Nagle Place is only the beginning: Embracing Capitol Hill’s alleys

Neighbours Alley (Photo: Candace Shenkel/THE SPECTATOR)

Last month, Crosscut writer and self-identified mossback, Knute Berger, wrote a piece about how naming Seattle’s alleys could be a cost-effective way to strengthen Seattle’s cultural awareness as well as reinvigorate some of our cities least desirable places. Most of Seattle’s alleys are currently dark and spooky streets, left mainly to trash and rats. But in other places, alleys come to life and provide a uniquely pedestrian experience for locals and visitors alike. Melbourne’s Laneways are a good example. Over the years some of these tiny streets have developed into tourist destinations of their own, with all kinds of creative store fronts, restaurants, and art pieces withdrawn from the traffic and congestion of the arterials. Here at home, the Nord Alley project in Pioneer Square has turned a once desolate street into a quaint connection for those in the know. In fact, the alley, complete with a projection screen, is open for World Cup viewing parties this summer! (More info here.)

As usual, Capitol Hill is ahead of the curve on this progressively urban idea: We already have a couple alleys with names. Crawford Place, running from Olive to Union between Summit and Bellevue is presumably named after one of the founders of the Seattle P-I, Samuel L. Crawford. And then there is Coryell Ct., (possibly named after fusion guitarist Larry Coryell?) which curves into a rolling wisteria-lined alley that ends at St. Joseph’s in a children’s play area.

But of course, our most successful alley is Nagle Place, which runs the length of Cal Anderson Park, at the heart of the neighborhood. One can linger in the alley watching pick-up basketball or dodgeball (Tuesday and Friday evenings) all with the restored Odd Fellows Hall looming overhead. The new Broadway Building has added a retail location, a walk-up residence, and a statue of Chuck Berry to match Jimi on Broadway. At the other end of Nagle we can look forward to a block-long alley extension and a light rail station, not to mention the future home of the Broadway Farmers Market. (And if we’re really lucky a nice pedestrian plaza at Denny!)

Centre Place in Melbourne. Originally uploaded by etcname

The story of Mr. Nagle is quite interesting. According to Historylink, John H. Nagle (correctly pronounced “nail”), was a Northwest pioneer who came to Seattle in 1853. Born in Germany, Nagle was strongly influenced by his religious heritage and helped found Seattle’s first church, Methodist Episcopal, nicknamed the “little white church.” Eventually Nagle, became King County Assessor and subsequently a King County Council member. Of course the most intriguing part of the story is that at age 44, Nagle was deemed certifiably insane and moved to the asylum at Fort Steilacoom. He died there 22 year later from “exhaustion due to acute mania.” Part of his 161-acre plot on Capitol Hill was purchased by the city and turned into the Lincoln Reservoir. In 2003 the site was redeveloped into the wonderful Cal Anderson Park we know today.

While those our only named alleys, Capitol Hill also has a number of hip urban alleys that show great potential for cultural monikers. Here are but a few of my favorites:

  • The block behind 19th Ave, between Mercer and Roy is certainly Capitol Hill’s alliest of alleys. While I don’t want to ruin the surprise, I will say the alley holds a unique discovery for the urban explorer.
  • Neighbours, one of Seattle’s most famous gay night clubs, has its entrance in the alley behind Broadway between Pike and Pine. This could quite possibly be the most bustling back door in town (just watch where you step on a Saturday night).
  • Those living in I-5 shores have probably noticed the recent sprucing up of the alley next to Apocalypse Tattoo, where three different murals have been painted side-by-side in the past few months. As one of Capitol Hill’s rare East-West alleys, strollers also receive a nice view of the Space Needle’s head, poking out above an apartment building.

When it comes to naming these alley’s, Capitol Hill’s rich history and culture give us plenty to choose from. Alley’s around 19th can draw from the strong Catholic community, when Capitol Hill was called “Catholic Hill” and 19th was the heart of the neighborhood.

While many mourn the continuing loss of Capitol Hill’s gay bars and night clubs, we can at least cherish and remember the history through naming some alleys, such as the Neighbours alley, after some of the important folks in the gay community. And then of course, there is music. Legends have Kurt Cobain spending many a night on the Hill. Perhaps a few Nirvana-themed alleys are in order.

