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Proposal would ease path to Seattle Central demolishing its massive Capitol Hill parking garage to make way for student housing development — and, don’t worry, more parking

A design rendering of planned new SCC housing at Harvard and Pine

A Seattle City Council committee Wednesday will take up legislation to tweak city land use code to allow schools like Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central College to build much-needed new housing affordable to students close to urban campuses.

The council’s Land Use Committee chaired by Dan Strauss (D6 — NW Seattle) will consider the proposal form-fitted for SCC that would change code to allow its plans for hundreds of units of new student housing in a development replacing the school’s massive, multi-story parking garage that rises at Harvard and Pine.

The legislative tweak to city code would allow a new amendment process for Major institution Master Plan changes to allow “a one-time addition of student or employee housing.” The change would allow “a single development with residential uses at community colleges in Urban Centers to be approvable as a minor amendment to an existing MIMP when certain criteria are met.”

The only college that currently matches the criteria is Seattle Central College, according to council staff’s memo on the proposal.

CHS reported here on updates to the college’s master plan including an initiative to build a six-story Information Technology Education Center on Broadway, and the student housing project at Harvard and Pine. The Broadway Achievement Center, also known as the Broadway Performance Hall, will get an indoor facelift, including a new auditorium. This is the only aspect of the project that has already been funded, having been included in the state budget. A full renovation of the college bookstore building on the east side of Broadway next to the Mitchell Activity Center is also planned.

The school’s parking garage, marked orange, would be demolished to make way for the new housing development — and underground parking

The legislative change is needed to allow Seattle Central to speed up it planning process and give the school more flexibility in creating the new housing. Without it, SCC “would need to complete a new campus-wide master planning process before new student housing could be permitted, which could take years,” the legislative memo on the proposal reads.

The proposal comes as Seattle Central struggles with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. CHS reported here on the temporary funding decisions made to continue the school’s  Culinary Academy, Maritime Academy, Wood Technology, PACT, and Apparel Design and Development programs into the next school year, buying time until more stable funding can be secured.

Cutbacks are also coming. CHS reported here on the falling enrollment and dipping budget forecasts faced by the college system that includes Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central. Total enrollment of full time students in the Seattle College’s three campus system fell to just over 15,000 in the 2019-2020 school year continuing a longer term pattern that has seen full-time enrollment drop 15% in five years. Seattle Central’s lucrative international student enrollment has also cratered. The schools won’t close — “In my 24 years in the state of Washington, no community college in the system has closed its doors,” a spokesperson told CHS — but they could see major cutbacks.

But other budget wheels continue to roll. On Broadway, SCC has started its search for partners to build its planned Broadway tech building and a new $25 million EcoDistrict heating system for the campus.

If the council passes the legislation to ease updating its master plan to create new housing for students and employees, Seattle Central’s plan to replace the school’s giant parking garage with a new apartment development could also be put in motion. On the site where the massive, 510-stall E Pine and Harvard parking garage now rises, there will be more than 500 beds of new housing. The existing garage would be demolished and rebuilt — underground — with about 260 parking spots, which would include charging stations for electric bikes and cars.

Despite the area’s relative wealth of public transit options including nearby Capitol Hill Station, Seattle Central won’t want for parking — even after the Harvard garage is demolished. The Broadway tech building will also have room for nearly 200 underground parking spots, accessed from Harvard.

Meanwhile, not mentioned in the council land use committee’s new legislation is the latest resident of Seattle Central’s parking garage structure. But we’re sure, if needed, the land use code will find a space for Korn Dog — not to mention, Hot Mama’s — in the school’s future plans.

 

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Neighbor
Neighbor
16 days ago

Given the size of the footprint, why not put up a 20 or 30 story tower or two? Density next to transit, housing for the students, income for the institution, like Vancouver would?

Bento
Bento
16 days ago
Reply to  Neighbor

Agreed that taller makes sense. Bigger garage, as well. Let’s be realistic. People won’t use mass transit if they can’t get to it easily and affordably. City planners live in an imaginary world.

Old Hipster
Old Hipster
14 days ago
Reply to  Bento

Some of us that live outside of the neighborhood that drive into Capitol Hill in the evening to check out live music use the Harvard Garage.

Whichever
Whichever
15 days ago
Reply to  Neighbor

Zoning, if I had to guess.

JustKidding
JustKidding
16 days ago

They don’t have enough money to run vocational programs that make young people jobs-ready….but they’re going to build student housing?

CH Raptor
CH Raptor
16 days ago

Losing Hot Mama’s would leave a Bauhaus-sized hole in my heart… I hope they are included in the plans!

Little Saigon Resident
Little Saigon Resident
16 days ago
Reply to  CH Raptor

It’s some pizza bro, who gives a shit. Build some housing.

Guesty
Guesty
15 days ago

It’s a staple in the area for years, don’t be an ass.

Little Saigon Resident
Little Saigon Resident
15 days ago
Reply to  Guesty

oh no this place I got pizza is now gone. What a tragedy.

People need to grow up.

Whichever
Whichever
15 days ago

Oh no, someone likes something I don’t. What a tragedy.

JCW
JCW
15 days ago

Growing up would also include avoiding snarky comments over an innocuous comment over a pizza joint. Especially since they said nothing against the project itself.

CH Raptor
CH Raptor
15 days ago
Reply to  Guesty

It’s okay, Guesty. People like LSR are the reason I’m leaving Seattle anyway. I’ll get my pizza and say good riddance.

wayoutwest
wayoutwest
15 days ago
Reply to  CH Raptor

I agree – also it’s one of the few places I always see younger teens hanging out, in an area that has a lot of bars – it’s nice to have a place for kids, you know?

beedunzy
beedunzy
16 days ago

I heard there’s a strong liklihood that SCC will be closing in a couple years. The loss of the international students has been huge.

Guesty
Guesty
15 days ago

Community college has student housing?

Annie
Annie
10 days ago
Reply to  Guesty

For International students.

SCC doesn’t like to talk about this. Many of these students are well off and are here to learn English with the hopes of transferring to a 4 year US college. Being in a student visa allows them to study, travel, shop, live in the US. You can tell the international students who lived in student housing as they have more money and are better dressed than the average SCC students.

SCC is way too admin heavy. Lots of people with too little work to do, but with nice job title. It needs to reduce its admin staff and increase the pay of its teachers.

Dave
Dave
10 days ago

Also not mentioned in proposal is that it clears the way for the SCC parking garage to be privatized. The new parking garage is the brainchild of developers who really just wanted to buy it. When they could not buy it they proposed a private/public partnership. The school would essentially lease it to them for the next 80 years. Things could go wrong in so many ways. How can we predict the next 80 years when look how much the world has changed in 3 years. Just a bad idea all around and Seattle would lose a valuable public resource.