Groups working to shape development of affordable housing, a market plaza, thousands of square-feet of commercial space and — with hope — a community facility at the Capitol Hill Station on Broadway were surprised to see a rather bold rendering of the plan for the light rail site appear on the Internet last week.
“This is the vision as I understand it and we’re trying to put it out there,” Gerod Rody of the Seattle LGBTQ Community Development group tells CHS. “We have a unique opportunity to build something that is an icon.”
Rody said a significant portion of the commercial space in a development shaped as a gay civic center should become office facilities for nonprofits serving the LGBTQ communities and “straight allies.”
Rody’s renderings shaped by Capitol Hill architect and entrepreneur Chris Pardo show a plaza opening onto Broadway and a giant, shimmying hotel tower above the subterranean light rail station box below. It’s a vision not far from what we described when we talked to the group and others working to shape community priorities for the site a year ago — Hopes for a (really tall?) LGBTQ civic center grow at Capitol Hill’s light rail station.
It’s probably also impossible to build.
There is nothing factual about this article. As others have noted, Sound Transit is many months away from issuing an RFP for the multiple parcels at the transit site. In addition, the development controls are still being finalized between the City and Sound Transit – which controls are the product of YEARS of dialogue and meetings with the Capitol Hill community. The development controls as drafted do not call for anything close to what Pardo is proposing – the hotel tower shown is twice as tall as the height limits for the site. A hotel use of that size is not permitted under the Code for that location, nor is the quantity of non-retail commercial space. The development controls – again the product of YEARS of community input – call for a significant commitment of housing on the site – both market-rate and affordable. It also looks like there are buildings on top of the station box and station entrance – which Sound Transit won’t allow. The plaza is in the wrong location too – it can only go in ONE location – the location as determined by Sound Transit which sits on unbuildable space on top of ST’s station box.
George Pieper, president of the Seattle LGBTQ Community Development group formed to help shape priorities representing the area’s gay and lesbian residents, distanced his group from the design. “Chris offered free of charge, at the urging of one of our broad members, to provide a drawing to us so that we could show folks a physical rendering of our vision,” Pieper wites. “The rendering in the article is that drawing, but that is where the connection ends.”
CHS reported on the recently forged “coordinated development plan” between the city and Sound Transit for the land surrounding the Capitol Hill Station site currently owned by the transit agency. Community members working on the plan say it is unprecedented in its framework requiring affordable housing be part of the development of the prime Broadway real estate around the future station. Of the 400 apartment units planned across the five sites that will be sold off under the plan, the agreement currently calls for 36% to achieve the city’s affordable housing mark — 50% of the area’s median income, or around $30,000 per year for a one-person household.
Part of the plan includes a requirement for a plaza to fill a tough-to-develop space directly above the subway station. That space will eventually be home to Broadway’s farmers market. Developers that present a plan for a community facility in their proposals will receive bonus points in the bidding process. We outlined more of the opportunities — and a few of the issues — in the framework here. We also tried to clear up some of the questions from a September public hearing on the development plan.
Sound Transit hopes to begin auctioning off the more than 100,000 square feet of land to the highest, most qualified bidders by 2014 to have the projects completed in time for the station’s planned late 2016 start of operations. At market rates of between $350 to $400 per square foot, the five sites could command more than $40 million on the open market.
But Rody says the vision of the station parcels he has shared doesn’t have a financial sponsor at this time.
“It’s a complete fantasy. The RFQs and RFPs haven’t been released for the project,” said Cathy Hillenbrand, who has headed a group representing the Capitol Hill Community Council and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce in the ongoing process with the city and Sound Transit.
She’s correct. The request for qualifications and the requests for proposals are still months off. First, the City Council must approve the agreement recently signed by the city and Sound Transit laying out the framework for the development. That’s not slated to happen until December. Then the Sound Transit board has to sign off on the deal, too.
That’s also a lot of TLAs — and a lot more time. Rody’s push, he says, is about bigger issues.
“As it stands, the LGBT component of this plan is not as prominent as it should be,” Rody said.
“There is a lot of straight oriented development underway. Capitol Hill was renovated by the LGBT community and it would be a shame for us to be left out of it.”