If you’ve got some favorite alleys or some cultural figures or events that deserve to be remembered, let us know.

Broadway’s latest 7-story project faces design board

While the Broadway Farmer’s Market gets ready for it’s final year at the 10th and Thomas lot, SRM Development is hoping to get approval for their mixed-use project for the site at their second Design Review Board meeting on Wednesday. Designed by Runberg Architecture Group, the proposal calls for a 7-story structure with 235 residential units and about 23,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Parking capacity, which was originally set at 250 spaces, was increased to 354 spaces, a controversial issue due to its proximity to the future light rail station. In addition to the Farmers Market parking lot, the 61,000 sq ft. site includes the buildings that house Noah’s Bagels, Pho 900, The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, the now-defunct Cafe Septieme, and Bank of America, which plans on returning to their corner space after the project is completed.

First Floor Plan

The project is a typical example of 21st century mixed-use projects in Seattle and on Capitol Hill. The facade mixes brick, cement, and metal siding, with a number of small setbacks. Similar to the Brix, the building will rise seven stories along Broadway with commercial space wrapping around on Thomas. Facing 10th Ave, the building will only rise four stories with mostly walk-up units facing the street.

For all its normality there are two unique features of the building. The first is the inclusion of a community meeting space off of 10th Ave. The second is a service alley on the south end of the property to allow easy loading and unloading for the businesses on Broadway.

At the Early Design Guidance meeting in September of last year, the most common public comment was the size of the new building and “the loss of older neighborhood buildings”. Many asked that the structure be broken up through facade differentiation or a number of separate buildings in order to respect the current granularity of the streetscape.

Courtyard and Community Space Entrance

The Design Review Board itself was particularly interested in the pedestrian activity around the site. They commended the setbacks for street activity on Broadway and stoops on 10th as well as the community space, although they did suggest that the ceiling heights be increased for transparency. In response to concerns about the bulk they also suggested additional landscaping to break up the mass of the facades.

Project: 230 Broadway  map
Review Meeting: May 5, 2010
Review Phase: Recommendation
Project Number: 3009249 permit status
Planner: Lisa Rutzick

City looking to beautify empty lots with “Holding Patterns” initiative: 9 targets on Hill

The empty lot on Harvard Ave (Photo: Jon Polka/THE SPECTATOR)

Capitol Hill is all too familiar with stalled construction projects that leave blighted empty space in our neighborhood. Luckily, were also pretty good at keeping them fun, active and entertaining. Well, with the Great Recession putting many projects on hold indefinitely the city is looking to do something with these empty lots through their “Holding Patterns” Initiative. From the press release:

Have you noticed how many lots have been left empty or partially developed due to the stalled economy? These vacant project sites are all around us. Unattractive and unbecoming of our city, we pass by them every day: empty holes, barren plains of gravel, voids in the city fabric. How can we convert these eyesores to opportunities?

Whether a concert space or a bumper car track, basketball hoops or a fleeting performance stage, from temporary to semi-permanent, wacky, practical or both, the Design Commission is welcoming any and all ideas. Artists, designers, non-profits, businesses, developers, students, astronauts, everyone is invited to contribute ideas. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged.

Capitol Hill’s most notorious empty lot is certainly 500 E. Pine, aka The People’s Parking Lot, but there are quite a few others sitting idle around the hill. Here is a map of all of our sites (disclaimer: I’m not as familiar with the NE part of the hill, so if I’ve missed anything let me know).

View Capitol Hill’s Empty Spaces in a larger map

In all I’ve counted 9 lots for a total of nearly 3.5 acres of empty space. So what say you Hillites? What are some good ideas for these lots? Bounce some around here but if you’re really serious, here is how to submit a formal proposal to the city:

Photo: Jon Polka/THE SPECTATOR


Submit via e-mail to a pdf formatted file and in the body of the email the names/backgrounds of participants and contact information for one person. Please put “Holding Patterns” in the subject line. 6 MB maximum file size.

