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CHS Year in Review 2012 | The re-development of Capitol Hill

News of a new development on the Bauhaus block shook up the Hill in 2012 (Image: CHS)

The re-development of Seattle’s Capitol Hill continues. 2012 saw the completion of a handful of huge apartment buildings and the start of construction on a handful more. The demand for a place to live in the city — especially within its walkable core — is growing. At one point in the year, CHS counted more than 30 projects underway around the Hill. But Capitol Hill’s year in development stretched far beyond 300-unit apartment buildings. 2012 brought projects that redefined the way the neighborhood is shaping preservation of the final vestiges of its auto row past as well as how the wave of re-development is spreading into the neighborhood’s edges. In between, there is a renewed activism — some hoping to slow the relentless development, some seeking measured growth, some confident the market should guide it all — to shape the future of Capitol Hill.

Preserving Pike/Pine
It is difficult to find a more signature moment in the Capitol Hill year in development than CHS’s initial report on the plans for the stretch of E Pine at Melrose home to the beloved Bauhaus cafe. Simultaneously a freak-out over the loss of yet another Hill icon and disbelief at the scope of the project, the moment slowly transitioned to a calmer acceptance as the developer responded to the controversy by releasing more information about its plans and its effort to incorporate Bauhaus into them. The design and its preservation elements at the corner of Pine and Melrose became nearly an afterthought.

But that push for preservation in Pike/Pine was a major theme through the year as the people responsible for implementing the city’s design process grappled with how best to deploy the incentives that grant developers extra building height in exchange for preserving or re-building historical facades and maintaining at least a spirit of the incorporated old buildings. Some of the grappling occasionally came to a head as community groups made a stand and demanded more from project plans that sought to take advantage of these incentives. Call it facadism if you will but the preservation will define the next generation of what is built along E Pike and E Pine. The projects — o Sunset Electric, o the old BMW campuso the Mercedes dealership and more — are cued up and either already under construction or nearly ready to begin.

“Saved” — the Davis Hoffman building (Image: CHS)

Not all are giant (though most are!) — the Bill’s building will preserve the restaurant’s street level and be downright modest at only 90 or so units in its planned seven stories.

Not a landmark
As an embodiment of this new form of preservation by development, look at the city’s landmark process as it played out on Capitol Hill in 2012. This 122-year-old 18th Ave house? Not a landmark. Landmark rejection also paved the way for this four-story apartment project planned for 14th and John. There were plenty more. Of course, not everything can or should be “saved.” As funky as it was, the Undrearms moved forward into a more useful future and the charred, graffiti covered Marion Apartments finally came down.

Onlookers gather to watch the demolition at Bellevue and Pine (Image: CHS)

The crowd listens as the mayor said “wait and see” on the Bauhaus block project (Image: CHS)

New activism
Shaping this activity was a renewed energy for community activism. While it occasionally manifested itself more as frustration than productive change, anger for some over the loopholes allowing aPodment-style buildings in the midst of residential streets became a rallying point. With city officials sticking to “wait and see” approaches, community groups like the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council sought to shed old contrivances of the NIMBY approach to neighborhood development activism and actually get a few things done. Some of this new-era NIMBYism was surprisingly effective and could be a component as the city moves toward a mayoral election in 2013.

Some of the most important stories in development for Capitol Hill’s 2012 also provided inspiration for the future. Plans are being pounded out for a massive investment in Broadway with the rise of Capitol Hill Station and the surrounding — and possibly 85-feet high — “transit oriented development” that will overhaul the neighborhood’s Broadway core. There are fantastic hopes for the changes — and some (slightly) more realistic ones, too. It’s enough energy to bring even the most dedicated long-term property owners into the neighborhood’s next wave of development.

On 12th Ave, a plan to transform a barbed-wire ringed SPD parking lot mired in more than a decade of inaction finally took shape. 2012 brought a concrete plan, a design and funding for Capitol Hill Housing’s 12th Ave Arts theater and housing project.

Meanwhile, on E Madison at 15th, a peculiar glass building with a crown of photovoltaic panels rises and nears completion. The opening of the Bullitt Center will be a story for the coming year but the building rose in structure and global stature in 2012 providing a great big giant zero-energy building of dreams to help us prepare for what comes next.

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9 years ago

Up to $1.85 million to Community House Mental Health Agency for the Caroline W. Apartments, which will have 45 units for homeless people with chronic mental illnesses;

Read more:

Location is 431 Boylston Ave. E.

Jeffrey Cook
9 years ago

Microhousing is the years most interesting and pressing development
story to me. The impacts of these developments will alter Cap Hill
for decades.

9 years ago

We need to request a moratorium on developments that are in play right now for micro-housing units to slow things down and demand public reviews and environmental reviews BEFORE these units are built.

Mike Vernon
9 years ago

The City Council urgently needs to address microhousing on Capitol Hill. There are no community safeguards against the unchecked proliferation of this ultra-high-density housing.

Cargo Cult
9 years ago

I managed to capture some of the seemingly never-ending demolition around Capitol Hill earlier this year on camera:

I need to keep an eye on other buildings about to come down. I’m still annoyed that I missed the Undre Arms being torn down – I ended up with photos of piles of torn-apart wooden debris instead!

9 years ago

It’s hard to believe people are actually as troubled by microhousing as they say they are.

In particular: environmental review, really? What are you expecting them to find exactly? It’s small, highly-efficient housing.

This has been discussed over and over, and the fact is that if developers didn’t think there was a market for these units then they wouldn’t get built. They’re great for people transitioning as they move here from out of state to new jobs, great for people just finishing college and still not earning a lot but want to live alone, and great for people who maybe just want to live a shared-living setup. Is it how you’d want to live? Maybe not. Me neither. But some people do, and/or it’s the only way they can afford to live in this fun, accessible area. Let people make their own choices and stop telling other people how they should want to live.

D. Keyser
9 years ago

I do not have a problem with micro housing. Actually they are apartments. What I do have a problem is building permits are being issued without SEEPA review, environmental review public comments, all the steps apartment developers have to go thru. It is not right to put a 4-5 story micro-house in a LR-3 (3 story transitional zoning). Parking is not required. Please don’t tell me micro-housing dwellers don’t drive. A proposed 56 unit on my street will definitely have a portion of those people with cars and friends to drive to see them. Our street parking is jammed, empty spaces fill within the minute of becoming vacant. Parking needs to be considered in the permitting process.
A Harvard Ave resident.

Roxanne Corff
9 years ago

These are incentivized development projects at the expense of the community: these buildings discriminate against families, they are not family- friendly, and they are NOT low income housing. They are un-studied, their impacts will be bourne by the community with no for-thought on the part of the Seattle City Council planning department. I am extremely concerned about this issue.

LeRoy Laney, III
9 years ago

I hope we can really make some progress on getting better regulations on aPodments put in place before too many of our beautiful streets and neighborhoods are ruined forever.

9 years ago

Two years ago the city council voted changes in the lowrise zoning. These types of dwellings were not even mentioned as examples of housing upon which the public could comment that could be placed in LR1, LR2 or LR3. The examples provided gave you some idea of how many people could be sandwiched into a space next door to you – the microhousing units seem to exponentially increase the density and was not subject to the legislative process. No due process – that is just wrong.