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A growing Seattle Central talks near-term changes to improve its streetscape, plans for new Broadway tech building, and student housing to replace its E Pine parking garage

The proposed Information Technology Education Center could eventually be part of the growing campus along Broadway

Coming decades will bring big changes to Seattle Central College with plans for several new developments currently being proposed.

The school plans to build a six-story Information Technology Education Center on Broadway with nearly 200 underground parking spots next to the Capitol Hill light rail station on Sound Transit property. The space, divided between classrooms, laboratories, and other student uses as well as office space, would be funded by the college from sources outside the state, architect Stephen Starling said in a meeting last week with the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council.

On the site of the massive, 510-stall E Pine and Harvard parking garage, there would be over 500 beds of student housing. That existing garage would be demolished and rebuilt with about 260 parking spots, which would include charging stations for electric bikes and cars, and the housing built above.

The Broadway Achievement Center, which used to be known as the Broadway Performance Hall, would get an indoor facelift, including a new auditorium. The only addition there would come in the form of a new connection to the large existing complex adjacent to the center on Broadway. This is the only aspect of the project that has already been funded, having been included in the state budget.

The last major part of the redevelopment would be a full renovation of the old college bookstore building on the east side of Broadway next to the Mitchell Activity Center (MAC). This part, which would be funded through student fees that students have to approve, would bring the student union building to about the same height as the existing non-college buildings on each side. The MAC will largely remain the same under this project.

Across these four pieces of development, more than 77,000 square feet would be added to the school’s footprint.

This update to the college’s master plan (PDF) — which was started in the summer of 2019 after the original was adopted in 2002 — calls for increasing the maximum building height to 105-feet across the campus. The advisory committee studying the upgrade, however, only wanted to go 85-feet on the student union site to avoid shadows on Cal Anderson Park to the east, according to architectural designer Connor Davidge.

OK, this is a lot of building to do, when could it possibly be finished?

The council’s John Feit asked if the college and architects were estimating projects we’ll see in the next ten years.

“Probably closer to 20, in all honesty,” said Starling, of the Schreiber Starling Whitehead firm. “It’d be great if they all happened in 10 years, but the timeline certainly of state-funded projects… tends to be a lot more long-drawn out than most people probably would think.”

And the COVID-19 pandemic has been no help to this timeline, with a member of the advisory committee telling CHS last May “our work has been paused.”

As if that wasn’t enough already, the school is also floating two new four-story academic buildings on Presbyterian Church-owned property on Harvard and Howell that the college is hoping to acquire.

“The church property and its future has been a topic of discussion between the Seattle Presbytery and the college, but is not something we anticipate acting on in the immediate future. The Presbytery would prefer to see it re-developed as workforce affordable housing,” Roberto Bonaccorso, director of communications for Seattle Central, said last year.

One factor driving the push for growth is enrollment. Seattle Central projects it will have about 7,500 full time equivalent students by the end of the planning horizon, an increase of 650 students from 2019 numbers. Several factors are driving this predicted increase, including the city’s general population growth and programs like Seattle Promise, which gives two years of tuition-free education to graduates of Seattle public high schools.

Closer housing, meanwhile, is hoped to help keep down the number of single-occupant car commuters in the long term as enrollment rises. The school has made strides in this area, with currently only about 34% of faculty and 17% of students driving alone.

CHS last looked at the school’s huge planning effort last May as plans for its new tech building on Broadway and student housing moved forward.

CHS, meanwhile, reported here on the school’s response to COVID-19 challenges. Other changes are coming soon. A new partnership with Intiman Theater will bring performances and a new program designed to create more opportunities for diverse crews to work behind the scenes.

Much of last week’s discussion focused on pedestrian improvements on the campus, whether it be streetscape upgrades on Pine next to the new student housing, changing the neverending brick on Broadway, and possible alterations to the greenspace next to the Broadway Achievement Center. In summary, how can the college bring life to its few blocks?

The existing plan already expects streetscape improvements along Broadway, enhancements to the crosswalk across Broadway, and also to the pedestrian pathway that will be created between the existing main campus buildings and the proposed new tech center.