Deadline: Monday, May 24th 2010

Your submission should include the following:

  • a brief narrative including rationale, goal, purpose, program, and design
  •  intent the location, if specific (all city-wide locations are acceptable)
  • a site plan and/or images that communicate your ideas
  •  Maximum of four 8.5” x 11” single-sided pages per site category

Off Hill: Vote for your favorite Puget Sound Historic Site

washington hall Originally uploaded by seewhy

This year, the American Express Partners in Preservation initiative is granting historic sites in the Puget Sound region over $1,000,000 for preservation work. The site will be chosen by a public vote, in which Puget Sound community members can vote once daily for their favorite site. Capitol Hill certainly has its share of historic sites, unfortunately none of them made the list of 25 sites competing for the money  (or perhaps on the bright side, Capitol Hill’s historic sites are all well taken care of!). That said, it is still an opportunity for folks to get engaged and help preserve a piece of Puget Sound history. You can see the full list of 25 sites at the Partners in Preservation website, but for those extra hill-centric folks out there, here are the five sites closest to our ‘hood (measured from the Cal Anderson Volcano Fountain, the cultural if not geographic center of the neighborhood):

  1. Town Hall Seattle (0.79 miles from Volcano) Built in 1922 by renowned Portland architect George Foote Dunham, this NW-style Pantheon was originally home to the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. After years of neglect the building was rehabilitated for use as Seattle’s Town Hall in 2007 providing citizens with over 350 annually, and generally for under $5. Our sister site has been campaigning for Town Hall.

  3. 5th Avenue Theatre (0.91 miles from Volcano) Inspired by the Chinese Forbidden City, the 1926 5th Avenue Theatre has one of the most ornate interiors of any buildings in Seattle. The theatre was forced to close in the 1970’s by citizens rallied to its cause and reopened in 1980. Today it is one of the most prestigious theatres in the Pacific Northwest with over 300,000 annual visitors.

  5. Naval Reserve Armory MOHAI (1.03 miles from Volcano) Sitting at the southern edge of Lake Union, the Art Deco Armory, built in the early 1940’s for WWII training, is set for a new lease on life in the next few years. The area around the site is currently under construction as South Lake Union park and last year MOHAI announced that it would move into the space in 2012.

  7. Washington Hall (1.08 miles to Volcano) One of the Central District’s most prestigious dance halls, many musical icons have graced its stage including Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. The building was originally built in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood as a meeting space and immigrant lodging house. In 2008 the building was purchased by Historic Seattle and restoration is underway.

  9. Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle Building (1.14 miles from Volcano) Built in 1910 as the Saint George residential hotel, today the building houses the Urban League as well as many other community and social service organizations. The building was badly damaged by the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake and needs significant structural repairs to remain safe and useful.

If none of these are doing it for you, then what Capitol Hill historic structure would you have liked to see on the list?

Seattle First Covenant Church seeks input for old University Honda space

Typically when we see retail vacancies here on the hill, all we can do is pray that a local entrepreneur steps in before the next Money Mart; it is rare that we, the community, actually get to choose what we want in our street facades. But that is exactly similar to what Seattle First Covenant Church is proposing for their block-long vacancy on E. Pike between Crawford and Summit. Through a church-wide vote the First Covenant congregation decided that, rather than lease the space to the highest bidder, they would ensure that the space is filled with church usage and is compatible with the needs of the community.

First Covenant is one of Capitol Hill’s oldest religious congregations. Founded in 1889 by a small group of Swedes (take that Ballard!), their current building was finished in the early 1900’s. In the middle of the century, like many congregations, they struggled with their urban location as their members increasingly moved to the suburbs. But in 1968 they officially made the decision to stay in their historic home, building acquiring a large parking garage just east of the sanctuary.

The vacant space in question is the single retail commercial space in the parking garage. Early in 2009 the 12,000 sq ft. space was vacated after long-time tenant University Honda/Yamaha decided to call it quits. With a few minor changes to their budget, First Covenant realized that they didn’t necessarily need the rent income from the space, so instead they proposed trying to figure out what would be most valuable for the community. According to Associate Pastor Carolyn Poterek, “everything is on the table” at this point, for-profit businesses and nonprofit services alike. Their first step is to conduct a neighborhood asset mapping study which they hope to complete by this summer. They are also looking for community input and hope to host a number of community discussions and open houses for people to explore the space. Ultimately the church congregation will have to vote on the use so there may be some limitations. Poterek notes that “a bar is probably not an option” but then again, I think we can all agree that Capitol Hill is sufficiently bar-ed.

