Sound Transit is finally ready to sell off the first of five properties surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station that will transform Broadway and serve as a new gateway to Capitol Hill.
The board is expected to approve the $2.65 million sale (PDF) of Site B-North to developer Gerding Edlen during its Thursday afternoon meeting. The Portland-based developer previously selected Capitol Hill Housing to develop and own an 86-unit affordable housing project on the site, which runs along 10th Ave between John and Denny Way.
UPDATE (4:35 PM): Sound Transit board members approved the Site B-North sale agreement during their Thursday afternoon meeting. Despite a Sound Transit staffer reminding the board the action was “a very, very big deal,” the approval was rather unceremonious as one member had to be pulled in from the hallway to make a quorum for the quick vote. There was no board discussion of the measure.
“The Capitol Hill community has repeatedly and strongly expressed its desire for affordable housing,” said Brie Gyncild, co-chair of the Capitol Hill Champion community group. “We need truly affordable housing as soon as possible and we near it near the light rail station.”
According to Gerding’s winning proposal, half of Site B-North’s units will be restricted to households making no more than 30% of the area median income. The other half will be made affordable to households at or below 60% of AMI. A quarter of the units will have two or three bedrooms. Initial plans call for a community center and a daycare, as well as a rooftop deck and computer lab.
The $2.65 million price tag for the “transit oriented development” “Site B North” comes just under Sound Transit’s estimated price last year. A substantial percentage of the proceeds will go towards paying back federal transportation grants that were secured for the project.
In August, the board is expected to approve land leases for three other sites so Gerding Edlen can move forward with its plan to build 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space. Seattle Central College has been given a right of first refusal to develop a fifth parcel, Site D, due to the site’s location directly next to the school’s Broadway promenade.
Last year, Gerding Edlen Development was selected as “master developer” for all properties. Plans call for more than 400 apartments with more than 150 units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A third of the units will have at least two bedrooms.
Gerding estimated the project to cost $124 million for three sites, not including the affordable housing site.
No underground garage is planned for the affordable housing site, but Gerding Edlen may elect to build one for its other properties. In that case, CHH’s sale price will be reduced and Sound Transit will enter into a lease agreement with Gerding Edlen for the underground space.
Thursday’s vote would clear the way for Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff to sign the purchase agreement. $132,600 will be due at signing and CHH will seek local and federal funding to help fund the rest. For a 4% increase in the sale price Sound Transit’s agreement will allow for CHH to delay the final purchase for a year if it can’t secure funding in 2016. The purchase price may also be reduced if environmental remediation is required on the site.
After the sale, Site B-North developers will move through an “expedited” design review phase. Gerding has agreed to hold two community input meetings prior to the design review meeting.
Sound Transit launched its TOD program in 2007 to encourage dense development around high capacity transit stations. Site B-North has the potential to become a shining example for affordable housing advocates who want more income restricted housing located in a dense urban environments with easy access to light rail.
The light rail station and the 3.1-mile U-Link subway line between downtown and the University of Washington via Broadway opened in March.
Affordable housing at the TOD site was among the top demands of the Capitol Hill Champion, a group that worked for years to insert community priorities into the Capitol Hill Station project. The project is subject to the community development plan based on those priorities and agreed upon by Sound Transit and the City of Seattle.
The project is expected to break ground in 2018 and finish in 2019.
In the meantime, the Champion is starting to kick around ideas for how it may be able to “activate” the fenced off sites during the 18 months before construction starts. Sound Transit and Gerding Edlen had previously said the paved over areas would remain off-limits until construction was complete, but Champion co-chair Brie Gyncild said there may be an opportunity to open some of it to the public.
To further involve Capitol Hill in the project, the Champion is seeking residents to take part in one of four focus groups that will steer the next round of community input on the TOD sites. To sign up for the fall focus groups, the Champion is asking those interested to complete a short questionnaire.