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.
THANKS! WE DID IT! 1,000 CHS SUBSCRIBERS -- We asked, you answered. Thanks for stepping up!
Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.