So what would you like to see in that space? To get your imagination running here are a couple of my own ideas:


  • A Bakery. I know we have North Hill by we really need a good bread bakery, a place you can get a warm baguette for dinner or a batard for a Volunteer Park picnic. Something like the very wonderful Columbia City Bakery in the Rainier Valley.
  • A Tool Library. For many of us urban residents maintaining a collection of tools just isn’t practical. Yet, every once in a while you really need a band saw or an electric drill. The space already had a significant workshop so perhaps we could just keep that as it is.
  • Queer Youth Space. It has been in demand for quite sometime now. With a number of major bus routes just a block away, this is an incredibly accessible space for people too young to drive (or without a car).
  • General Purpose Community Space. For anyone who’s been to one of the packed Capitol Hill Community Council meetings knows, we could use a bigger meeting location for community groups.

Post your own thoughts here or, send your ideas to Associate Pastor Carolyn Poterek.

Third design meeting for project meshing new development with 1931 apartments

When you’re working with 80 years of history, change takes time. On Wednesday, April 21st, the third Design Review meeting will be held for 711 Bellevue Ave, better known as the BelRoy Court project, which aims to add two new buildings with 58 residential units around the historic BelRoy Apartments. The project is being proposed by development firm Point32 (see Cascadia Center) and designed by architecture firm Weinstein A|U (see 11th Ave mews).

The BelRoy Apartments, built in 1931, is one of Seattle’s most significant Modernist buildings. Unlike much of the era’s standard brick buildings with terra cotta ornamentation, the BelRoy uses minimal ornamentation and unique zigzag floor plans and steel sash bay windows. The building was designed by Lionel Pries, one the most prestigious professors at the UW School of Architecture, and William J. Bain, founder of the now-global architecture firm NBBJ. (Bain’s grand daughter, Lesley Bain, is lead architect with Weinstein A|U.)

The development proposal calls for the restoration of the BelRoy Apartments as well as the addition of two new three and six story buildings that will replace five single family homes to the north and east of the BelRoy. The building will add 58 new residential units to the existing 51 in the BelRoy as well as 72 parking spaces and 980sq ft. of commercial space at the far north end facing Bellevue Ave. The developer has not yet determined whether the units will be apartments or condominiums.

According to the October DRB Report, during the last design review meeting around 34 community members were present and over 20 public comments were made, which ranged widely in their support and opposition. Many people praised the developers for their “well studied proposal” and voiced support for the restoration of the BelRoy. Many others were concerned about additional height on the north side of the site and the loss of the existing single family homes, which are “an important part of the existing streetscape character”.

The Design Review Board itself was most concerned about the interior courtyard and strongly advocated for the removal of the central building:

Perferred Scheme


“The preferred scheme shows 12 units located within the courtyard space; this freestanding structure within the courtyard area significantly affects the sense of openness and tradition typically associated with an internal open courtyard spaces [sic]. In order to be convinced of the merits of keeping these units in the central structure, the Board will need to see an exceptional development of the outdoor spaces and all facade treatments.”

The Board also wanted to see a “cohesive architectural design” that respected but did not copy the style of the original BelRoy. At the April 21st meeting the developers will likely have significantly more detail on the architecture and facade designs for the project.

Full meeting details:

Project: 711 Bellevue Ave E  map
Design Proposal available at review meeting
Review Meeting: April 21, 6:30 pm
  Seattle University
  824 12th Ave  map
  Community Room
Review Phase: Recommendation past reviews
Project Number: 3010378 permit status
Planner: Lisa Rutzick

New life for the Jade Pagoda building

Over the past few years north Broadway has had an interesting revival. First came the opening of Poppy. Then there was the remodel of the Lewis Building and the addition of Edgar. And who could forget the (in)famous introduction of the secret Starbucks, Roy Street Coffee and Tea. But among all this change, one thing has stayed constant: the neglected building at 606 Broadway, once home to the Chinese restaurant and dive bar Jade Pagoda, has remained a vacant blight on the block.

