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With a snip of a ribbon, two years of construction starts on Capitol Hill Station development

On the warm night of June 19th, 2018 a celebration did its best to fill the empty space around Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station as ground broke on the new development that includes new retail, 428 housing units — 178 of which are affordable housing, and a new community plaza featuring the AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway remembering those who have succumbed to the disease.

The event included a band that played jazz music through the evening, the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Farmer’s Market popping-up with a preview of the coming plaza’s future, and free Dick’s burgers provided by the drive-in across the street. It was hard to find someone not holding a carton of water being given out for free to assuage the thirst of the attendees as they mingled under the evening sun.

“Today’s a really important day for us and the community as we officially kick this construction project off, and really start seeing the dirt move,” said Jill Sherman of lead developer Gerding Edlen who also emceed the night’s proceedings.

Many of the major players who had a role in making this possible spoke, including Robert Schwartz and Michael Seiwerath from Capitol Hill Housing and Tom Rasmussen, a retired member of the Seattle City Council who spoke about the long effort to create an AIDS memorial in Seattle. “They were our friends, our family, our partners, and many of them lived in this neighborhood.”

CHS reported here on the 20 years of community engagement it took to make this development a reality. Tuesday night’s groundbreaking was a way of celebrating the effort to shape this “transit-oriented development.”

All of the speakers on the night noted the importance of the Capitol Hill community’s work on this project. When Cathy Hillenbrand, who has been involved with the project as long as anyone and is the former chair of the Capitol Hill Champion, asked people to raise their hands if they had been involved with the development at all since 1996, almost everyone in the standing-room only crowd raised a hand.

“I’m here to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of this community to imagine and bring to fruition transit-oriented development on this site through persistent advocacy, inquiry and planning with Sound Transit staff, the Sound Transit Board and the City of Seattle,” Hillenbrand said.

Sound Transit opened the U-Link extension and the new station below Broadway in March 2016. In August 2016, Sound Transit signed a 99-year lease with Gerding Edlen to develop the properties it had acquired surrounding the station. The Portland-based developer is leading the project with designs from Hewitt and Schemata WorkshopBerger Partnership is landscape architect for the entire site and part of the design super team working on the Capitol Hill Station development project. Capitol Hill Housing will develop and operate the affordable housing component of the projects.

Those involved hope that the new development can be one of many that create affordable housing for those in need as Seattle deals with an ongoing homelessness and affordability crisis.

“We now that the gravest crisis facing Seattle right now is the affordability crisis, and the related crisis of people experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “We can’t build homes and housing quickly enough.”

“We’re at a long overdue moment,” Seiwerath of Capitol Hill Housing said. “When the latest statistic is a 46% increase in the number of people sleeping outside in their cars, we can’t take ten years to do a building like this. We have to do better. We need to move more quickly and get more housing built soon.”

Of the 428 residential units in this development, 178 will be reserved for those under 60% Area Median Income. The project’s retail component will include a grocery store and a daycare facility. CHS reported in March that H Mart appears to be lined up to fill the key retail component of the project. The ceremony did not include any announcement in terms of confirmed tenants.

At the center of the development, the plaza “will be available for public use” including “a weekly morning to afternoon year-round farmers market is planned for both the plaza and along Denny Way.” A Memorial Pathway to honor the fight against HIV/AIDS will connect the plaza to Cal Anderson. In all, the project will create four, seven-story mixed-use buildings surrounding Capitol Hill’s light rail station.

The event closed with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included all of the speakers, with Mayor Durkan doing the honors.

The snip of the ribbon begins a two-year process of construction in the heart of the neighborhood. Contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis says some 44,000 cubic yards of material will need to be moved during the process with “12 to 15 trucks per night on both Building A & B, so 24 to 30 trucks total per night with a truck cycling thru every 20-minutes.”

The project will begin with shoring and excavation work that involves reinforcing the soil around the site to allow crews to dig farther down. The deepest excavation will be along Broadway on the north end of the site where Site A will have three levels of parking, allowing for residential and retail parking spaces. The other two buildings are shallower and each have only one level of parking, the contractor says.

There will be 31,150 square feet of residential space, and 216 parking stalls for cars, and 254 parking stalls for bikes. Designs for the project were finalized in October.

The undertaking is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2020. The development will return commercial activity to the corner of Broadway and John for the first time since 2006.

Rose Gresser, who moved to Seattle in 1986, currently lives in a 30-unit apartment building on 15th Ave that doesn’t even have an elevator. As she gets older, the stairs are becoming harder and harder to traverse, so she hopes to move into this new housing if possible when it opens.

“I love it,” Gresser said when asked what she thinks about all of the recent developments in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

“This project has been a long time coming,” Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff said. “And as you can see, it’s gonna be worth the wait.”

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7 thoughts on “With a snip of a ribbon, two years of construction starts on Capitol Hill Station development

  1. It is unfortunate this has taken so long and I do not agree with the limited scale of this development. Being at a transportation hub, the buildings should be four times the planned size.

    However, I am delighted to see work finally kicking off and the empty stretching of Broadway finally being filled. I’m hopeful for a Broadway that become thriving and active again.

    • I agree also. It’s so short-sighted and wasteful to not use this as an opportunity for increasing density even further. Developers and the city have shown utter disregard for maintaining any semblance of “views” for all but those who can afford to live in certain spots on Capitol Hill, otherwise blocking Space Needle views from most vantages (such as Broadway & John). It’s unclear to me what the lower buildings would even be trying to maintain (beyond whatever is the limit as far as structural soundness). Capitol Hill (with the exception of certain purely residential sections) is a complete mishmash of horrible architecture (and horrible blending of styles for adjoining buildings) and complete disregard for any community identity. I have no issue with a farmer’s market area with this and bike storage. I completely object to the larger retail space aspects, shutting out smaller, local businesses. And to the lack of additional affordable housing. The only saving grace of any of this is if some competitor can help reduce the stranglehold of absolute overpriced dump QFC. But with some many shoppers who are price insensitive and don’t comparison shop at all, QFC won’t go anywhere.

  2. I agree with you Timmy, this project should have buildings at least 10-12 stories. This is the perfect place for the density the city and neighborhood so desperately needs.

    • Yes, but first we have to address the all-too-common mindset people have that they own the view from their property and have the perpetual God-given right to stop anything from negatively affecting it. That’s going to take some time, I’m afraid.

    • This morning there were some work trucks with folks out there. It looked like they were doing an assessment. Perhaps getting acclimated prior to a true ground breaking.

  3. I will not post the customary link to an image of the Borg cubical starship (even though this totally deserves it) because this housing is so critically needed. Yes I wish it were taller and that it were legal to build multifamily housing in more of Seattle.