COVID-19 has wiped out Seattle’s hotel tax revenue putting $1.8B convention center expansion ‘at risk’

Lying across I-5 from Capitol Hill, the massive hole filing quickly with steel girders where the state’s downtown convention center expansion is rising might also need to suck up new financing and federal assistance.

Saying the project is now “at risk,” officials are scheduled to hold a Friday morning press conference about the COVID-19 crisis snuffing out key funding for the massive project and new efforts “fighting for critical federal support to find new financing to keep the $1.8 billion WSCC Addition project under construction.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in plummeting lodging tax revenues, which support the bond funding that pays for the project,” an announcement of the Friday conference reads. “A long-planned second round of bond financing is required but is lacking sufficient tax revenue to support it.” Continue reading

Seattle’s next top crisis: the cracking West Seattle Bridge

Seattle has another crisis on it hands. Even with costly repairs, the high bridge to West Seattle won’t reopen to traffic until 2022.

Three weeks after the 1984-built structure was closed to traffic when routine inspections revealed unexpected deterioration, the Seattle Department of Transportation has announced some likely terribly expensive bad news:

We do not yet know if repair of the bridge is feasible technically or financially. If repair is feasible, it’s likely this would only restore up to an additional decade of life to the bridge. In either case, we will need to replace the West Seattle High Rise-Bridge much sooner than promised when it opened in 1984. Further, should repair prove feasible, under a “best case” scenario we do not anticipate traffic returning to the bridge in 2020 or 2021.

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Seattle Fire knocks down blaze at treed encampment near convention center

Thanks to a CHS reader for this picture from above the fire scene

Seattle Fire and Seattle Police responded to a fire that reportedly broke out at an\ encampment and spread to nearby trees near the downtown convention center above I-5 Friday night.

911 callers reported flames shooting into the sky and multiple explosions at 9th and Pike. According to emergency radio updates, witnesses said a tent set up below the trees on the northeast corner of the intersection above I-5 caught fire, igniting at least one of the large trees.

Arriving police reported the sound of explosions coming from inside the burning encampment.

Seattle Fire arrived within minutes and reported the fire under control.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. We do not have information on the extent of damage to the camp or the trees.

Temperatures Friday night were in the low 40s and expected to dip into the upper 30s overnight.

A picture showing the full extent of the fire and more details from the scene was posted to Reddit:

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Eight years in, Seattle ready to study ‘engineering and financial feasibility’ of lidding I-5

It’s a Seattle Freeway Revolt of a different sort and now the city has the money to execute an engineering and financial feasibility study of the potential benefits “for covering more of the I-5 freeway trench in central Seattle.”

The $1.5 million in funding from the Washington State Convention Center expansion’s $83 million public benefits package is now available to the City of Seattle and an advisory council has been formed, the Lid I-5 community group announced last week:

The study funding enables OPCD to procure an expert consultant team with qualifications in civil and structural engineering, economic analysis, urban design, and environmental mitigation. The study is expected to last through 2019 and will inform the next steps in lid design, planning, permitting, and capital funding. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff will be engaged during the process. Recent and ongoing freeway lid projects – including in Bellevue, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Philadelphia – provide helpful case studies and a pool of experienced specialists that Seattle’s effort can draw from.

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50 years after ‘Freeway Revolt,’ I-5 lid between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle visions take shape

There’s a sort-of joke that floats around in land use circles that when deciding what to put on a piece of property: They’re not making any more land.

But if a Seattle group has its way, the city just might make more land — smack in the middle of it all — by putting a lid on I-5.

“A freeway lid is literally making land out of thin air,” said David Yeaworth, a consultant who worked with the group proposing the idea.

Lid I-5 Collaborative // Final Presentations

A citizen-led effort to put a lid over I-5, and develop ideas for what to do with the new real estate, is nearing a new phase with a presentation event next Wednesday night, October 3rd, on Capitol Hill. Teams will share their ideas shaped over months of community design gatherings for how a lidded I-5 might look, and what sorts of buildings and facilities could possibly go on it. Continue reading

Changes on Denny Way and Capitol Hill hoped to make the 8 less late

Delayed work — including new parking restrictions and expanded bus stops on Capitol Hill — to make the heavily-used but notoriously behind schedule Metro Route 8 line more dependable is expected to be wrapped up this week.

