$2.65M deal for affordable housing site puts Capitol Hill Station development in motion — UPDATE

Early concept of the development coming to "Site B North"

Early concept of the development coming to “Site B North”

Sound Transit is finally ready to sell off the first of five properties surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station that will transform Broadway and serve as a new gateway to Capitol Hill.

The board is expected to approve the $2.65 million sale (PDF) of Site B-North to developer Gerding Edlen during its Thursday afternoon meeting. The Portland-based developer previously selected Capitol Hill Housing to develop and own an 86-unit affordable housing project on the site, which runs along 10th Ave between John and Denny Way.

UPDATE (4:35 PM): Sound Transit board members approved the Site B-North sale agreement during their Thursday afternoon meeting. Despite a Sound Transit staffer reminding the board the action was “a very, very big deal,” the approval was rather unceremonious as one member had to be pulled in from the hallway to make a quorum for the quick vote. There was no board discussion of the measure.

“The Capitol Hill community has repeatedly and strongly expressed its desire for affordable housing,” said Brie Gyncild, co-chair of the Capitol Hill Champion community group. “We need truly affordable housing as soon as possible and we near it near the light rail station.”

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(Image: Gerding Edlen)

According to Gerding’s winning proposal, half of Site B-North’s units will be restricted to households making no more than 30% of the area median income. The other half will be made affordable to households at or below 60% of AMI. A quarter of the units will have two or three bedrooms. Initial plans call for a community center and a daycare, as well as a rooftop deck and computer lab.

The $2.65 million price tag for the “transit oriented development” “Site B North” comes just under Sound Transit’s estimated price last year. A substantial percentage of the proceeds will go towards paying back federal transportation grants that were secured for the project.

In August, the board is expected to approve land leases for three other sites so Gerding Edlen can move forward with its plan to build 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space. Seattle Central College has been given a right of first refusal to develop a fifth parcel, Site D, due to the site’s location directly next to the school’s Broadway promenade.  Continue reading

Churches and parking garages: Capitol Hill’s reps in Olympia get creative in drive to create affordable housing in Seattle

Studios starting at $1500/month (Image: Coulter Architects)

Studios starting at $1500/month (Image: Coulter Architects)

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

Broad changes and new programs will be required to reach the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda goal of 20,000 new units of affordable housing in Seattle in the next decade. But there will also need to be surgical strikes and a few leaps of faith along the way.

It might be surprising to find Olympia at the source of some of the more creative leaps forward in finding new ways to create affordable housing, but House Speaker Frank Chopp tells CHS he is in the middle of discussions around several offbeat solutions to Seattle’s affordable housing crisis. One idea 43rd District rep is especially fond of is building on “under-utilized” land or on-top of structures, like publicly-owned parking garages and community centers.

“There’s a lot of innate support for this kind of thing,” Chopp said.

To bring help bring his creative housing visions to life, Chopp is now working with a group of legislators, officials, and nonprofits to identify places in Seattle that might be good candidates for development. As of now the group has identified seven potential parcels on Capitol Hill, including land owned by Seattle Central College and Sound Transit, and one parcel of land that belongs to a church that Chopp says has expressed an interest in affordable housing. Continue reading

6 ways to make Capitol Hill Station even better

Capitol Hill Station has served thousands and thousands of riders extremely well — but Monday night’s pepper spray closure and disruption of service at the peak of the evening commute was an example that there are still some improvements the station and the Sound Transit light rail system can make to be even better.

While we wait for Thursday’s release of the “final” plan for the proposed ST3 next phase of expansion and read about some of the big solutions the plan could bring to the region, here are some of the smaller issues we’ve heard about around Capitol Hill Station.

  • (Image: @mmitgang via Twitter)

    (Image: @mmitgang via Twitter)

    Platform communications: Somebody discharged pepper spray inside the station Monday and the result was a minor form of chaos. The station was cleared of people so the spray could be dissipated and trains were routed to skip Broadway and head straight to UW or downtown. But riders inside the station report that audio messages about the situation were not informative and hard to hear. The emergency announcement was also reportedly only broadcast in English and riders said there were nothing that would have helped inform passengers who were deaf or hard of hearing about what was happening.

    The investigation into how the pepper spray was released has closed and appears to have been related to a dispute between a woman and a man inside the station. Surveillance video showed an incident in the south stairwell near Cal Anderson that apparently included a cloud of pepper spray. Sound Transit is also aware of the communication issues and a spokesperson said they are talking about how to improve:
    As for the customer communications, we could have done a better job – especially with announcements on the platforms. Our folks tell me that PA announcements were made, but they could have been better. This isn’t a regular occurrence (thank goodness), so the focus at the time was on the operations side and venting the station. We’ve been debriefing about it and looking at where the communications needs improvement.
    Continue reading

You can win a ‘golden ticket’ for light rail’s first Capitol Hill rides

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For many, the March 19th launch of U-Link and opening of Capitol Hill Station can’t get here soon enough.

If you want to be on the first train that morning out of UW Station and take one of the most thrilling 3-minute rides of your public transit life at speeds approaching 55 MPH, Sound Transit is giving away a golden ticket (or two) to be part of the inaugural journey:

Sound Transit's promo captures the same joy you will surely feel as you pass under the Montlake Cut

Sound Transit’s promo captures the same joy you will surely feel as you pass under the Montlake Cut

Win a first ride
With a Golden Ticket, you’ll be the first to ride a University Link train on Launch Day. Here are the ways to enter and win (you must be 18 or older):

Follow @SoundTransit on Facebook, Twitter or InstagramTake a photo or video letting us know where you will Link in 2016. Share using #Ulink2016 @SoundTransit.

Listen to these radio stations: KEXP (90.3 FM), KUOW (94.9 FM) and KNDD (107.7 FM) for your chance to win two Golden Tickets.

Subscribe for U Link updates. Subscribers will also receive updates about special U Link Launch Day events and promotions.

The countdown clock to the March 19, 2016 10 AM departure of the first U-Link train from UW Station is ticking.

Similar to its 2014 contest for a walking tour of the U-Link tunnels (which CHS was lucky enough to get to go on), Sound Transit is also using the contest to help with mitigation efforts for businesses affected by construction around the future U District and Roosevelt stations:

Stop by any of these U District or Roosevelt businesses, spend $5 or more and fill out an “enter to win” Golden Ticket raffle card (begins January 29). Participating businesses include: Brooklyn Avenue Dental, Cedars of Lebanon, My Favorite Deli, Nasai Teriyaki, Neptune Music Company, Samir’s Mediterranean Grill, Sweet Alchemy (opens February), Ugly Mug Café, Health Mutt, Nature Nails, Pies and Pints, Roosevelt Vacuum, Subway (Roosevelt Square), Teddy’s, Thrive, Toronado, UPS Store on 65th.

The contest rules are here. Good luck!

ST3: a Capitol Hill view of what’s next for Sound Transit

Capitol Hill Station opens in March (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill Station opens in March, part of the great Seattle transit spring of 2016 (Image: CHS)

ST3's "candidate projects"

ST3’s “candidate projects”

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 7.53.11 AMFresh from passing the $930 million dollar Move Seattle transportation levy, Seattle voters will vote on another major transportation investment next November: Sound Transit 3, or ST3, the ballot measure that will finance and guide the expansion of our region’s light rail transit system. The final package of specific new light rail projects and a funding timeline has yet to be put together, but the Sound Transit Board is currently weighing a variety of proposals that bring broader, regional transit mobility to District 3 beyond the University District and downtown connections that come with the slated spring opening of the Capitol Hill light rail station on Broadway between John and Denny. Here is what to watch for — and ask for — as the plan comes together from Broadway’s point of view at Capitol Hill Station.

A long route
ST3 has been a long time in the making, and still has a long way to go before going to the Ballot next November. After last year’s bitter legislative session, lawmakers granted Sound Transit the authority to seek approval from voters to raise taxes (to the amount of $15 billion) to extend existing light rail lines created under ST2—the previous Sound Transit expansion package voters approved back in 2008—as well as build new completely lines within Seattle such as the very popular Ballard to West Seattle connection (potentially via a second downtown transit tunnel). To get the ball rolling on ST3, last summer, the Sound Transit board took input from regional residents on their picks for potential projects. After studying the preferred options, Sound Transit rolled out a set of candidate projects, in addition to various funding timelines in early December.

Now, the board will spend the next few months putting together a draft package to be put under the public’s microscope in March, after which extensive public input will be gathered before the final, final, package put before voters in November. For now, public input and advocacy is limited to writing individual board members about what you would like to see in the draft proposal.

For local transit advocates like Abigail Doerr, advocacy director for the pro-light rail Transportation Choices Coalition and a Capitol Hill resident, ST3 is a key opportunity to get it right to go all out and build out the regional mass transit network to its fullest extent. “We would like to see as many of these good candidate projects in the package.”

The Sound Transit board has a lot hash out in formulating the draft ST3 package. In addition to extending the ST2 era-lines further south to the Tacoma Dome from Federal Way, north from Lynnwood to Everett, and east from Bellevue to Redmond and Issaquah, the Seattle area candidate projects include variations of the famed Ballard to downtown Seattle line — sub-options for this project include elevated and at-grade lines, or a mix of both (some also feature a second downtown transit tunnel) — a downtown Seattle to West Seattle connection, a east/west Ballard to University District route, an extension down south to Burien from West Seattle, additional stations along the pre-existing light rail line snaking through the Rainier valley, studying a potential Ballard to Bothell line (via Lake City) and helping fund the Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit line, a project in the heart of Capitol Hill, which is also relying on the Move Seattle levy and, potentially, federal grants. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station ‘launch’ planned for March, indeed

IMG_8039-600x900CapitolHillStationSign-600x112 (1)March 2016 will be an epic month for Seattle’s transportation system. Sound Transit officials are planning for a “launch” event that month for the new light rail extension from downtown to Montlake via Capitol Hill, according to a Wednesday morning Seattle “special events” planning session.

Meanwhile, state officials are also planning a March 2016 grand opening event for the 520 bridge replacement project that will include a fun run across Seattle streets and WSDOT’s new floating bridge. No, the westside portion of the project won’t yet be complete. The Cascade Bicycle Club is also planning an Emerald City Bicycle Ride as part of the grand opening festivities, according to Wednesday’s meeting.

The opening of the two major infrastructure projects will be big news for transit geeks and commuters alike. The March 2016 light rail launch event will involve both Capitol Hill Station on Broadway and the UW Station near Husky Stadium. No specific dates for the events have been announced. Continue reading

Sound Transit weighs options on First Hill property amid calls for new affordable housing

(Image: Sound Transit)

The First Hill properties are part of Sound Transit’s “transit oriented development” surplus holdings. (Image: Sound Transit)

First Hill won’t have a stop on the University Link Light Rail extension when it starts running in 2016, but it could still get a housing + retail + community space “transit oriented development” project like the one planned for Capitol Hill — albeit one that’s significantly smaller.

The First Hill Streetcar is one of the most well known outcomes of the Central Link Locally Preferred Alternative — the plan that would’ve put a light rail stop on First Hill. The streetcar was drawn up as a compromise to serve the neighborhood with rapid transit after the light rail stop was deemed unfeasible.

A lesser known component of the plan includes two surplus properties Sound Transit owns on First Hill, purchased in 2001 in anticipation of building a station near Madison and Boylston.

A new development will likely rise behind the Whole Foods project (shown in brown) on E Madison (Image by Tiscareno Associates)

A new development will someday rise at the Sound Transit properties behind the future Whole Foods project (shown in brown) on E Madison. (Image by Tiscareno Associates)

Today, Sound Transit leases 1400 Madison to a Moneytree payday loans store and 1014 Boylston as medical office space. The future of the properties remains up in air, but City officials are calling on the transit agency to commit to using the site for affordable housing.

Sound Transit is known for being conservative when it comes to purchasing, developing, and selling its properties. Turning a profit on First Hill shouldn’t be difficult. Developers planning a Whole Foods and 16-story apartment tower on the same block paid $21 million for the site in 2008, according to King County property records. According to Sound Transit, its 21,000 square foot site is zoned for a 160 foot tall building, either mixed use or office or residential. Several residential towers planned on nearby blocks will range from 275 to 300 units each. (Interestingly, Wells Fargo purchased the Moneytree property in 1999 for just $444,000 and sold it to Sound Transit two years later for $2.2 million). Continue reading

First look: inside Capitol Hill Station

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

With a message one Sound Transit official was so proud of he repeated it twice, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray led a media tour Tuesday morning of the “ahead of schedule and under budget” U-Link subway line’s Capitol Hill Station.

“When U-Link opens early next year it will transform how people get around this city,” Constantine said before getting to the heart of the matter — a public push to pass the state transportation budget in Olympia including a fully-funded Sound Transit 3 package.

Mayor Murray echoed the call to Olympia before heading underground below Broadway. “Tens of thousands of people will use this as a way to commute to work,” Murray said, “to enjoy life when they’re not working. It’s going to make a difference.”

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Tuesday’s tour was the first public opportunity to see inside the $110 million station that stretches from John to Denny below two acres of Broadway just northwest of Cal Anderson Park. Later this summer, Sound Transit says it will begin “pre-revenue testing” on the twin tracks between downtown and Montlake via Capitol Hill. Starting around August, every train will continue from Westlake tunnel to put the system fully through its paces. Passengers, of course, will need to get off the train before it continues all the way to UW station.
Continue reading

Developer shows off plans for Capitol Hill Station housing and The Market Hall

unnamedSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1-400x315For the first time since they were selected to develop the housing and retail sites that will one day surround the Capitol Hill light rail station, developers Gerding Edlen met with the Capitol Hill community Saturday to show off its early designs for the project.

The Portland-based developer set up posters inside E Pine’s Century Ballroom for a public viewing of the company’s winning proposal, which Sound Transit selected and made available last month. The event was co-hosted by Sound Transit and Capitol Hill Champion, a neighborhood group that’s worked for years to insert community priorities into the “transit oriented development” project.

Members from the Gerding team and architects from Schemata Workshop were on hand to answer questions and take public feedback during the three hour open house. The event was a kickoff of sorts to a new round of community engagement on the project as Sound Transit spent much of the past six months scoring proposals from four teams.

A dog swimming pool, music practice spaces, a newsstand, and more vibrant color palettes were just a few of the colorful suggestions attendees offered after viewing the designs Saturday. Continue reading

Sound Transit ready to select developer for Capitol Hill Station retail+housing sites — UPDATE: ‘Master Developer’

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station "site A" from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station “site A” from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

SiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1The multi-site retail and housing project that will surround the Capitol Hill light rail station between John and Denny will be one of Broadway’s defining features for decades to come. Now it’s time to find out who gets to build it.

After having nearly six months to score bid proposals from four development teams, Sound Transit is expected to announce the winning developers this week. The four-site project will include 100,000 square feet of “transit oriented development,” including housing, commercial, and community spaces.

The winning developer team will need to be confirmed by the Sound Transit Board, which is expected to happen at this Thursday’s meeting.

UPDATE 1:28 PM: Sound Transit has announced that Portland-based Gerding Edlen Development’s bid as a “master developer” for all properties has ranked highest in the selection process. Plans call for 418 apartments with 38 percent of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A third of the units will have at least two bedrooms.

Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites, not including the affordable housing site. According to the 262-page bid document, construction for Site A is slated to start around summer 2016 and last through August 2017.

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

In a win for neighborhood activists, the developer plans to include space for a community center and daycare with subsidized rates, and signaled its intention to sign a 24-year lease with the Broadway Farmers Market. Letters of intent from the farmers market and Bright Horizons were included in the winning bid packet, as was a proposal for a LGBTQ office space called OutSmart Co-working.

On the retail side, Gerding says it heard the neighborhood’s calls for smaller storefronts to accommodate local independent shops and will include such spaces in the project. The developers are also seeking an anchor tenant for a larger space, and are already in talks with “a northwest-based neighborhood grocer interested in expanding operations to Seattle.”

Plans for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Gerding says it plans to work closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to select a retail broker and future tenants.

Seattle architecture firms Hewitt and Schemata Workshop were both tapped by Gerding to help design the buildings, which will be subject to a streamlined design review process.

“This development will be a neighborhood asset for decades to come,” said Sound Transit Board member and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement. “As a centerpiece of the Broadway business district, with affordable housing, a farmers market and a daycare, this proposal envisions a community for all to enjoy.”

The project’s affordable housing building, Site B-North, was intended to be developed and run by a nonprofit housing organization, but Gerding’s nonprofit partner pulled out from the project last year. Gerding says it intends to find another nonprofit partner to run the site.

Scenarios for leasing and purchasing the two acre Broadway property were both included in Gerding’s bid document. Sound Transit has valued the properties at $25 million. Contract negotiations are expected to last through the end of the year.

Continue reading