But alas, no longer! A few weeks ago Redside Partners, the owners of the building, received their permits for a full remodel of the building and work has already begun.  According to Redside’s Craig Swanson the building could be ready as soon as July, of course he also notes that “these things have a tendency to take longer and be more expensive” then planned.

View Larger Map


Rendering of the building after remodel

Swanson said Redside, which owns a number of buildings on Capitol Hill including the Poppy building and the Chester, home of Spinasse, has been pondering what to do with this building for a long time. They approached neighbors about a redevelopment but couldn’t work anything out. Finally they decided to restore the building to working order and try to bring in some new tenants.

This current remodel will undo much of the work done to the building in its last remodel in 1967. Swanson is hopeful that they can strip the interior back to something “raw” but admits it probably won’t be as nice as their remodel of the Poppy building. The new set-up will create room for up to three tenants with two retail spaces fronting the street and one more space in the back. “Everything that is brick becomes storefront” Swanson said of the building’s facade. They have been talking to one restaurant and one retail tenant but nothing is final yet. If you were hoping for a little more nightlife on the north end you may be out of luck, Swanson said they don’t want any bars or night clubs in the space because they are harder on the building.

The most popular building on E. Union: A look at Capitol Hill’s favorite designs

Last month, CHS rolled out a project developed in conjunction with the Capitol Hill Community Council designed to measure our collective likes — and dislikes — about buildings in the neighborhood. The Community Design Preferences page allows CHS members to post pictures of and rate buildings on Capitol Hill. Now, with over 100 building pictures, and hundreds of votes, we decided to check in on the leaders and see what they can tell us about development in our ‘hood.

1310 E. Union Lofts exterior (Photo: Matthew Brady/The Spectator)

The current top three are the 1310 E. Union Lofts, followed by the 1933 Seattle Art Museum (now the Seattle Asian Art Museum) and the 1930 Loveless Building respectively.

So, what’s so great about 1310? Built in 2001, the 1310 E. Union Lofts were developed by hillebrity Liz Dunn’s Dunn + Hobbes and designed by architecture firm Miller|Hull Partnership. Sitting on a lot smaller than many single family homes, the building consists of eight loft-style condos, 500 sq ft. of retail space (currently occupied by Fleurish), and Seattle’s first underground parking lift, with spots for eight vehicles. The building has won numerous regional and national awards, including the 2003 PIA Housing Award.

I caught up with David Miller, founding partner of Miller|Hull, to chat about 1310 Lofts’ success:

JM: 1310 E. Union Lofts is currently rated the best building on Capitol Hill. Congratulations!

DM: Thanks so much. This is certainly a wonderful honor. It is one thing for our project to be appreciated  by fellow architects but it’s really nice to see that the community appreciates it as well.

JM: What was the inspiration for 1310 E. Union’s design?

DM: I worked in Chicago for a while with Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and was really influenced by the modern high rises of the time. You can see this influence in the proportions and the use of steel on 1310 Lofts. The ‘X’ pattern on the facade, which resembles Chicago’s John Hancock Center,  is actually a lateral bracing for earthquakes and high winds.

JM: Any cool features of the building that people may not notice from the street?

DM: One interesting thing is that since the building is mid-block we prefabricated the columns and beams elsewhere and put the building up really quickly on site. You can see the joints where the pieces fit together on the facade. Another neat aspect of the building is that the big windows in each unit are actually garage doors that roll up and essentially turn part of the units into a porch.

JM: What are some of your favorite buildings on The Hill?

DM: I really like the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University designed by Steven Holl. St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Bel Roy Apartments by Lionel Pries are also great.

JM: What do you think could be done to encourage better design in new developments on Capitol Hill?

DM: I think there needs to be more of a focus on buildings that are simple and elegant. Some of the new multifamily buildings in Seattle are too complicated with so many different setbacks and materials. I think new buildings need to focus on rationality and simplicity.


Detail of the Lofts’ exterior (Photo: Matthew Brady/The Spectator)

Personally, I really like 1310 E. Union Lofts and I think it says a lot about what kind of development people want on Capitol Hill. Most prominently, its tiny footprint is a welcome counterpoint to the massive block-long buildings that have been going up in recent years such as Joule or Press on Pine. Additionally the building is clearly trying to make an architectural statement. Too often I think developers come in to build only because the building is a vehicle to profits. Perhaps ironically, this means they try too hard to design something that the community wants (or what they hear in design review), which ultimately results in a very messy building that is hard to understand. 1310 E. Union Lofts on the other hand, with its simple lines and style, makes a cohesive statement with its design.

