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 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.
SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE -- $1/$5/$10
We love providing community news on CHS free for thousands of readers. What sustains the effort are voluntary subscriptions from paying supporters. If you are enjoying CHS, SUBSCRIBE HERE and help keep CHS available to all. 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.