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With hope for 2018 construction start, time to finalize design tweaks on $1.6B convention center expansion

After three years of design review, the final touches on plans for the $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center are down to the nitty gritty. The refined massing, the updated glazing pattern, the landmark lighting plan — each will be broken down as the project takes what could be its final bow in front of the review board Tuesday night at City Hall.

The designs from LMN Architects and development firm the Pine Street Group have already been through the wringer in multiple sessions of design reviews starting in spring of 2015. We’ve included some of the new renderings showing how the design has been advanced in the final “recommendation” stage of the review process.

It might be a little late in the game but you can still add your $0.02 to the feedback on the project — and remind the board to do everything it can to push the massive project toward creating a useful connection between Capitol Hill and downtown — by emailing and referencing project #3018096, the main site in the development.

The full design proposal is here (PDF).

Construction of the estimated $1.6 billion Convention Center addition and development project is planned to begin later this year and is now slated to be finished in 2021. The proposal calls for adding five stories above ground and two stories below ground totaling a little more than 1.2 million square feet of space, in addition to a 200,000 square foot loading dock and 500-800 parking spaces. Bringing thousands of truck trips to the area, most of the construction will rise above the land currently home to King County Metro’s Convention Place Station, roughly bounded by Pine and Howell streets and 9th and Boren.

“Buses will still travel through the tunnel a full year after excavation starts, probably until September 2019,” the Seattle Times reports. “During this phase, a temporary, $4 million loop ramp will lead exiting tunnel buses up to Ninth Avenue.”

WSCC developers implemented a “codevelopment” process to design “a 30-story building with 428 housing units and a 16-story building with 595,000 square feet of office space” planned to rise just north of the project as part of the expansion. Powered by its bonding authority, the WSCC acquired $56.5 million worth of land between 9th and Boren, and Howell and Olive Way that was previously home to a Honda dealership.

As part of the project, the convention center is providing a $80 million “public benefit” package slated to include $29 million in affordable housing, $10 million for Freeway Park improvements, and $10 million in backing for the Pike-Pine Renaissance project to improve the streetscape of Pike and Pine between downtown and Capitol Hill. An initiative to lid I-5, another component of the community benefits package, will move forward later this month with a Central Hills Triangle Collaborative Charrette.

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6 thoughts on “With hope for 2018 construction start, time to finalize design tweaks on $1.6B convention center expansion

  1. Encouraging a useful connection between Capitol Hill and downtown is great, but the convention center isn’t going to provide that. A massive, empty building with no activity at the street does not create connections. Look at Pike Street and the existing WSCC.

    The goal of this project is to lock in the fire hose of funding the WSCC gets ($70 million per year) into 20-30 years of municipally backed debt before anyone can notice or figure out why it’s happening.

    The public benefits are great, but we shouldn’t have to spend $1.6 billion in public money on a project type that has shown little evidence of generating tourism in order to get $80 million in funding for projects that have widespread local support.

    If the project more of the co-development (i.e. buildings that actually contribute to a city) rather than a convention center that sucks up resources and pushes out transit in the process, it would do much more to benefit the city. This project is a scam.

    • The other aspect of this I don’t understand is the plan for hotel space. In order to actualize the perceived value this expansion, people need to come and continually use the space. Where do we put them all? Existing hotel space in the city is insufficient to support the volume of guests that would keep the expanded convention center in use (and also make it an attractive location to rent in the first place). Perhaps there is some plan, I just have not seen it.

    • True, buses would have eventually been removed from the tunnel, but it would have happened in 2020, not 2019 (or 2018 as the WSCC had originally hoped), and it wouldn’t have cost $4 million for a temporary access ramp.

      Additionally, Convention Place Station serves as a layover facility as well as tunnel entrance. That layover space would be a valuable resource as we go into the “period of maximum constraint” for downtown transportation.

  2. The top looks so dark and menacing. Like something you’d see in animated horror show where it comes to life and devours humans. Why does it have to look so frightening? Seattle can be gloomy and depressing enough – this design, we do not need.