What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of 1310 E. Union Lofts, and if so why? If you aren’t, what are some other buildings that you like and what do you think Capitol Hill can do to encourage better development?

The CHS Community Design Preference poll is ongoing, so feel free to add your own ratings to these buildings or add pictures of buildings yourself.

Coming Soon: A look at Capitol Hill’s least favorite buildings.

Urban cohousing project planned near Cal Anderson

A few months ago I wrote a post called “Is Capitol Hill ready for Cohousing?” Well, it turns out the answer is yes. Local design firm and cohousing experts Schemata Workshop have announced plans for a new cohousing project right here on the Hill. Principal architect Grace Kim, who also serves on the board of the Cohousing Association of the United States, said the project was “conceived over a decade ago” but that the firm’s recent move to 12th Avenue helped them explore the neighborhood and ultimately choose a location. Although they won’t disclose the exact site, after looking at spots on 19th and 20th Ave, they ultimately settled on a site one block East of Cal Anderson park, just a five minute walk from the future light rail station

Kim hopes that this new project, at the heart of Capitol Hill, will help “rebrand” cohousing as a viable urban option and encourage others in the neighborhood to “organize and develop similar projects that have a strong social connection between residents and that extends into the greater neighborhood.”

While cohousing comes in many forms, the defining characteristic of cohousing is that residents are “consciously committed to living in a community“. There are always a set of shared spaces where residents can come together for meals, parties, movies, games, or any other communal activity. Oftentimes these are spaces  that may be expensive or underused in a typical single family residence, such as a large workshop or a guest room. In addition, cohousing residents are heavily involved in the planning and design process of the structure, ensuring that it fits the needs and wants of the community that will inhabit it.

Daybreak Cohousing in Portland

While Schemata’s project is still in the early design phase Kim says that in addition to an emphasis on community, there will be a “strong commitment to sustainability and urban agriculture. We will incorporate many passive solar strategies, maximize building insulation, and optimize natural daylight and ventilation. While we will not be able to meet the Living Building Challenge, [see Cascadia Center] we will use the principles as a guide.” Schemata intends to build a 4000sq ft rooftop garden that will not only provide residents with year round food, but also supply neighborhood restaurants with fresh, (hyper) local produce.

In terms of actual living space, the building will include 8-10 “compact but completely independent homes” that will range from 525-950sq ft. In addition it will have a communal kitchen, a dining room big enough to accommodate all of the residents, and a guest room. Since the site is in an urban location the project will also include ground floor retail and office space on the second floor, where Schemata hopes to move their offices when the project is completed.

Following Schemata’s recently completed cohousing project in Portland, Daybreak Cohousing, the Capitol Hill project will not include any parking. “[I] have lived car-free for nearly 17 years (in London, Copenhagen, Chicago and Seattle) and do not want to encourage car ownership by residents“. said Kim, pointing out that daily amenities, transit service, and car-sharing will all be within easy walking distance.

Cohousing in Denmark (photo courtesy of Schemata)

Kim said that,  “showing others the potential of a cohousing concept in an urban setting is a goal of ours” and explained that many people view it as a more suburban phenomenon and thus it is rarely considered in major metropolitan areas. She has visited over 100 cohousing communities globally and has seen “only two [projects] in Denmark that are nearly as urban as what we envision”.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Schemata’s new cohousing project it’s not too late, Kim will be hosting a free info session on April 18th at the First United Methodist Church in Belltown (details here). You can also get a feel for cohousing at the Portland (May 8) and Seattle (May 15) cohousing tours, hosted by the Cohousing Association of the US

Community Council Recap: CH hearts trolleys, streetcar update, TOD champion

[Full Disclosure: Josh is an officer on the Capitol Hill Community Council]

Seattle Trolley Bus. Originially uploaded by Jason Rodriguez

Thursday night was the monthly general meeting (3rd Thursdays, 7pm @ Cal Anderson Shelterhouse) for the Capitol Hill Community Council. With three major topics and a packed house, there was a lot covered and discussed in the two hour meeting.

