and the building’s multiple visible facades, the design for the 16-story development planned to be home to a Whole Foods at Broadway and Madison was moved forward Wednesday night in its first step in Seattle’s design review process.

The review board felt the design presented Wednesday was “too timid” and “too much of a solid block” for such a large project on an important corner between Capitol Hill and First Hill. “I’m not seeing a gateway statement,” one board member said. But the board also agreed it could provide enough guidance to the architects and developers to move the project through to the final “recommendation” phase of the review process.

In making their decision, the board members said the project’s developers and designers needed to come to the next phase with a proposal that better mitigated the bulk of a 16-story, full-block building and create a larger plaza on the prominent corner. Continue reading

Broadway Whole Foods and apartment development begins design review this week

(Image: Tiscareno Associates)

(Image: Tiscareno Associates)

We showed you what the Broadway Whole Foods building will look like the minute we got our hands on the plans back in February. This week brings the first public test of the design proposal to create a 16-story, 288-unit, mixed-use development with parking for around 350 cars at the corner of Madison and Broadway where Capitol Hill and First Hill with its high-er-rise zoning meet.

The early design guidance for the Columbia Pacific Advisors development designed by Tiscareno Associates is Wednesday night:

1001 Broadway/Design Proposal (84 MB)
Review Meeting: March 4, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
1016 E. Marion St
PIGT Room #304
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3019050 permit status | notice
Planner: Lindsay King

The project will include a two-level 40,000 square-foot street-level “urban grocery” from the Texas-based chain of markets “specializing” in organic food. The project is targeted for a late 2017 to early 2018 opening and will replace the 1928-built, three-story masonry medical building currently at the site.

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Whole Foods has 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.

We’ve embedded the full design proposal, below. Continue reading

After 90 years at the Harvard Exit, Woman’s Century Club finds a new First Hill home

8446263966_1144f4da8f“Woman’s Century Club” may remain engraved on the Harvard Exit for years to come, but the women of 124-year-old organization have left the building.

On Friday, the Woman’s Century Club will hold its annual organizing meeting — the first in decades to be held without the group’s Harvard and E Roy home. The meeting will take place at The Dearborn House, the club’s new base on First Hill. The 1907-built Spring and Minor house serves as the full-time headquarters for Historic Seattle.

The Harvard Exit was originally built as the Women’s Century clubhouse in 1925 and was transformed into a movie theater in 1968. Through an agreement with theater owners, the club continued to meet monthly in the building’s lobby until last month, after developer Scott Shapiro bought the Exit to transform it into an office and restaurant project. The Exit’s last film showed on January 8th.

Given that the modern-day club only used the space a few hours a month, club president Mimi Sheridan is confident the roughly 40-member organization will continue to press on.

“We were tied to it emotionally and it was important part of our history, but we can live on without it,” she said.

In addition to holding monthly events that feature a variety of speakers, the club also sponsors a scholarship program and charity events. During Friday’s annual meeting, Sheridan said the group will discuss plans for the upcoming year, including new programming and the future of the club without the Exit. That future won’t include the Steinway piano that stood for years in the Exit lobby, which the group is now selling.

Shapiro previously told  CHS a restaurant or cafe will likely take over the building’s 1,500 square-foot lobby, while he envisioned a bar moving into the 2,200 square-foot basement. The rest of the building will become “creative offices,” including the two 5,000 square-foot theater spaces and two upper floors of existing offices.

Once a restaurant opens, Sheridan said club members hope to make it their unofficial hangout.

What the 16-story Broadway Whole Foods development will look like

(Image: Tiscareno Associates)

(Image by Tiscareno Associates)

(Image by Tiscareno Associates)

(Image by Tiscareno Associates)

Probably.

Though its first round in the Seattle design review process isn’t slated until March, city planners are getting their first looks at the plans for the new Whole Foods grocery store and 16-story apartment tower planned for the intersection of First Hill and Capitol Hill at Broadway and Madison.

Developer Columbia Pacific Advisors and the architects of Tiscareno Associates are preparing plans for a 160-foot-tall, 288-unit apartment building featuring a two-level 40,000 square-foot street-level “urban grocery,” and five stories of underground parking for 374 motor vehicles and 98 bikes.

“The four sides of the project site face different neighborhoods. The design responds to these different areas with one unified concept. forms and materials wrap the corners to create continuity,” a draft of the “early design guidance” document for the project reads. Continue reading

First Hill group makes final push to stop preservation of Harborview art deco building

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935.

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935. (Image: King County)

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 5.46.04 PM

King County’s Harborview Hall preservation plan. Plans initially included leveling Harborview Hall for a plaza. (Image: King County)

It’s rare that a neighborhood group in Seattle would push for a historic building to be demolished, but the fight over First Hill’s Harborview Hall is not a typical one.

Members of the citizens advisory committee for Harborview Medical Center’s major institutions plan say they are on the ropes in a last ditch effort to have the art deco hospital building torn down to make way for some much needed public open space.

On Friday, a city hearing examiner will hear testimony over whether plans should move forward for a Harborview Hall preservation project. Continue reading