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Capitol Hill meets prospective developers of Broadway light rail station housing + retail + community projects

IMG_3173It was a speed dating session of sorts as potential developers of the future retail and housing sites to surround the Capitol Hill light rail station met with the public for the first time to tout their experience and qualifications and hear about the public’s wide ranging priorities.

Some 200 people gathered in the Broadway Performance Hall Monday evening to demand space for a Broadway farmer’s market, ample affordable housing, and to urge the eight shortlisted firms to adhere to the community priorities for the Broadway properties, which were hammered out over several years in an effort led by the group Capitol Hill Champion.

“We’re asking you to be bold, think historically. We’re here to help you succeed,” said Michael Wells, co-chair of the Champion group and director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. “There’s no need to move in darkness in this project.”

The participating developers have until September to submit bids to develop four housing and retail properties that will surround the future Capitol Hill light rail station. Sound Transit stands to net millions from the sale.

The $1.8 billion light rail extension connecting downtown to the University of Washington under Capitol Hill is expected to open for service in early 2016. Sound Transit forecasts that by 2030, there will be 14,000 boardings a day at Capitol Hill Station. The transit oriented development around the station on Broadway could add as many as 400 apartments to the site. 36% will be built as affordable housing. Thousands of square feet of retail and a public plaza are also part of the plans.

There was no direct back-and-forth between the developers and attendees due to “arcane Sound Transit rules.” Instead, developers posed some questions to the crowd, and a handful of community members voiced their concerns during the second half of the forum. Neither half was particularly substantive compared to past community meetings, although perhaps the biggest victory for the Champion group was a filled theater to demonstrate to the developers and the Sound Transit selection committee that the community is keeping a watchful eye on the process.

Questions and concerns were also submitted via Twitter at #CapHillStation. The most popular comment of the night?

Stephen Antupit of City Works, Inc. moderated the event nearly three-hour event, which included all of the potential developers. Here’s how each firm is bidding across the four sites:

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Several of the developers wanted to know how they could engage with the community throughout the development process and if the Champion group would continue to operate as a community liaison. Other developers had more specific questions, asking about parking ratios, whether housing should be renter or owner focused, and if the community would like a boutique grocery store as part of the project.

Representatives from firms applying to be master developers of the site said the project would benefit from a single developer in order to better coordinate shared parking, scheduling of public space, and creating unified management for tenants.

In May Sound Transit whittled the number of eligible developers down to eight — or nine, depending on who is counting. Fourteen companies and nonprofits originally responded to Sound Transit’s February request for qualifications to develop 100,000 square feet of “transit oriented development” that will include housing, retail, and community space stretching along Broadway from John to Denny.

In 2013 the project’s Development Agreement and 2011 Urban Design Framework were approved by City Council after long negotiations between Sound Transit, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, and the Champion group. The framework set mandates for affordable housing and priorities including a community cultural center and space for the farmers market.

Construction of the developments won’t begin until after service starts in 2016. The final development plans for the sites are expected to be selected this fall. Sound Transit will select the project developers based on several factors including a strong record of on-schedule projects. The Capitol Hill Champion group will also be on hand to help make sure a strong response to community priorities is also part of the selection process about to play out.

In case you missed it, the entire meeting was recorded and will be posted on the Champion website at

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)


  • Michael Wells opened the forum by noting the forum was many years in the making. “We have the opportunity to speak with developers that hasn’t happened before,” Wells said. “It’s a very important historic spot to make it the best it can be.”
  • Wells said the initial proposal that was hatched in 2009 looks very similar to what is being proposed today. “This community has been remarkably consistent with what it wants to see at this site,” he said.
  • Cathy Hillebrand, who heads the Capitol Hill Champion group, said affordable housing has long been a priority of the neighborhood and is growing increasingly important. “The Hill is going dramatic change with our current development boom. We need a diversity of housing types,” she said.
  • Hillebrand urged developers to think about how they could honor the neighborhood’s artistic and LGBT communities. “This neighborhood is getting a lot of bars, banks, and fitness studios and I think we’re all getting really tired of them,” she said.
  • Whether or not a master developer is chosen, Hillebrand said she wanted to see a management agreement across all the sites and asked developers to consider the priorities currently under consideration for a new Capitol Hill eco-district.
  • The representative from Bellwether Housing said the nonprofit has developed 1,900 apartments in Seattle, including six buildings on Capitol Hill. “We expect to always own our buildings,” she said.
  • David Dologite of Capitol Hill Housing, which is applying to be a developer of Site B North, touted the nonprofits 27 building footprint around the neighborhood. He wanted to know if the community prioritized longer affordability or deeper affordability at the affordable housing site.
  • Kristin Ryan of Jonathan Rose Co. represented the combination of CHH and the New York-based developer as a potential master developer across all sites in the project. Ryan also touted her company’s Capitol Hill projects, including the opening-soon 12th Avenue Arts. “The farmers market is the seed that will allow this project to grow and flourish,” she said.
  • A representative from Portland-based developer Gerding Edlen, said a master developer would be ideal in order to approach the site “holistically” and to open collaborations between the sites. Edlen teamed up with Capitol Hill-based Schemata Workshop in 2011 to work on a proposal.
  • The Edlen representative said affordable community centers and office space was key to the site.
  • Lennar Multifamily Communities is teaming with local architects Weber Thompson to be a master developer of the site. The company’s rep touted the implementation of the West Seattle community priorities in the Whittaker building.
  • Suzi Morris of the Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises, which devleloped the Brix on Capitol Hill, said she didn’t see many challenges to the project. Lowe is teaming up with local architects Ankrom Moisan.
  • MacFarlane Partners, a San Francisco firm that is partnering with local developer Maria Barrientos, developed an Oakland TOD property that their rep said turned a “seedy” part of town to a vibrant community area.
  • A representative from Security Properties, which is seeking to develop Site A, asked if the community would like to see a speciality grocer, and if there was a preference of rental housing over for-sale housing.
  • Pete Wolff of the Arizona-based Wolff Company asked the crowd about what the appropriate parking ratio should be at the site. Wolff Co. is broadly expanding their Capitol Hill footprint this year with the Sunset Electric and Pike Motorworks developments.

Community Comments

  • A Capitol Hill resident said developers should try to create an open connection between Cal Anderson Park and the TOD site.
  • George Bakan, publisher of Seattle Gay News and president of the Capitol Hill Community Council, said he wanted a true community center, one that expanded beyond just an LGBT center.
  • George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development urged developers to talk to his group about how to incorporate LGBTQ priorities into the community site.
  • Capitol Hill rabble rouser Dennis Saxman urged the developers not to continue to work with the Capitol Hill Champion group because of their close connection with Capitol Hill Housing, one of the potential developers.
  • One attendee (twice!) suggested a 24-hour restaurant on the site “like Shari’s or Denny’s.”
  • Another woman wanted more clarification from developers on what affordable housing means in terms of rent. (Affordable by those earning 60% or less of the area’s median income, by the way)
  • On attendee suggested Madison’s Central Coop could expand into one of the anchor retail sites.
  • Several people spoke on parking on the site. One question was whether residents would be given residential parking permits. Another man asked developers to offer affordable parking for residents so they don’t spill into the neighborhood. Another self-proclaimed car owner was not so sympathetic to those looking for more parking. “There’s a train underneath… let’s give up the parking,” she said.
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