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26+ things CHS heard as Capitol Hill Station development passes through first design review

It turns out that after 10 years of public process there were, indeed, more things to talk about as the development of market-rate and affordable housing, community space, and a block of new Broadway retail around Capitol Hill Station passed through its first session of design review Wednesday night. More things like…

  • A “European-style” Market Hall
  • Plaques or artwork in the project’s central plaza commemorating the neighborhood’s history or important figures like Cal Anderson
  • A better home for the planned daycare center than along Broadway
  • “Shared street” treatment for the extension of Nagle Place
  • Probably less parking
  • And, no, no bollards in the plaza — “I personally would not like to see bollards,” said one member as the rest of the design board nodded in vigorous agreement.


Below are some of the things we saw and heard during the review board’s session including a wave of online feedback sent in on the project by CHS readers and others — and some of the elements the project’s developer Gerding Edlen and its design team will need to address before returning this summer for what could be the final planning milestone before construction.

img_1595With the developer’s preferred plan –“Alternative 2” — on its way to approval, board member Natalie Gualy was ready to look ahead to the summer and another three hour session to fit and finish the project’s design. “This could be the most important development that we’re seeing,” Gualy said to her fellow board members, reminding them to hold the project to the highest possible standards.

Even with three hours Wednesday, it was a bit of a rush.

26 things CHS heard at the Capitol Hill Station development “Early Design Guidance” meeting

  • “The success of the project is related to the success of the plaza,” Schemata Workshop’s Grace Kim said during her portion of the night’s presentation.
  • “This will be the permanent home of the farmers market.” The central plaza will host the Capitol Hill Farmers Market on Sundays and an additional weeknight market, presenters said.
  • A six to nine-foot change in grade across the site will afford excellent views of Cal Anderson across the plaza, a Hewitt architect said.
  • “I’d like to see some portion of this set aside for the arts,” said one public commenter suggesting plaques “commemorating history,” or a mural of Cal Anderson like the one that used to be “on the red wall.”
  • Sound Transit’s “vent tower” could end up as an “integrated object” with something like the suggested plaques or a mural.
  • The plaza is being designed to be a possible host for markets, movie nights, performances, and a variety of public gatherings.



  • We do not intend to build all that parking,” Gerding Edlen’s Jill Sherman said, apologizing for any confusion caused by the design proposal. “If we determine that it is feasible to do less, we will do so because parking is very expensive to build.” As planned, the project could have a maximum 334 parking stalls.
  • There was a lot of public comment about too much parking. But the board deferred on the topic, saying it was outside design purview. “Parking is not an issue for us,” one board member said.
  • screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-10-28-44-amThe board agreed that the plan to have multiple underground garages — and multiple entrances/exits for cars — for whatever number of stalls ultimately get built was acceptable in the early design concept.
  • “The other problem with short term parking is they are people that just don’t know where they are going.”
  • The board made it clear it didn’t have a dog in the fight to be the anchor tenant in the large Site A commercial space planned for Broadway. “We know there is a lot of controversy over who the tenant is going to be,” a board member said. Representatives for both New Seasons and Central Co-op, the grocers that have been vying to be part of the development, told CHS earlier this month that they had no updates on the negotiations.
  • “There’s a lot of other things we don’t cover.” — the board.
  • “There’s a very strange number of hanging bike racks in this project.”
  • Nagle. It’s a strange little street.”
  • Does the access have to be a straight line?” one board member asked about the development agreement that mandates Sound Transit have vehicular access to the station and plaza via Nagle.
  • img_1566The board agreed with public comment and several letters calling for the development to integrate a small retailer friendly Market Hall commercial concept in Site A South. The sentiment was reflected in “strong themes repeated by 10 to 12 commenters” in letters received on the project, planner Garry Papers said.
  • “We called it a market hall not knowing exactly what it would be” — Sherman
  • A large residential lobby in Site A South may need to be downsized and moved off Broadway to make room for any type of “market hall.”
  • “Every time we see these buildings get built, [lobbies] are just a pass through to get to the elevator.”
  • Breadcrumbs” will be designed into the site’s edges to, hopefully, entice people to enter the plaza area through “pass throughs” from Broadway and 10th Ave.
  • “I think a daycare is wholly inappropriate for Broadway.” This wasn’t a board member saying “think of the children!” The board agreed Wednesday the design for the building destined for Site C along E Denny needs work and that the daycare would be better moved to another site in the project freeing up Broadway-fronting commercial space for retail.
  • A challenge for making space for the daycare: It must have an outdoor play area — even with Cal Anderson Park a short walk away.
  • img_157010th Ave’s buildings will include apartment units with “stoops” along the sidewalk. Apartments will also face Nagle putting “more eyes on the street.”
  • Despite the presence of Capitol Hill Station below, there was almost no discussion of aligning the development’s design to better serve transit riders and the crowds that emerge from and enter into the busy station.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-10-28-23-am
  • Gaps around the plaza created by Sound Transit’s easement requirements (the green triangles in the site diagram) need to be solved. “I see this as the perfect place where people will urinate, throw their trash,” said a neighbor of the development site.
  • “I don’t think there is a rear facade in any of these.”
  • Also, here are a few things we read from your letters on the project:

“There’s always something a little more unique about this project,” City of Seattle planner Garry Papers said in introducing the night’s longer than usual three-hour format which covered all four of the seven-story buildings planned to fill the currently empty block around the Capitol Hill Station light rail facility’s existing two portal buildings and relatively large vent house.

First look at Capitol Hill Station development designs — Seven stories, 427 units, and a new Broadway plaza

While we’ve written extensively about the development proposal since the design alternatives were first made public, Wednesday’s discussion provided new insights into what the new development campus will be like including elements we have yet to discuss like the significant sloping grade across the site and the easements required by Sound Transit around its existing buildings on the site that could, if designed poorly, create empty dead-ends around the plaza. The project is subject to city municipal code as well as a development agreement forged between the City of Seattle and Sound Transit in 2013.

Little discussed in the design scheme of things Wednesday night, the project will also be a showcase development in terms of affordability. Mayor Ed Murray will be at Capitol Hill Station Thursday to announce $47 million in funding for affordable housing in Seattle, the final investments from the 2009 housing levy. Capitol Hill Station’s “transit oriented development” plans call for 444 apartments with 38% of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and Site-B North’s 110 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A quarter of the units will have at least two bedrooms.

Gerding Edlen’s Jill Sherman, whose flight from Portland was delayed due to snow, of all things, arrived just in time for public comment and the board’s deliberations. While pleased with the approval, she reminded that there will be a long wait until the next round in the design process as first the project must secure approval for its “master use plan” with the city before returning this summer for what could be the final phase of design before construction.

Gerding expects to break ground on the project in the spring of 2018 and construction is expected to last about 18 to 20 months.

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Andrew Haas
Andrew Haas
4 years ago

#27 The Board recommended adding a restaurant/retail space running the entire length of the south side of Site B facing Cal Anderson Park.

4 years ago

The “Gaps around the plaza created by Sound Transit’s easement requirements” are crime magnets waiting to happen. Urination, trash, drug dealing – why create a problem from scratch, especially when there’s already a problem at Cal Anderson. Very poor design choice. At least block it off with a fence or something.

4 years ago
Reply to  Brad


Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
4 years ago
Reply to  Brad

Agree. A high priority of the design should be to avoid spaces which will be a magnet for the antisocial activities of the homeless, and for criminal activity.

4 years ago
Reply to  Brad

I’m new to this conversation, but why isn’t the development going to build on top of the “existing north station”? I don’t recall what the station entrance looks like, but it seems like a waste of air space. Why do ST station entrances need to have an exclusive foot print when most transit stations in Europe are incorporated into the surrounding landscape and buildings?

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