While changing the Broadway sidewalk is subject to funding, there could be incremental changes before the new buildings start to crop up, Lincoln Ferris, a consultant in the college president’s office, said Tuesday.

“The general idea that we’ve got to find a way to make that environment slow people down, that people actually spend more time there, that they feel they can sit and visit and drink coffee,” he said.

So what’s next? The architects are currently responding to comments from the advisory committee about a month ago, according to Starling, with a new draft master plan released in the next month taking that feedback into consideration.

You can give feedback on the project here.


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Caphiller
Caphiller
17 days ago

This is exciting! It’ll be great to have more students living in the neighborhood (bringing their energy). I’ve always wondered what the plan was for the lot next to the station entrance. Hope this happens sooner than later. Congrats to SCC on their growth. The college is a great asset to the neighborhood.

I’m also a big fan of SCC bc they don’t put up with any nonsense on their property- they kicked out in short order the drifters who were camping on their plaza last summer after the chop.

genevieve
genevieve
17 days ago
Reply to  Caphiller

Were you not here during the Occupy days?

Caphiller
Caphiller
17 days ago
Reply to  genevieve

Back in 2009? I wasn’t born yet… just kidding. No, didn’t realize there was anything with occupy there

genevieve
genevieve
16 days ago
Reply to  Caphiller

SCC campus was occupied for months, which I think informed their swift response last year.

KinesthesiaAmnesia
KinesthesiaAmnesia
17 days ago

Glad to hear Seattle Central is growing and trying to thoughtfully include the neighborhood in that growth. I hope they design safety and security features into the new construction!

I went to Seattle Central about 10 years ago and quit before completion of my non-credit courses. I felt unsafe learning inside the classrooms, also travelling home when my classes stopped between 8 or 9 PM. One time in class the college campus had a lockdown and we couldn’t study anything or go home when we needed to. Another time police ran through our conference hall with guns drawn and yelled at all of us they were in pursuit of someone and to get under our desks with our hands over our necks. Not to mention all the times I got grabbed by guys when I had to take bus 8 home from there, which is a situation I understand Seattle Central doesn’t have direct ownership of, but they have a lot of influence over transit use and safety in that neighborhood, and should leverage a lot more of it if they want students to ride home safe or not transfer to Bellevue College.

Isle
Isle
17 days ago

@kinesthesiaAmnesia I totally agree with you. The ability to drive and park at night is essential for many peoples’ safety in this area. I lived in the hill for 25 years until I was priced out, and now live about 12 miles away. I danced for years at the Century Ballroom, and relied on the SCC parking lot — no way was I taking two busses home at midnight and waiting for a transfer on third Avenue. With recent increases to Lyft and Uber rates it is about $35 each way from where I live to the college. Many of the businesses in this core area of the Hill rely on people outside the neighborhood to survive. It’s utopian folly to think that if you just get rid of parking people will come by bus. I would love to see a follow-up on what the loss of parking will mean for the bookstores, entertainment venues and bars.

dave
dave
17 days ago

This all sounds good. My only sadness is that I assume it means the end of Hot Mamma’s Pizza :(

Patty
Patty
17 days ago
Reply to  dave

Oh no! I didn’t think about that. You may be right. Hopefully they offer it a spot or they relocate. Mmmmmmmmmm. Hot Mama’s slice after a few too many beers. 😄

genevieve
genevieve
17 days ago
Reply to  dave

I also really love Mia’s Kitchen for quick teriyaki. Overall a decent growth plan.

I do kinda hope the Presbyterian Church redevelopment goes to workforce affordable housing rather than more SCC buildings, though.

RWK
RWK
17 days ago

With steadily decreasing numbers of students and faculty driving to SCCC, I am surprised that the plan calls for 460 new parking spaces, between the new technology building and the new student housing. This seems excessive.

Nope
Nope
16 days ago
Reply to  RWK

As the article says, they’re removing 510 spaces and adding 460, for a net loss of spaces.

RWK
RWK
15 days ago
Reply to  Nope

Mea culpa….you’re right. But I still don’t understand why so many parking spaces are needed, given that light rail is nearby and that most students in the new student housing would presumably not own vehicles.