SDOT announced the construction update Monday on the most significant piece of the street puzzle — lane changes on Denny Way: Continue reading

City Council set to put a little muscle behind 2020 push for downtown bike plan

The City Council is set to put its support behind a plan for a Seattle Center City Bike Network and an 18-month implementation schedule to create “a connected, protected bicycle lane network in downtown Seattle by 2020.”

“With Wednesday’s committee meeting, we’re reaffirming our commitment to establishing a connected, protected bicycle lane network in downtown Seattle,” council member Mike O’Brien said Wednesday at a press conference before his committee meeting introducing the a resolution outlining the new push. Continue reading

Community group, SDOT in 2019 push to make Pike/Pine a safer route for bikes

(Image: CHS)

A missing east-west connection in Seattle’s bike infrastructure could open next year. Or it might not happen until 2021. Either way, bike lanes along the Pike/Pine corridor, connecting Broadway to 2nd Ave are coming.

Bike advocates are hoping that linking these two existing corridors will help increase bike usage overall. By linking the two north-south routes, it creates a network for bikers to ride safely around town.

“The real problem is we don’t have connected infrastructure,” said Brie Gyncild, who is working on the project with Central Seattle Greenways. “We expect to see more use of the Broadway bike lanes after the connection.” Continue reading

Street Critic | The Audacity of Volunteers — an I-5 lid update

Riisa Conklin and Alex Zeilier of the Freeway Park Association presenting design principles (Image: Scott Bonjukian)

Tuesday, June 5th saw the second gathering of the faithful for the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative (CHTC), a partnership between PPUNC (the Pike|Pine Urban Neighborhood Council) and Lid I-5. An all-volunteer effort, the goal of the CHTC is to provide visionary urban designs to inspire Seattleites to advocate for covering Interstate 5 with parks, housing, and neighborhood centers. While no public agency has committed to our vision, Lid I-5 was recently successful in securing a $1.5M grant for the City of Seattle to begin a year-long feasibility study. In addition, Lid I-5 continues to have promising discussions with civic leaders and WSDOT and we have been invited by the DOT to a work group that is studying I-5’s future in the Puget Sound Region. With the CHTC’s results in hand we are confident we can capture the public’s imagination and convince leaders to transform Seattle by re-imagining its largest publicly-owned asset.

Spirits were high and the results of the seven teams’ efforts were remarkable. Beginning with the Connections Team (infrastructure, mobility, and branding) and progressing through the South (recreation), Central (commerce), and North (housing) Teams, it was apparent that each team was excited in presenting their work and in the work of their fellow designers. Scott B, Sony P, and I were excited too, not only by the goodwill and cheer exuded by the teams but also by our recent success in the $1.5M grant. The work of the CHTC will help the city visualize and define the scope of work for their RFQ scheduled for later this year. Continue reading

‘Community Package’ including affordable housing, park cash gets support in Convention Center expansion hearing

Council member Mike O’Brien (right) views a model of the planned convention center expansion (Image: CHS)

Fine tuning some $83 million in public benefits — and how quickly the cash to pay for them will be delivered — was the theme of the night as neighborhood, transit, and public space advocates came to City Hall Wednesday.

“The sooner we can get more money for affordable housing the better,” said Seattle City Council sustainability and transportation committee chair Mike O’Brien.

Wednesday’s hearing featured mostly speakers in support of the Community Package Coalition formed to create a shared platform of community priorities for a roster of public benefits to be exchanged for the vacation of “Block 33, Block 43, Block 44, Olive Way & Terry Avenue.” The city land is planned to be part of the construction of the estimated $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition and development that will create a massive new exhibition facility across I-5 between Pike and Olive Way.

“Equity and equitable outcomes should be at the forefront of discussions around large real estate projects such as this one,” said McCaela Daffern from Capitol Hill Housing. “I ask that you make note of the significant contributions toward affordable housing secured thanks to advocacy of Capitol Hill housing and the rest of the coalition.” Continue reading