With the COVID-19 crisis and worries of permanent damage to the economy, Capitol Hill might have a new lost generation of neighborhood developments swallowed up by a possible economic abyss. In areas around the Hill that have gone through such thorough waves of redevelopment, any slowdown might offer a respite. Here’s a look at what is on hold — and what might never be — as the Seattle City Council will vote Monday afternoon on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to streamline design review and the landmarks process “to ensure our city work and projects move forward in a responsible way that keeps everyone safe and healthy.”
Durkan’s proposal would temporarily allow the Seattle Department of Construction and
Inspections and the Department of Neighborhoods “to administratively make some
decisions that would otherwise be made or informed by an in-person board or committee
meetings.” In the case of processes like design review, the goal would be to eventually establish virtual meetings.
On Capitol Hill 2020, most major construction is currently only hold due to COVID-19 restrictions including hundreds of new apartments above Capitol Hill Station. Those new developments are nearly complete and likely will open later this year despite any larger economic devastation.
But several more are set to be stuck in a COVID-19 limbo with delays and, for some, full on cancellations.
READY FOR REVIEW
- 15th Ave E: Hunters Capital’s planned brick, concrete, and metal five-story building inspired by auto row-era preservation had its proposal rejected by the design board just prior to the outbreak. A streamlined design review process could be what it needs to get started again. A major economic downturn could mean it never gets built.
- City Market: The planned seven-story E Olive Way development set to replace — and eventually welcome back — City Market
- Broadway: Capitol Hill Housing’s plans for an eight-story LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing development on Broadway between Pine and Pike
- First Hill: A planned eight-story apartment building planned to rise across from First Hill’s First Baptist Church
- 1700 12th Ave: A 7-story 145-unit apartment building with retail
- 1620 16th Ave: A 7-story, 88-unit apartment with restaurant
- 123 Bellevue Ave E: A 7-story, 151-unit apartment building (102 small efficiency dwelling units, 49 apartment units)
- 9th and Madison: 21-story First Hill apartments planned to be super green and use modular construction
- Federal and Republican: Eight-story apartment building with 150 or so units, and three parking spots across from Broadway Hill Park and set to demolish two 1904-built single-story houses, and a 1908 house currently used as a duplex at the corner was planning for design review this year
- Harvard at Denny: Seven-story microhousing and apartment mix planned for corner of Harvard and E Denny Way
- 11th at Pike: Liz Dunn has plans for two stories of office space to be added above the historic Baker Linen building home to Retrofit Home and Cafe Pettirosso
- 23rd Ave: 23Calvary project from Seattle-based developer Gardner Global to create a six-story building rising across the church’s three parcels at 23rd and E Pike
READY TO BUILD OR NEARLY COMPLETE?
- Capitol Hill Station developments: Set of projects including more than 400 new apartments and a new grocery store
- Midtown: Public Square: Construction is halted on the three-piece, seven-story apartment development with more than 400 apartment units, a quasi-public central plaza, and underground parking for around 250 vehicles
- 13th and Pike: The Solis building is mostly constructed
- Knights of Columbus: SRM Development is planning a development and an historically respective overhaul of the 33,708 square-foot Knights hall along with a seven-story, 128-unit apartment building wrapping around it.
- UPDATE — 601 E Howell: From JayH in comments – “60l E Howell, CLAY apartments, construction (nearly) halted about 60 percent complete.”
- UPDATE — 1700 block Belmont: Jay also reports construction on this project from Pioneer Human Services is “proceeding at mega warp speed! They will likely finish early.”
- UPDATE — 1818 Harvard Ave: We’re not sure on the status of this microhousing and hotel project planned for Harvard Ave along with “hipster Best Western” startup Vib.
- UPDATE — 1208 Pine: Eight-story, 65-unit apartment and mixed-use development will also feature hotel style lodging. Was under construction prior to the outbreak.
- UPDATE — E Olive Way: Uncle Ike’s Capitol Hill west was well underway on construction when the virus hit.
“There’s no roadmap for how we need to reinvent city government, but as we navigate this public health crisis, we have to turn to unconventional ways to ensure our City work and projects move forward in a responsible way that keeps everyone safe and healthy,” Durkan said of her push to streamline the city’s development pipeline through the crisis. “Our boards and commissions are essential to development in our City and by making these administrative changes, we will be able to fulfill regulatory milestones, keeping us on track to support businesses and develop the housing we desperately need.”
Industry proponents say the changes are necessary to not hold up some 28 developments across the city in a stage of the design review process that requires a public meeting and another 35 approaching that milestone. Critics worry that the city will rubber stamp approvals and take a pro-developer position when it comes to decisions like landmarks protections. Others point at decisions like this over an issue with the color of a Capitol Hill building’s siding as proof the processes needed an overhaul prior to COVID-19. The city has been working to revamp design review and find more effective ways for neighbors and the community to weigh in on development plans.
City council members have a full roster of possible amendments to the legislation to be voted on Monday but none of them will be powerful enough to overcome a longterm economic downturn.
The global economic slowdown of the late 2000s left many plans across Seattle and Capitol HIll on the drawing board. On 19th Ave E, an example of one of those developments that went unbuilt left room for a neighborhood favorite to thrive. Elsewhere, like the Key Bank property on 15th Ave E where a planned development also ended up mothballed, the lost development feels more like a lost opportunity.
Many if not most of the above projects across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and First Hill will see the light of day. But any significant economic downturn will mean some of these plans end up on hold forever — with or without changes to the Seattle design review and landmarks process.