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

Here are the first official public design proposals for the four seven-story buildings including a combined 427 market-rate and affordable apartment units and more than 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space slated to rise surrounding Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station.

The proposal represents a decade of planning and public process that is set to further reshape Capitol Hill’s Broadway core and make new housing for hundreds while adding a new community plaza adjacent Cal Anderson Park. The full review proposal is at the bottom of this post.

As the project is lined up for its first design review next week, master developer Gerding Edlen will meet with residents, and business and community group representatives who will neighbor the massive — and massively important — development in an open house Tuesday night:

Capitol Hill Station development open house

The open house is designed as drop-in event with opportunities to speak with Gerding Edlen representatives — and practice your feedback on the project’s planned 668 334 parking stalls. The 1.5 0.78 stall to unit ratio is just a little higher than pretty much in line with recent trends across the city. UPDATE: Sorry for the error!

The project roster includes the Portland-based Gerding Edlen teaming with Capitol Hill Housing to develop the properties — CHH will operate Site B-North and its 110 “permanently” affordable apartment units, designs from Hewitt Architects and 12th Ave-headquartered Schemata Workshop, and a landscape plan from Schemata’s neighbor, the Berger Partnership.

They are working with an impressive array of assets:

Site A, Main Station Block, 118 Broadway E

  • 7-story apartment structure containing 152 units and ground level retail
  • 46,487square feet
  • Mixed-use required
  • Minimum residential unit count–132 including MFTE requirement

Site B-North, Main Station Block, 923 E John

  • 7-story apartment structure containing 110 units and a community room at ground level
  • 15,878 square feet
  • Affordable housing restricted, 100% total units
  • Minimum residential unit count–86
  • No retail

Site B-South, Main Station Block, 123 10th Ave E

  • 7-story apartment structure containing 73 units and ground level retail
  • 15,459 square feet
  • Minimum residential unit count–85 including MFTE requirement
  • No retail

Site C, South Station Entrance, 1830 Broadway

  • 7-story apartment structure containing 92 units, ground level child care facility, retail
  • 17,683 square-feet
  • Mixed-use required
  • Minimum residential unit count–94 including MFTE requirement


screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-6-13-30-pmThe project seeks to create “a cohesive site design intended to build community, encourage transportation alternatives, create vital gathering spaces and pedestrian opportunities, and realize the TOD vision established by the Capitol Hill community a decade ago,” the proposal’s design statement reads.

The decade-long community community process was documented inn 2011 as the Capitol Hill Light Rail Stations Site Urban Design Framework document was published, distilling information shaped over a period of years in the community. In 2013, the City Council approved a development agreement allowing developers to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above minimum affordable housing requirements. Overall, the “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.

UPDATE 8:52 AM: We often hear drive-by comments on Twitter and Facebook from urbanists after every post about Capitol Hill Station development lamenting that the buildings around a key transit asset in the densely packed neighborhood will only stand seven stories tall. The 85-foot heights faced opposition through the public process. Would 110-foot heights also finally have been pushed through? 160? We don’t know. But this train has left the station. A better question for the Twitter urbanists might be why are heights under the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda plan — a plan still being formed in the midst of a clear housing affordability crisis in the city —  only being pushed to seven stories in the Hill’s core?

After presenting a winning proposal to be the project’s master developer, Gerding Edlen and Sound Transit signed a deal for a $17 million land lease in August. Instead of paying a regular rent for the duration of the lease, Gerding will pay a lump sum of $17,435,000 after it sells the project or no later than 2033. Until then, Gerding will pay an annual rent of $222,350. As part of the deal, Sound Transit retains a $4.8 million stake in the three properties. Gerding partnered with Multi-Employer Property Trust to help finance the land lease.

Seattle Central College has been given a right of first refusal to develop a fifth parcel, Site D on the west side of Broadway, next to the school’s Broadway promenade.

Under the agreement forged between Sound Transit and the City Council, Gerding Edlen faces a streamlined design review process that requires only one design alternative and the developer’s initial proposal be presented to the review board.

Elements to check with developers about Tuesday night include the standards of “early design guidance” review like which of the design proposals you prefer and massing of the proposed buildings.

You could also try your hand at checking in on progress toward a decision on which company should win the lease for the project’s coveted grocery retail space. Portland-based grocer New Seasons was an early frontrunner to takeover the space before Capitol Hill-born Central Co-op announced it too would throw its hat in the ring. Representatives for both companies declined to comment on any progress made in the negotiations.

Another element officials might be less tight-lipped about is the empty space above the light rail station below that can’t easily support multi-story construction and, therefore, makes an excellent future public plaza space. So, maybe ask just how “vibrant” the quasi-public plaza space will be:

At the heart of the Capitol Hill TOD project, a vibrant plaza is proposed, where a Farmers Market will set up twice weekly throughout the year for residents and visitors arriving by light rail. Additional programming as well as retail uses will enliven the Plaza year-round making it a destination for the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

You can also check in on the status of Denny as a festival street while you’re at it. Restaurateurs, start your bidding for Site-B South’s future food and drink space. In fact, we think Site-B South would be a swell name for your venture.

In addition to feedback gathered Tuesday night, the Capitol Hill Station “transit oriented development” project continues to be shaped by community input from the Capitol Hill Champion group. The combined effort from the Capitol Hill Community Council and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to represent neighborhood priorities organized focus groups to discuss the project proposals as they were finalized for the review.

Gerding expects to break ground on the project in the spring of 2018 and construction is expected to last about 18 to 20 months. In its initial bid, Gerding had hoped to complete the project in 2018.

The opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station has boosted light rail’s popularity to new highs. 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 development sites around it remain paved over and fenced-off empty space.

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

  1. A little correction: Site B-north actually will have 110 affordable units, not 40 as stated in the article.

    As a proponent of at least some parking in all new buildings, I’m actually quite surprised at the 1.5 ratio in this development. That seems excessive for buildings which will have light rail downstairs and the streetcar across the street. But presumably some of that parking will be short-term for those who drive there to patronize the various businesses.

  2. Really no retail in Site B South or North? What will be in the ground floor of those buildings facing Cal Anderson Park on the south side and John Street on the north side? Seems like an active use should be required in those spaces, not just an apartment building lobby. Or am I mistaken? The article later refers to food and drink space in Site B South. Where would that be exactly?

    • OK, looking more closely at the preferred alternative (Alt 2), I see restaurant/retail in Site B South facing the interior plaza. I like that. And “community space” in Site B North facing John. I’d personally rather see retail on the ground floor and the community space above or somewhere else, but I guess that’ll work.

  3. More than 20 hrs notice of this event would have been useful. Why so little heads up? Posted elsewhere? Still planning on attending the design review next week.