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 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:

Continue reading

With lidding I-5 far in the future, how should Seattle spend millions to improve Freeway Park’s connection between First Hill, Capitol Hill, and downtown?

Images from the design team presentation

Jim Ellis, the Washington civic leader and one of the Seattle citizens most responsible for the vision that created First Hill and lower Capitol Hill’s connection to downtown through Freeway Park and the convention center, died last week at the age of 98. A celebration of his life will take place, appropriately enough, at the skybridge connecting the park to the Washington State Convention Center in December.

With a $10 million boost from the $80 million community benefits package formed to cover the value of public right of way being dedicated to the convention center’s expansion, Seattle Parks is setting about a process to “to repair, restore and possibly enhance” the Jim Ellis Freeway Park.

The process began earlier this week at a Freeway Park Improvements Open House and Panel Discussion. Five experts on Lawrence Halprin, the landscape architect behind the design of Seattle’s Freeway Park, the first park in the United States that incorporated a lid over an interstate highway, were gathered at Town Hall to speak about why the park is important to the citizens of Seattle and what can be done to improve it.

The scope of the capital project could include infrastructure upgrades, lighting, wayfinding, and possibly a new restroom. The project team is led by landscape architecture and planning firm Walker Macy for Seattle Parks and Recreation in partnership with the Freeway Park Association.

When it first opened on July 4th, 1976, the park was a busy, open-lighted space. It served as a connector between downtown Seattle and the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and First Hill. And according to many of the panelists it made art out of the freeway. Continue reading

Seattle looks at insurance on Downtown Transit Tunnel traffic in Convention Center expansion deal

The future of Boren at Olive

The $83 million “community package” of public benefits including cash for affordable housing, bike infrastructure improvements, and Freeway Park enhancement will go in front of the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon for final approval in a move that should clear the way for the vacation of city right of way needed to construct the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion in downtown Seattle at the foot of Capitol Hill.

There is, however, one small point to consider on the vote necessary to allow the project to begin construction of the expansion later this year with a goal of opening the new 1.2 million-square-foot structure in 2020. The City Council will consider an insurance plan of sorts on the the traffic impact from moving buses out of the downtown transit tunnel. “If the WSCC sends a request to King County to close the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) to buses in March 2019, the WSCC shall provide $50,000 to SDOT when the closure request is sent to King County,” the proposed substitute version of the bill up for vote Monday reads. “SDOT shall use the funds to analyze the impacts of closing the DSTT on transit service on 2rd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues between Jackson and Stewart Streets.” Continue reading

With hope for 2018 construction start, time to finalize design tweaks on $1.6B convention center expansion

After three years of design review, the final touches on plans for the $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center are down to the nitty gritty. The refined massing, the updated glazing pattern, the landmark lighting plan — each will be broken down as the project takes what could be its final bow in front of the review board Tuesday night at City Hall. Continue reading

Community groups pushing for public benefits package have $80M agreement with Convention Center — UPDATE

With reporting by Kelsey Hamlin

The Community Package Coalition has reached an agreement on an $80 million slate of public infrastructure investments surrounding the planned expansion of the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

Details of the agreement were set to be unveiled in a Monday afternoon press conference:

On Monday, October 16th at 1:30 PM, the Community Package Coalition, an alliance of community organizations adjacent to the planned the three-block, $1.6B Washington State Convention Center Addition (WSCCA), will announce results of their months-long negotiations with the developers of the WSCCA to secure a fair public benefits package for the people of Seattle.

The coalition represents community groups and nonprofits including the First Hill Improvement Association, Lid I-5, Capitol Hill Housing, Cascade Bicycle Club, Central Seattle Greenways, Housing Development Consortium, Freeway Park Association, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

UPDATE: Here is the announced roster of projects that made the benefits package cut:

Summary of WSCC Addition Public Benefits and Investments
Item $ MM
Community Package Projects
Freeway Park Improvements $10.0
Lid I-5 Study $1.5
Pike-Pine Bicycle Improvements $10.0
Olive Way Pedestrian Improvements $0.5
8th Ave Bicycle Improvements $6.0
Terry Ave Promenade $4.0
Affordable Housing $29.0
Subtotal $61.0
Other Public Benefits (current estimate)
Pike-Pine Renaissance Pedestrian Improvements $10.0
9th Avenue Pedestrian Improvements $0.6
Public Art $1.9
Historic Building Lighting $1.0
On-Site Features $8.1
Improvements to Olive Way $0.2
Subtotal                                                                              $82.8

The coalition has been pushing Convention Center and public officials to create a broader — and more expensive — package of public benefits package required to justify the vacation of three alleys for the $1.6 billion downtown project. Continue reading

Community Package Coalition gains ground in push for I-5 lid study, Convention Center public benefits

A coalition of neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations CHS first told you about in February as the new team pushed for a stronger public benefits package in the planned $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition project is growing. The Capitol Hill Community Council is the latest organization to throw its weight behind the Community Package Coalition.

The alliance including the First Hill Improvement Association and the Lid I-5 group is calling for a $79 million benefits package in return for the WSCC’s plans to take over three alleys, and land under Olive Way and Terry Ave for its expansion and development project:

CHS Pics | Gandalf in the alley, General Organa on Pine, Comic Con in Seattle

IanFromVancouverAsGandalfTheGrey

Ian from Vancouver as Gandalf the Grey (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Maybe someday soon, Emerald City Comicon can be even bigger. But we like it best when the cosplay spills out of the halls of the Washington State Convention Center and onto the streets below Capitol Hill. Here are some of the characters we found Friday en route to and from the convention.IMG_9824 Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | Where will the new Convention Center workers live?

"The Addition will add approximately 250,000 square feet of exhibition space, 125,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 60,000 square feet of ballroom space to the current Convention Center capacity," according to the WSCC

“The Addition will add approximately 250,000 square feet of exhibition space, 125,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 60,000 square feet of ballroom space to the current Convention Center capacity,” according to the WSCC

By Joel Sisolak and McCaela Daffern

The most expensive public works project in Seattle’s history is quietly heading toward City Council approval. Let’s hit pause and consider how the project will impact adjacent neighborhoods and how the developer should internalize costs that will otherwise fall on Seattle taxpayers, including the cost of housing the development’s own workforce.

In case you’ve missed it, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) is slotted for a makeover to the tune of $1.6 billion dollars – an eye watering price tag bigger than Safeco and CenturyLink combined. It will reshape a large part of Seattle’s city center, result in four years or ongoing construction, disrupt downtown traffic, and permanently remove 1.28 acres of streets and alleyways to use by the public.

And the benefits are less than certain. WSCC claims that the addition will provide “a host of economic benefits, including as much as $240 million annually in visitor spending, as many as 3,900 direct and indirect jobs.” Continue reading

Leave Paul Allen out of it: Ask for an I-5 lid study

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Nobody needs Paul Allen to pay for building a new lid over I-5 — not yet, at least. Nope. All we need at this point is a public benefit investment of less than 1/10th of a percent of the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion to fund a $1 million study of lidding I-5 thus renewing the severed historical bonds between Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Eastlake, and downtown Seattle and ushering in an era of peace and prosperity in the central city.

CHS wrote here about the quest for the lid plan to be included in the project’s public benefits package. Wednesday night, you can attend a WSCC expansion open house just down the Hill and/or let the Seattle Design Commission know your thoughts via email at SDC_Administration@seattle.gov.

WSCC Public Benefits Open House