As always, the meeting started with open floor, a time for any community member to make an announcement or voice their opinion. Five comments were made:

  • Friends of the Volunteer Park Conservatory asked for support on their Opportunity Fund proposal to rehabilitate the Conservatory’s East Greenhouse.

  • SDOT is currently looking for ten more locations for on-street bike corrals. Unfortunately we were informed that plans to install a corral near Bimbo’s and Cafe Vita has stalled.
  • Community Lunch will be hosting their Spring Fundraiser on May 8th at All Pilgrims Church. For more info:
  • There is worry that Broadway is dying. We need to work hard to ensure its survival, specifically by limiting building sizes to something similar to historic structures.
  • Trolley Buses vs. Hybrid Diesel Buses

    First on the agenda was Johnathan Dong from SDOT who came to get feedback about Metro’s proposal to replace the electric trolley buses (those with the overhead wires) with hybrid diesel buses. According to Metro the plan could save an estimated $8.7 million per year. Of course, the other side of the coin is that hybrid diesel buses produce more pollution and tend to be louder. While Dong has been going around to many neighborhoods, the decision could have the largest affect on Capitol Hill as The Hill has by far the most electric trolley lines.

    During discussion community members resoundingly favored keeping the electric trolleys. With increased noise and air pollution one person said that there was “no question” to keep the trolleys. Another pointed out that the trolleys are a mainstay of the hill and contribute to the neighborhood character. Other commenters said that replacement was a “terrible idea” and “short-sighted”. One community member suggested that metro should save money by simply stopping the study of replacement.

    After the discussion, Dong said that he had heard similar comments in other neighborhoods (except West Seattle which was “lukewarm” but doesn’t have any trolley lines). Metro’s official study will take place this summer but Dong seemed confident that the Seattle leadership would support retention.

    If you would still like to send SDOT your comments, you can fill out a short survey found here.


    First Hill Streetcar Update

    From trolleys it was on to streetcars with Ethan Malone coming to give the Council an update on the First Hill Streetcar planning process. The next big step will be the City Council’s alignment decision, coming sometime this April. Since a loop around Cal Anderson has been almost definitively removed, the alignment decision will likely have little impact on the Capitol Hill section of the streetcar route on Broadway that SDOT is recommending.

    Much of the discussion revolved around the North Broadway extension, part of the Community Council’s bold vision for a Complete streetcar. Although the extension still lacks funding, Malone said that there are a number of good prospects federally. He also said that with a flexible construction process, building the streetcar “step-by-step” wouldn’t be very difficult and pointed out that the Portland Streetcar was constructed in sections as small as 1/3 of a mile, based on when funding was available.

    The Council’s Proposal also included a number of streetscape improvements, including a possible bike boulevard along Broadway. Malone didn’t have any additional information on the streetscape and said that after the alignment decision they could start developing “the next level of detail” for the project. He did suggest that the unconventional streetscape could be a pilot project for Mayor McGinn’s “Walk, Bike, Ride” Initiative.

    Creating the TOD Champion

    One of the largest discussions on the hill these days is the future development of the empty 3-acres where Sound Transit is currently building the light rail station and tunnel. Commonly referred to as the TOD (transit-oriented development) site, community members have voiced interest in all kinds of community amenities on the site, from affordable housing, to a cultural center, to the Farmer’s Market.

    In order to push for these community amenities and ensure that the TOD site is developed with the highest civic principles in mind, the Capitol Hill Community Council and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce have proposed a joint venture to form a group to work closely with Sound Transit and the City of this project. Tony Russo and Cathy Hillenbrand laid out the idea, referring to the recommendations laid out in the TOD Recommendation Report, a cumulative report on the TOD site put out earlier this month by Schemata Workshop and Makers and funded by the Cap Hill Chamber of Commerce.

    Unfortunately, with such a packed agenda, no decision on creating the new group was officially made, but a straw poll showed that the majority of the present members were in favor of the group. Next month details of the group will be more clearly stated and a formal vote of its creation will be made.

    Next meeting: April 15th, 7-9pm @ Cal Anderson Shelterhouse

    More info at: