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Zoning changes to preserve Pike/Pine, open up First Hill development move forward

A tandem of legislation approved this morning by the Seattle City Council’s planning, land use and neighborhoods committee will pave the way for progress in establishing an effective preservation zone for Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine neighborhood and defuse a development situation that had been threatening to disrupt the new zoning. It could also open up opportunities to put an empty lot at south end of Broadway to use as a public space connecting Capitol and First Hills. The bills now go to the full council for a vote on Monday, June 29.

The committee is chaired by Sally Clark and includes Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess.

The first piece of legislation is the Pike/Pine overlay zoning rules (council bill info) designed to preserve and encourage Pike/Pine’s historical character by creating both restrictions and incentives for developers to incorporate some of the neighborhood’s unique old buildings into their redevelopment plans. Its ammendments continue to refine the new zoning rules but its main thrusts remain intact:

  • Promoting mixed-use development
  • Keeping new development compatible and in the scale of the neighborhood
  • Encouraging small, diverse local businesses 
  • Saving older buildings of character 
  • Retaining and attracting arts and cultural uses.

First Hill’s First Baptist Church

The second piece of legislation approved by the committee this morning will likely have the most immediate impact by breaking a logjam that pitted the needs of a major area employer against the desires to extend the preservation overlay to buildings on the south edge of Pike/Pine.

Last year, in desperate need of space to build a new clinic in the area, The Polyclinic purchased land and an old building at the corner of Broadway and Union. That lot is currently home to the Complete Automotive Building. “We purchased that spot to preserve our options,” Polyclinic spokesperson Tracy Corgiat told CHS in May. “We need to grow. We’ve outgrown our current building.”

But the Polyclinic’s plans to tear down the building and build a new facility on the lot would be foiled if the new Pike/Pine overlay rules aren’t amended to allow larger commercial developments in the area where the lot is located.

Lloyd David, the Polyclinic’s executive director, had asked that the Council exclude the Complete Automotive parcel at 1158 Broadway from any zoning changes because the clinic’s plans were based on previous – rather current – zoning.

But the Polyclinic has another option for expansion. In May, Corgiat said the Polyclinic’s first choice for a relocated facility is at property the clinic owns adjacent to the Seattle First Baptist Church at Seneca and Boylston (labeled “” in the map on this post).

The First Hill Highrise Zones legislation (council bill info) would permit construction of large medical services developments in zones like the First Hill area the Polyclinic owns. With the new First Hill legislation, Corgiat says the Polyclinic is hopeful it will be able to put plans it has been working on for years to use developing a new facility on First Hill. “We’re really pleased because it impacts our ability to potentially develop that site,” Corgiat told CHS on Tuesday. “It’s been a nice change of pace.”

The odd-shaped lot is home to strange weeds, broken bottles

One additional byproduct of the new zoning rules is the potential reclaiming of the sad, long-empty lot near Broadway and Madison and the potential development of a new pedestrian and retail area near Seattle University.

Betsy Hunter of Capitol Hill Housing is hopeful that the empty lot near Broadway and Madison will now be put to use.

“That strange shaped lot could be landscaped with a staircase to bring pedestrians up to First Hill,” Hunter said. “A plaza could be created across from Seattle University with a pedestrian area to walk though a landscaped courtyard before entering the new building with parking for the church and the Polyclinic, retail, offices and housing. All of it could happen with partnerships and the rezone,” Hunter said.

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11 years ago

Wow, I would really applaud the city if this all worked out like that. This has been a contentious issue for some time now and I’m amazed they found an “everyone wins” solution.