Capitol Hill’s Holy Names hopes to rise above neighborhood parking problems with underground garage

Capitol Hill’s Holy Names, reportedly Washington’s oldest continually operating school, has a modern problem: parking. Officials from the all-girl, private Catholic high school will meet with neighbors Tuesday night to discuss its plans to demolish and rebuild the 21st Ave E’s campus’s gymnasium with a new gym built on top of levels of underground parking for around 240 vehicles.

“As you well know, parking has increasingly become more difficult in the neighborhood due to increased housing density, new businesses, and people parking for other reasons,” head of school and principal Liz Swift writes in a letter sent to neighbors earlier this month informing them of the project and community meetings to collect feedback.

The plan would include Holy Names demolishing its current gymnasium, building the underground garage, and rebuilding a new gym with the “same height and comparable footprint.” The plan also includes a new parking lot on the north side of the school along E Aloha for parking large vehicles including buses.

Due to the number of vehicles involved, the project would trigger State Environmental Protection Act review. The school told city officials it needs the underground garage because it “wants to be able to offer parking for guests coming to sporting events, or other events on campus, and does not want to have to rely on off-site parking,” according to records of a recent meeting with planners on the project. The school is also concerned about efforts to create a Restricted Parking Zone in the area that would limit the number of hours non-residents could utilize street parking in the neighborhood surrounding the school.

Some in the neighborhood are ready to push back on the scope of the project. “We challenged the notion that an underground garage would in fact lead to any less congestion in the neighborhood,” one email from a concerned neighbor forwarded to CHS read.

Holy Names is part of the growth industry around private education on Capitol Hill. The school enrolls around 700 students and already completed a recent 9,000 square-foot addition to its beautiful dome-capped northern Capitol Hill campus. Its quest for better parking solutions for those 700 students and their parents could be a harbinger for similar needs at other private schools including the nearby St. Joseph School. Meanwhile, other area private schools are also in expansion mode. In November, the Northwest School announced $8.6M in property acquisitions around Summit campus and the Seattle Academy is nearing opening of its under construction “vertically-oriented middle school” building at 13th and Union.

The Holy Names community meeting will be held at the 728 21st Ave E from 6:30 to 7:30 PM on Tuesday, January 23rd.

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27 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s Holy Names hopes to rise above neighborhood parking problems with underground garage

  1. OR you can create a campaign to help people learn to take public transit, bicycle and walk to school… a parking garage enables the issue, it doesn’t help create paradigm shifts for what IS possible — alternative modes of transportation!

    My daughter is stellar student, going to a public school, and has been utilizing her feet and public transit to navigate her adventures to/from school since 3rd grade… she’s SO well versed in getting around, she teaches ME new ways!

    I feel people are missing a MAJOR and IMPORTANT teaching opportunity by driving your kids everywhere they need to go.

    Get out of the vehicle and LIVE :)

  2. It’s good to read that at least some institutions are facing reality on Capitol Hill, and providing adequate parking for various needs. I see this as a responsible gift to the immediate neighborhood, as well as to their staff and parents. I only wish that apartment developers would follow suit, and provide at least some parking in their new buildings, because that is the “right thing” to do for their neighbors, as well as for those tenants who own a vehicle.

    • Tell you what Bob, endow them with Holy Names tax exempt status and they might be more likely to do so. There is simply no comparison between a for profit developer and a non-profit tax exempt religious institution.

    • Bob, free street parking is not a right. If you want to drive to a neighborhood, you should be willing to pay for the privilege. Schools and apartment buildings should not be obligated to provide amenities for their paying customers so you can park your car on the street for free.

      You spend hundreds of dollars and emit thousands of carbons as a car owner, Bob. A few extra $20s for parking fit easily in your glove compartment.

    • @Jason: It may not be a “legal right,” but street parking is an amenity that all cities and towns provide for their citizens. And it is often not free….just less expensive than private parking. Taking your point of view to its logical conclusion, there would be no street parking at all….is that what you want?

    • Yes, I would prefer that free street parking be eliminated. You wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to let you sit at the edge of the field for free, so by my excellent logic you shouldn’t expect to park right next to your destination for free, blocking a lane that could be used for traffic while you do so. You should pay for your privileges.

  3. Seems like a lot of spots for a school, considering most of the people in the building likely aren’t of driving age – which leaves the staff. Have they not heard of public transit?

    • my thoughts exactly… is it because of #45 that we’re forgetting to move FORWARD and think of the future, which could be better alternative forms of transportation.

      We added lanes to I-5 20+ years ago — “if you build it, they will come… and not stop coming” — the I-5 infrastructure is choked. If you build a parking garage, you ENCOURAGE MORE DRIVING… which doesn’t solve the “parking” problem OR the congested roads getting there.

      There are alternatives to this idea… but someone at that school, without an auto-centric mindset needs to get behind them.

