Thanks to the watchful eye of Representative Frank Chopp (D-34), a Seattle Central College building at Broadway and Pine will likely turn into a hub of homeless youth services and, hopefully, a new apartment development replacing one of Broadway’s last surface parking lots.
Last winter, the college put out notice that they were seeking development partners for two Broadway properties. Per the law, public agencies are required to publicize it first to other government agencies. That’s when it came across Chopp’s desk.
“We did a tour of the site a while ago and it clearly is an ideal site for it,” Chopp tells CHS. “If you look at where the homeless youth congregates, it’s in Capitol Hill and the U District.”
As Chopp began his tour, he ran into a familiar face: a young homeless man who lobbied to the House Speaker in Olympia more than a year ago. Still homeless, the man was sitting on the building’s doorstep when Chopp arrived.
“I remember them very clearly; they were very articulate,” Chopp said. “There clearly is a need for more housing, that’s an understatement. I hated to see him still homeless. That happens, though. I remembered him and he remembered me. It was amazing.”
In July, Chopp sent a letter to the college requesting to indefinitely extend how long a public agency can request to purchase the surplus property. David Sandler, spokesman for Seattle Central, said the college agreed to stop a disposal by sale in the open market. They’re waiting to see if a willing buyer can fulfill Chopp’s vision.
Chopp said he has been on the hunt for property that Washington and nonprofits can repurpose for homeless services. Some ideas on the table even included looking at possible housing above Seattle Central’s massive parking garage on E Pine as well as trying to grab some of the few parcels that come up for sale on the open market.
“We looked at a couple of privately owned sites and made offers for a homeless youth centers” he said. “The two sites we looked at for Capitol Hill didn’t pan out. The owners decided to sell it to other people.”
Seattle Central’s South Annex building, however, Chopp calls the “ideal location.” There is no bid on the site yet but Chopp said he has gotten positive feedback.
Change at the southeast corner of Broadway and Pine will come slowly. For now, the ground floor of the building is the new home of Laughing Buddha. The tattoo shop moved down Broadway earlier this year. Owner Christy Brooker told CHS when we wrote about the move that she expects any new owners or projects will recognize Laughing Buddha as “one of the staples of Capitol Hill” and include the studio in the plans.
Applications will be accepted until December 15, after which the Washington Department of Commerce will make its decision. Chopp said a nonprofit is lined up to acquire the property and plans to build low-income housing on the site currently home to a surface parking lot just south of the South Annex building.
Chopp said the property requires a $1 million downpayment “to get it started” from the Washington Housing Trust Fund, and he has secured $3 million in funding from other sources.
“We’re working very much in concert with the college,” Chopp said. “There’s a whole network of nonprofits looking for sites, so we’re in communication with each other. Everybody’s trying to see how this all meshes together.”
Buying the property also helps Seattle Central finance something else the school has wanted: Sound Transit’s Site D. The property just north of the school and adjacent Capitol Hill Station’s west side of Broadway entrance will reportedly be transferred to the school in exchange for another SCC surplus property — this auto row era building and official Seattle landmark is available. There is still a plan to demolish Seattle Central’s North Plaza building to prepare for future development of that area and Site D. The college is hoping to combine the property with Site D for development. In the past, the school has said creating affordable faculty housing on Capitol Hill is a major priority.
In 2012, SCC and Capitol Hill Housing were working on a plan to build a six-story affordable student housing project on the school’s Broadway property south of Pine. The nonprofit developer and the school decided to back off the plan after preliminary discussions.
Site D’s current moving pieces not withstanding, the South Annex facility and housing project is also still coming together.
“There’s still a lot of work on this thing,” Chopp said. “It’s not a done deal yet.”