Needing more room to teach, college turns Capitol Hill performance spaces into classrooms

Balagan Theatre has been running shows and productions out of Erickson Theatre, Seattle Central Community College’s resident performance space on Harvard Avenue since 2011. That is all going to change — an announcement from the the theatre reports the troupe could be looking for a new home as the school is devoting more of its Capitol Hill building spaces to instruction.

“Our lease expires September 30. Seattle Central Community College recently informed us that they intend to resume property management for the space, with the desire to make it primarily instructional. Because we’ve had a strong relationships with the college, they have offered Balagan priority booking of the Erickson. So don’t worry! We won’t be leaving the Erickson entirely.” 

The group originally hop-scotched between venues and last held productions at an E Pike theater until perching itself on Capitol Hill in late 2011. It seems likely the theatre’s relationship with the space will be changing.

When the lease is up, “the college will use it during the daytime,” the school’s Jeff Keever said. He tells CHS Seattle Central will operate the Erickson like a “rental house” in the same fashion that the Broadway Performance Hall is used on campus — allowing groups to rent the space for a fee.

The college currently charges a $600 daily flat rate for groups to rent out the Broadway Performance Hall for an 8 hour block of time; other expenses are included in the rental process such as technician costs and gear rental. No numbers have been released yet on rental costs for the Erickson but it has a seating capacity of about half the hall. 

Keever says the school hopes to upgrade the Erickson facility to accommodate classes which would require additional lighting and possibly a shifting stage. Lacking a drama department, it’s unlikely the school will use the building to host acting classes.

Meanwhile, accounting classes have started to be held in the 295-seat Broadway Performance Hall. Seattle Central’s choirs and various musical groups also use the space for musical performance. However the space is used more room for classes is never a bad thing and despite lowered attendance it is needed. The Seattle Community College District has seen a drop of about 5,000 students since 2007 according to an October Board of Trustees document. The district hit a five year low with 48,349 enrolled students for the 2011-2012 academic years. While attendance may be lower than usual open class space is a rare commodity and the opening of the Erickson for courses may help alleviate some pressure.

School has work cut out for it putting light rail land to use for 105-foot Broadway tower

Seattle Central and Sound Transit are poised to move forward with a process that will determine the fate of the first of four sites the transit agency plans to sell to developers around the under-construction Capitol Hill light rail station.

Thursday, a public hearing will be held to discuss the sale of “Site D” to the school. The lot on the western side of Broadway is currently being used by Sound Transit as construction offices for the light rail project. You might remember it as a Mongolian Grill restaurant before it was acquired and demolished.

“The agency is seeking public comment on a proposal to sell two parcels consisting of approximately 10,000 square feet of surplus land at the Capitol Hill light rail station site to Seattle Central Community College,” a Sound Transit statement on the hearing reads.

“Transactions are contingent on ongoing discussions and future approvals by the Sound Transit Board and Seattle Central Community College.” With the possibility of some portions of the “transit oriented development” around Capitol Hill Station reaching 85 feet, Seattle Central’s institutional zoning could open up the Site D property for a student tower reaching even greater heights of up to 105 feet.

Seattle Central has been eying the parcel and paid Sound Transit $500,000 for exclusive negotiating rights for the property and all properties “located adjacent to and surrounding the westerly light rail tunnel entrance,” according to a recently released feasibility analysis.

Public Hearing 

Disposal of Surplus Real Property to a Public Agency 
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 
12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. 
Union Station 
Ruth Fisher Boardroom 
401 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

The 12:30 PM portion of Thursday’s hearing will be dedicated solely to Site D. It will be followed by a 1:30 PM meeting of the Sound Transit board’s capital committee to vote on declaring sites A, B, C and D “surplus property” — a necessary step to unlock the development process we described in full here.

CHS recently reported that the school is also considering a plan to work with Capitol Hill Housing to pursue development of student housing on another Broadway parcel it already owns adjacent to the Neighbours dance club.

For more on the sites, see Capitol Hill Station development: 85′ high, 400+ units, $40 million

The school is currently working with Schreiber Starling and Lane, an architectural firm, in creating a new master plan for the school which will be required to go through with the acquisition. Many projects on the school’s most recent 2009 development plan have not yet been achieved. The feasibility analysis of Site D development raises several challenges the school will have to overcome if it hopes to get building, the biggest of which are time and money.

“ST has rules regarding timely performance as a qualification for development of the SS at the CHS. Timing is a deal breaker for ST,” the surprisingly frank analysis reads. “It takes several years for a community college to solicit and accumulate donations. The SCC Power and Promise district funding campaign started in 2006 called for $25 million, which took three years to gather the money.”

Another worry according to the feasibility analysis is community opposition to a 105-foot tower along Broadway.

“If SCCC asked for additional height over 40’ on the Lot zoned NC3P-40, this process could trigger community conflict, stall the development process even on site D, and extend the time needed to accomplish rezoning,” says the analysis. According to the analysis, the 2009 roster of projects were limited by concerns “citizen involvement might include recommendations that limit SCCC campus expansion on Broadway.”

Those unable to attend the hearing or board meeting can submit feedback in writing:

Sound Transit Board 
c/o Board Administrator
Sound Transit
401 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

Send email to all Board members