Good news. It appears the City of Seattle is no longer trying to kill pedestrians.
“We want to hear from people about what is working and what needs to be improved,” Brian de Place tells CHS.
And, by “people,” de Place says his hub coordinators also want to hear from you — whether you own a Capitol Hill business or not.
The Seattle Department of Transportation manager says the biweekly Capitol Hill Construction Hub meetings are working to help bring neighborhood business owners and city officials — and, hopefully increasingly, residents and community members — together to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle traffic moving through the area even as the waves of continued development tear up streets, block sidewalks, and create myriad getting around issues expected and unexpected.
At one recent Friday morning meeting, the proceedings were interrupted by phone messages and texts after a chemical toilet contractor began its regular pump-out session in front of Bowie Salon just as the business’s owner described the very problem to SDOT representatives present at the meeting.
“Being nice doesn’t work,” Bowie’s Scott McHugh told CHS. Contractors working for the developers behind Capitol Hill’s projects might hear out a complaint in the moment but without communication at the top and a systemic approach, that Honey Bucket is going to get emptied again right on schedule next week — right in front of your busy salon.
That’s where the city’s relatively new construction hub concept comes in.
SDOT’s Construction Hub Coordination Program launched in spring to help keep residents and local businesses moving even with unprecedented numbers of construction projects underway in Seattle:
The hub team of project and on-site coordinators assess permitted construction holistically, across public and private lines, in areas with multiple simultaneous construction projects in close proximity—otherwise known as construction hubs.
Capitol Hill’s hub boundaries are defined as a north-south rectangle from E Harrison to E Madison between Broadway and 15th Ave:
Capitol Hill Hub: Area bounded by E Harrison St to the north, Broadway to the west, E Madison St/E Spring St to the south, and 15th Ave to the east.
The hub manifests itself, for now, in a biweekly Friday meeting inside the Comet Tavern, of all places. Meetings are currently held in the middle of the day given the program’s commerce-centric focus. At a session attended by CHS, representatives from five or six Pike/Pine businesses attended. A rep from a developer busy in the area also sat quietly and listened to complaints — some surgical, some about the state of the universe — before quickly hightailing it. In general, the city has planned to keep its connections between the community and businesses separate from its sessions with the developers. It holds two sets of meetings to deal with communicating issues between the two constituencies. While you might think that is a recipe for miscommunication or watering down complaints or worse, given the passion about issues like the stench from emptying chemical toilets, it’s probably best to keep the camps separate for now.
The hub on Capitol Hill and in other hubs in Seattle neighborhoods busy with construction have been successful enough that SDOT is lined up for a budget boost to support the program in 2015. The Mayor’s Office is pledging funding for the Construction Hub program. “The program actively plans, coordinates, and monitors construction activity in downtown as well as in neighborhoods, and will become even more important as major downtown construction activity is expected to continue in 2015,” the budget proposal explains. $249,000 would go to the program under the current proposal to hire a new hub inspector bringing the total to three working across the city. Inspectors “coordinate and inspect construction activity and enforce city regulations,” according to the budget request. SDOT plans to transition inspectors from coordinating the specific hubs to eventually monitor and inspect projects in “all of the center city.”
On Capitol Hill, the business owner and community camp meets again Friday, October 17th at 10 AM inside the Comet. Knock on the door loudly if nobody is there to let you. The agenda includes some standards — “review and discussion of outstanding issues from our last meeting and resolutions,” “future discussion and issues,” and “Next steps/ scheduling of our next meeting.” It also has notes from somebody identified as “the mayor of Capitol Hill” recommending “boosting the businesses in the area through marketing in the Seattle Times, Weekly, The Stranger.” We say, “Good idea!” — sort of.
If workday meetings aren’t for you, you can send SDOTConstructionHub@Seattle.gov mail about your neighborhood construction issue. de Place says the hub is ready to help make your fix for the streets of Pike/Pine a reality.