Capitol Hill Station development not tall or affordable enough for you? Sound Transit approves deals for more

The Sound Transit Board approved the nitty gritty business terms of two deals Thursday that will create hundreds of affordable housing units a short walk or a First Hill Streetcar ride away from its Capitol Hill Station light rail facility.

Terms approved Thursday in one deal are worthy of the most complicated baseball trade involving a four-way swap between Sound Transit, Seattle Central and the state community college system, and Capitol Hill Housing.

  • Sound Transit will convey Site D to the College Parties in exchange for the Atlas Site. Sound Transit will then convey the Atlas Site to CHH for a mixed-use, affordable housing development that meets the requirements of RCW 81.112.350. Continue reading

Groups announce First Hill plan for Seattle’s ‘largest’ affordable housing building

Nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group announced Monday morning that they are moving forward on an affordable housing project on surplus Sound Transit land on First Hill. The project will be “the largest building constructed by any affordable housing provider in Seattle, with 12 to 15 floors of housing over a floor of retail, service, and community space.”

Sound Transit has agreed to transfer to the two organizations at “zero-cost” following a November decision on what to do with the land originally acquired for a never-built First Hill light rail station at the corner of Madison and Boylston. Continue reading

Maybe Sound Transit’s ‘Vertical Conveyances Report’ will finally address the Hedberg principle — UPDATE

If you’re tired of encountering broken down — and blocked off — escalators at Capitol Hill Station and across the rest of Sound Transit’s light rail facilities, here’s hoping for some good ideas in the University of Washington Vertical Conveyances Report.

The wonky sounding update is scheduled to be delivered Thursday at the Sound Transit board’s afternoon session of the Operations and Administration Committee. The report follows a fiasco level incident in March in which every escalator at UW Station was out of commission and hundreds queued up for long waits for the only access to the platform — the elevator. Continue reading

Two big items on Sound Transit’s agenda for lots of affordable housing on Broadway, First Hill — UPDATE

UPDATE 3:35 PM: The Sound Transit board approved both motions Thursday afternoon paving the way for a “no cost” transfer of two First Hill properties to nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing and, in the second vote, putting in place a memorandum of understanding between the transit agency, Seattle Central, and Capitol Hill Housing for a swap of Capitol Hill properties. Details on the plans are below.

In public comments, Bellwether’s CEO Susan Boyd called the joint proposal with Plymouth “a bold plan” that will create much needed affordable housing on First Hill.

Board member and Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson called the First Hill proposal “very consistent with what the community asked for” and said the neighborhood’s “YIMBY” spirit was reflected in the plan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said affordable housing is now central to Sound Transit’s mission as it also works to provide transit to the region’s growing population. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, meanwhile, voted against the motion saying he was troubled by the “no cost” aspect of the plan as a “dangerous precedent.”

Additionally, the board also approved a motion on a plan for “Central Transit-Oriented Development” near the Roosevelt light rail station that will involve Bellwether and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Original report: Sound Transit’s board is scheduled to make two key decisions on property it owns across First Hill and Capitol Hill that will potentially open the way for big deals around affordable housing and and expanded Seattle Central.

The Sound Transit Board will vote Thursday whether to move forward with two land deals.

One motion paves the way negotiate with Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing in a purchase of Sound Transit land at 1014 Boylston Ave and 1400 Madison meant for high-rise affordable housing, up to 160 feet.

“We thought in viewing their proposal that their numbers were reasonable,” said Sarah Lovell from Sound Transit. “It is an expensive project. It’s expensive to build a high-rise. But stacking two housing project increases their ability to get subsidies. They’re trying to be really efficient with their design.” Continue reading

$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.”

Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-11.24.05-PM

(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