Anyone who wants a say in what will happen to the built environment along Broadway around Seattle Central College now has their chance. The community oversight committee which reviews proposed changes to the college is looking for a new member — or two. The school’s reach extends farther into the neighborhood than you might think. And there’s a massive decision on parking on the horizon.
Seattle has a master plan which governs land use on a large scale all around the city. Some places, generally hospitals and colleges, have their own separate plan which fits into the larger plan. Typically, these institutions are in what would otherwise be a residential area, and so need a degree of special treatment.
“We kind of give them a bubble,” said Maureen Sheehan, of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.
Each of these institutions has a corresponding advisory committee, made up of people who live or work in the neighborhood. When the institution wants to make a change, for example, to build or demolish a building, the plan is presented to the committee.
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The committee then makes a non-binding recommendation to either approve the plan, suggest changes that might mitigate impacts, or reject it. That recommendation is then forwarded on to the Department of Construction and Inspections for further review and a decision.
The process is helping shape Kaiser Permanente’s planned $400 million Capitol Hill campus renovation and Seattle University’s planned 2.4 acres of expansion by 2028.
The committee which works on issues surrounding Seattle Central is looking for new members. It currently has six, and can have between six and 12 members. Sheehan said they are looking to fill out their numbers a bit.
The committee could meet as often as six times per year, though it met only once in 2017 and once more in 2018. Meetings typically run about two hours, Sheehan said. The committee can serve as a good entry point for people looking to get involved in the city with a relatively small time commitment.
Anyone who does join will get a chance to weigh in on a proposal coming up in the first quarter of next year to reduce the required number of parking spaces at Seattle Central.
The school’s master plan call for a number of spaces as defined by an old set of city regulations. Under those old rules, Seattle Central does not meet the parking minimum. However, since the plan was adopted, the city has removed the parking requirement for major institutions. But since the spaces are still called for in the master plan, any new construction would mean building more spaces to try and catch up with the old, repealed requirement.
Moreover, since the opening of Capitol Hill Station, students and faculty at the college don’t use the all of the existing spaces. A study dated Aug. 27, 2018 found that the school has 735 spaces, but it was never more than 87% full.
The school does not plan to eliminate any spaces, Sheehan said, simply to remove the requirement that it build more.
Other future development opportunities around the school include the property north of campus acquired in a four-way swap between Seattle Centra land the state community college system, Sound Transit, and Capitol Hill Housing. The move has the school making plans to develop Sound Transit’s former light rail construction “Site D” adjacent the western-side Broadway entrance to Capitol Hill Station. Officials have said the plan is likely to create a new instructional building dedicated to the school’s STEM and IT programs. The school has already demolished its North Plaza building in anticipation of the new project with plans to use the open area as a “green space” until development plans come together.
Seattle Central is also planning a project to renovate the Broadway Performance Hall building “to create the Broadway Achievement Center (BAC)” that will provide “a comprehensive solution to three institutional barriers to meeting student needs: inadequate facilities to serve Basic and Transitional Studies (BTS) students, inadequate space and design of the college’s primary Library/Learning Resources Center (LRC) site, and underutilization of the Broadway Performance Hall (BPH) building.”
More information about the committee is available on the city website.
People interested in joining should send a letter of interest, either via email to Maureen.Sheehan@seattle.gov or US mail to: Maureen Sheehan, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle WA 98124-4649.