Developers behind the retail and housing project that will surround Capitol Hill Station have reached a long awaited milestone towards starting construction.
CHS has learned that Gerding Edlen has signed an agreement with Sound Transit that lays out, among other things, the terms of a $25 million land lease for the project site along Broadway between E Denny Way and E John.
In March, a representative for the Portland-based developer told CHS the two sides were “really close” to signing a so-called term sheet. The preliminary agreement sets the terms for Gerding Edlen to lease three sites from Sound Transit and purchase the fourth, where Capitol Hill Housing will build an 86-unit affordable housing development.
“It took more than a year for them to negotiate the term sheet, in large part because structuring a lease instead of a purchase and sale proved complicated,” said Brie Gyncild of the Capitol Hill Champion, a community group that has worked for years to insert neighborhood priorities into the project.
Sound Transit has said the land was worth around $25 million and that Gerding Edlen was aiming for a 75-year deal to lease the properties.
Gerding Edlen, which was selected last year to develop the “transit oriented development” project, will still need to sign a final contract with Sound Transit before an 18-month design phase gets underway. Because of the federal grants involved in the project, the Federal Transit Administration must approve the deal. Then Gerding Edlen will begin the process of taking its projects through design and environmental review. As part of the community guidelines agreement, the developer will also benefit from a somewhat streamlined design review process.
“Now that the term sheet is signed, they’re working out the details on the contract and aiming to have it go to the Sound Transit Board’s July meeting for approval,” Gyncild said.
Construction is expected to start in 2018.
Meanwhile, two grocers are still vying to occupy the anchor tenant space in the project that will include 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space. After CHS reported that Portland-based grocer New Seasons was an early frontrunner to takeover the space, Capitol Hill-born Central Co-op announced it too would throw its hat in the ring. Central Co-op’s bid to open a second location recently got the endorsement of Council member Mike O’Brien.
Part of the development also includes a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North called The Market Hall and envisioned as “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.”
The opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station has boosted light rail’s popularity to new highs as average weekday ridership estimates near 60,000 daily riders. 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. For now, the TOD sites remain paved over and fenced-off empty space.
I don’t know that it is really accurate to say two grocery stores are vying to occupy the anchor tenant space. Gerding Edlen will select the tenants for the project it is building. Some people are pushing for Central Co-op, but that doesn’t mean the developer would select them nor is it certain the developer will select New Seasons, although that does seem more likely. Gerdling could select a completely different tenant.
I’m not an architect or city planner, but “Transit Oriented Development” I thought includes high density unit projects over or near a major rapid-transit hub. This is, at least, how the rest of the world’s growing cities have handled the concept.
Lest I seem like I am just complaining, let me offer a meaningful conversation with a diverse group of visitors to our city.
I recently stood with a group of friends and was explaining the Capitol Hill Station and the Sound Transit line (in a positive way). One friend is from outside Paris, one from Madrid, one from Los Angeles, and one from Boston.
As I explained the project, all were surprised at the low building height and amount of units that would be created by the new construction. I explained about nearby building heights and scale, but my European friends were particularly confused that a building built directly over a major rapid-transit site would be so small. I cited community input that lower building heights help preserve “neighborhood character.” I hope I have that stance correct.
The response from my friend who lives in Madrid was simply, “but I thought Seattle was a progressive city.” I didn’t really know what to say to that, but each person’s perspective was clear that it was odd that a city which is growing so fast, and limits parking spaces in new construction, would carefully plan out a small project over (or adjacent) to a major rapid-transit hub.
This conversation was put into sharper focus as we headed to Ballard from our Capitol Hill location. We used public transit, and the trip took about 90 minutes– to go only about 7 miles.
“Well that was just ridiculous,” said one exasperated friend. “If I move here I am clearly keeping my car.”