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As Seattle looks at temporary takeover of citizen design review, here are the projects around Capitol Hill in COVID-19 limbo

Thanks to COVID-19, the City Market development might never happen

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.


  • 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



“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.


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2 years ago

There’s also the microhousing/hotel hybrid on Harvard a little south of Denny, and the replacement of the building Annapurna is in on the SW corner of Broadway and Denny (I don’t remember exactly what they want to put there). Anyone know the status of either of these?

2 years ago

60l E Howell, CLAY apartments, construction (nearly) halted about 60 percent complete.

Also PioneerBelmont 1 project at 1717 and 1723. Belmont. Construction proceeding at mega warp speed! They will likely finish early.

2 years ago

There is yet another hotel development on the corner of John Street and 5th Ave N in Lower Queen Anne that I have been following on the Seattle Services Portal. (3033505-EG). The last uploaded document was early Feb and there hasn’t been any movement since on the portal. I personally hope it doesn’t get built – a nice coffee shop is there and also a London Plane tree aka an “exceptional tree” that also is two inches on the SDOT ROW.