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Two big items on Sound Transit’s agenda for lots of affordable housing on Broadway, First Hill — UPDATE

UPDATE 3:35 PM: The Sound Transit board approved both motions Thursday afternoon paving the way for a “no cost” transfer of two First Hill properties to nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing and, in the second vote, putting in place a memorandum of understanding between the transit agency, Seattle Central, and Capitol Hill Housing for a swap of Capitol Hill properties. Details on the plans are below.

In public comments, Bellwether’s CEO Susan Boyd called the joint proposal with Plymouth “a bold plan” that will create much needed affordable housing on First Hill.

Board member and Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson called the First Hill proposal “very consistent with what the community asked for” and said the neighborhood’s “YIMBY” spirit was reflected in the plan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said affordable housing is now central to Sound Transit’s mission as it also works to provide transit to the region’s growing population. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, meanwhile, voted against the motion saying he was troubled by the “no cost” aspect of the plan as a “dangerous precedent.”

Additionally, the board also approved a motion on a plan for “Central Transit-Oriented Development” near the Roosevelt light rail station that will involve Bellwether and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Original report: Sound Transit’s board is scheduled to make two key decisions on property it owns across First Hill and Capitol Hill that will potentially open the way for big deals around affordable housing and and expanded Seattle Central.

The Sound Transit Board will vote Thursday whether to move forward with two land deals.

One motion paves the way negotiate with Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing in a purchase of Sound Transit land at 1014 Boylston Ave and 1400 Madison meant for high-rise affordable housing, up to 160 feet.

“We thought in viewing their proposal that their numbers were reasonable,” said Sarah Lovell from Sound Transit. “It is an expensive project. It’s expensive to build a high-rise. But stacking two housing project increases their ability to get subsidies. They’re trying to be really efficient with their design.”

Lovell explained the highrise will have two condominium interests. Plymouth Housing will manage one with its own target population and Bellwether will manage another.

“This certainly pushes the envelope,” Lovell said. “It’s expensive to build 300+ units no matter what, but land is also getting really expensive in Seattle. If this is a successful project, it will likely become something that can be replicated. As land becomes more expensive, the idea of going vertical gets more attractive.”

The properties were purchased in 2001 in anticipation of building a light rail station near Madison and Boylston. That plan was axed, the First Hill Streetcar was born, and Sound Transit leases 1400 Madison to a Moneytree payday loans store and 1014 Boylston as medical office space. The block is now poised for major change as a Whole Foods grocery store and 16-story apartment tower are under construction at Broadway and Madison.

The joint Plymouth-Bellwether project has a development budget of nearly $92 million that does not include the $8.6 million dollar land contribution the proposers request. In addition to transferring the land at no cost, the developers are seeking $39 million in public subsidies, $30 million from Seattle’s Office of Housing, $1 million from King County, $3 million from the state’s Housing Trust Fund, $3 million from a Plymouth lead capital campaign and an allocation from Bellwether’s Impact Capital Fund.

Meanwhile on Broadway
This next one is a little confusing, so bear with us:

The second motion sets a negotiation roadway for a three-way exchange between Sound Transit, Seattle Central College, and Capitol Hill Housing. Sound Transit plans to first swap their Site D for Seattle Central’s Atlas property — a block South on Broadway. Sound Transit will then temporarily hold the Atlas property during negotiations with Capitol Hill Housing, ultimately handing it over to the developer for affordable housing. But Site D is smaller than Seattle Central’s Atlas property, so Capitol Hill Housing will help pay for the property during the swap.

This is only a Memorandum of Understanding between the three parties.

“[Seattle Central College has] a first right of offer for the property, so they’ve been working together on the agreement,” Brooke Belman with Land Use Planning and Development said. She noted Seattle Central wants Site D as a part of their Master Campus Extension Plan.

David Sandler with Seattle Central College said they’re preliminarily looking at making a new instructional building dedicating to help us expand programs in STEM and IT due to high demand.

Patrick said if the Memorandum of Understanding passes, they’ll likely return to the table in 2019.

CHS reported earlier this week on Site D’s role in another Seattle Central-related project to create a homeless youth facility and new housing development at Broadway and Pine.

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