    • Obviously there’s a need for it or Holy Names wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars to build it. It’s likely for staff/visitors and it’s also likely there isn’t reliable public transportation that is convenient for their schedules. If there was then school would’ve turned to that option first.

    • runveggiemama – I think it’s just catering to the staff and parents who refuse to take public transit – not because they can’t, but just because they won’t. They’ll make excuses like “it’s not convenient” or “I’d have to leave earlier” when all those just amount to laziness. But it will encourage people to drive who may not have before due to the parking situation. It’s entitlement to be sure – apartment buildings where people actually live are getting built sans parking, but a tax-exempt religious organization will probably have no issue.

      Brian – truly a need, or merely a want? I mean, do they NEED to drive, or do they just WANT to (out of the need not to want to take public transit)? I mean, let’s be honest, I’d prefer to drive to work vs. taking the bus, and I could probably make the case to do so just like they did – but that doesn’t mean it’s the right decision, nor is it a need – it’s a want.

  4. OMG, such hostility to a great idea! Have you ever seen the throngs of young women coming to and from the area bus stops? MOST of those kids don’t have cars. It is staff and visitors that take street parking and walk in their shoes when you bloviate about taking the bus. w

  5. Perhaps we could add on a little tax (similar to the new Airbnb proposal of $14 night) per car per day to fund upgrades to the other neighborhood schools like Montlake…

  6. This project also includes destroying the beautiful north lawn of the campus and replacing it with a surface parking lot for the storage of buses. The school plans on adding to their bus fleet and also moving additional buses currently stored off campus to this lot according to Principal Liz Swift. The project calls for this storage lot to be illuminated from dusk until dawn. This is no gift to the neighborhood but a permanent eyesore.

    • Yeah I think I’m most upset about that aspect of this plan. That north lawn is a great neighborhood amenity, and visiting it is a regular element of our frequent neighborhood walks.

    • Destroying the north lawn for bus storage is a horrible plan. Holy Names needs to find another solution. This part of the plan needs to be stopped and north lawn preserved!

    • The design for this project is incredibly ill conceived with both the architect and Liz Swift stating many times that “we don’t know, we haven’t gotten that part figured out yet” when asked about specific concerns. (One of which is a cut/driveway that goes directly onto a Greenway street, with families riding their bikes during the times that 300 kids would now be coming and going to school. Major safety concern.)

      This green space has been used by the neighborhood for many years and continues to be an important part of our community. The private little prayer garden that is part of that space is sacred, people frequent it on a year round basis. A reminder that Holy Names wants to pave over this green space and prayer garden to accommodate the fleet of buses they want to buy. For guests that visit, on an average, 1.5 times a month.

      Two years of loud construction, $30M to build 300 parking spaces for a student body of 700 and guests that visit once a month. Nothing to incentivize or encourage mass transportation.

      Many of us in the neighborhood feel there are better solutions and are voicing our concerns.

    • i guess progressive forward thinking does NOT equal “privilege” and “educated”… there’s SO much wrong with this project. I also agree that destroying NATURE for CARS is a terribly backwards way of thinking…

      it’s the same as when the FORD motor company bought public land to make it private, then ripped up all the rail on it and build roads in place to sell more of their cars… same thing, but in 2017 you’d THINK we had learned from our past mistakes. SIGH

  7. Wow. A lot of angry people here. “People who pay private school tuition don’t take transit.” “The North lawn must be preserved!” Excuse me, but this isn’t public property. And I know lots of folks with kids in private school who use transit—mostly when it’s smart because it take them where they want to go. It’s easy to generalize here about those darn rich people. But kind of dangerous. And Holy Names draws from a very broad area that isn’t particularly kind to commuting. I bet a lot of Juniors and Seniors are driving.

  8. Hey – where were all you “north lawn” people when we were trying to preserve a chunk of volunteer park!?
    It seems the article said they need parking for sporting events. Isn’t that a good reason to add a garage? Getting kids to sports and sporting events is usually one of the exceptions in arguments for using transit. That said, it would be nice to avoid deadheading with my minivan.

  9. This gave me a great idea! I am going to blacktop over my front lawn. Park the old RV and a couple of cars my children may want in the future. Who cares about the neighbors its “private property” and I am doing it for the children.

  10. Understand the need for some parking. Before the project is approved, the City should require that the school provide transit passes at no cost to students and staff. The new plan should require a commute plan including free transit passes, incentives to bicycle, walk, and rideshare.

  11. This 5-story proposed underground parking lot and the destruction of the north grounds of the school, and its accompanying loss of green space, is the wrong move in the wrong direction by a school which is abandoning is principles of being a good neighbor by bulding an expansive lot which will encourage more driving in the neoghbrohood and eliminate a green space utlized by many. Their desire to continue notwihstading the objection of neighbors, is its own form of bullying which we see elsehwere in the coutry right now as well.