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Champion group presses for Hill’s seat at table in Sound Transit development process

The Capitol Hill Champion group is working with Sound Transit to tailor community concerns into real policy actions, and what Cathy Hillenbrand, community leader of the Champion group, calls a “seat at the table.”

The group is making strides in being recognized as an important player in the process and a growing political force on the Hill. In late May, the group was invited to brief the Seattle City Council on their effort. The video of the session is worth a watch to catch up on the many challenges facing the Capitol Hill community in the light rail station transit oriented development process and some of the political challenges the group faces as it tries to weave together various governmental departments at the state, county and city level.

As reported by CHS earlier this year, the group has helped drive consensus in community desires for transit oriented development at the future light rail station on Broadway between Denny and John. Community feedback was synthesized into a three-part document developed by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Departments of Planning and Transportation, Sound Transit, and the TOD Stakeholders Committee – a group that represents a wide range of Capitol Hill residents, business owners, and organizations. For over a year this group met regularly to influence the future of the Sound Transit sites adjacent the Capitol Hill light rail station.

Despite the distant grand opening date of 2016, the Champion group insists that the time to make a real impact is now or never.

“We don’t have until 2016 to work on redevelopment [of business and community], at the most we have until 2012, said Jennifer Power, Capitol Hill community council At-large representative.

The group says it has learned from Sound Transit’s TOD work in other communities.

“In places like Beacon Hill, I don’t think Sound Transit thought in advance about TOD or even redevelopment before the light rail began to run,” said Hillenbrand.

The development process will shape the kinds of retail, housing and community spaces that will fill the land surrounding the Broadway light rail station when it opens for service in 2016.  Although the Champion group is intent on receiving more community input as construction draws closer, any plans for community designs for the TOD site are unlikely.

“Sound Transit is not going to do a design contest considering how limited their staff is, and the Champion group only heard the idea mentioned once,” Hillenbrand said.

The Capitol Hill Champion group is a collaboration of members from the Capitol Hill Community Council, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Sound Transit, and the City of Seattle.

An example of its mission is a collaborative project with members of Sound Transit’s community outreach department called the “urban design framework.” This urban design framework will act as a community- centered set of requirements that will need to be incorporated into developers’ proposals in order to be considered by Sound Transit.

The Champion Steering Committee currently has eight members, including Cathy Hillenbrand, Jen Power and Zef Wagner, both are At-large representatives of CHCC, Mike Kent, vice president-elect of CHCC, Michael Wells, Interim Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Chip Ragen, Board member of the Chamber, Betsy Hunter, Capitol Hill Housing, and Mike Mariano, Schemata Workshop.

The Champion’s next community meeting will be a workshop focusing on design and uses for the Nagle Place Extension. An exact date for this meeting has not been set, but it will most likely be on a Saturday in late July.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the TOD Champions, please contact the group at

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