Central Co-op Announces Interest in Upcoming Capitol Hill Station development

A preliminary rendering of the future Broadway development flanking the new Sound Transit stop.

A preliminary rendering of the future Broadway development flanking the new Sound Transit stop.

During its annual owner meeting Sunday evening, Central Co-op announced that is pursuing the anchor tenant space in the Capitol Hill Station’s four-site, mixed-use project that will surround the recently opened transit station. Dan Arnett, the cooperative’s president and CEO believes that Central Co-op is “not only the best option for the site but [that] there’s a cultural link.”

Central Co-op’s upcoming formal proposal for the site pits the co-op against New Seasons, a Portland-based grocer that announced its interest in the location earlier this year. While both stores emphasize regional and organic food, Central Co-op’s workforce is unionized while New Season’s is not.

New Seasons’ interest in the Capitol Hill Site sparked dissent from labor advocacy groups earlier this year. Several groups sent a letter to the Sound Transit board, opposing New Seasons as the anchor tenant for the development. The groups argued that “access to jobs for low-income communities and opportunities for locally serving businesses” should be high priorities for the development project. Sound transit, however, does not involve itself in tenant selection which is being left to Gerding Edlen, the developer of the project.  Gerding Edlen, the developer of the property, confirmed that, in addition to New Seasons, “we have received interest from other potential anchor tenants. We have not determined our anchor tenant yet.”

A potential grocery store is far from the only tenant going into retail spaces. Along with more traditional shops, Gerding Edlen envisions a large “bazar” called “The Market House”, which will include a mix of retailers housed in booths of varying sizes to accommodate start-ups as well as more established retailers.

City Recommends Community Meetings to Discuss Further Pike/Pine Street Closures

East Pike

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) released its comprehensive report this week detailing last August’s experimental closure of East Pike Street to car traffic. Ultimately remaining reticent, the city is recommending more community discussions before moving forward with the project.
While SDOT is far from abandoning the project, which attempted to address issues of pedestrian congestion, aggressive crowd behavior, and LGBTQ visibility and inclusivity in the nightlife core of Capitol Hill, the city is approaching the concept of pedestrian-only streets very carefully. Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director Sierra Hansen approves of the city’s decision to adding, “That’s exactly what we had been calling for…[to] get all the diverse perspectives at the same table. We want to foster a conversation between critics and supports.”
A further conversation between supporters and critics is likely a good idea, as the project is controversial. SDOT’s survey of the neighborhood’s residents and businesses found 66 percent were in favor of continuing pedestrian-only weekend nights on East Pike street, with 57 percent in favor of expanding the pedestrian-only zones to other times. However within those numbers, there is a split between how residents view the project and how local business owners view the project. 70 percent of residents surveyed approved the project while only 48 percent of businesses did. Additionally, just 44 percent of businesses wanted to expand it, while 66 percent of residents did. Comments regarding the street closure SDOT collected via a survey reflect this divide. One support for the project stated, “I felt safer and more connected to the community.” While a critic argued, “The space created felt like a big dark void. The police presence made it feel like a pen. And the side streets were abused as Parking lots by limo vans, etc.”
According to the report, SDOT will soon announce the date and time of an upcoming stakeholder community meetings on the street closure project. While the project remains controversial, the issues on Capitol Hill that inspired its implementation still need to be addressed. EcoDistrict director Alex Brennan argues that the “Issues [on Pike/Pine] with sexual harassment, gay-bashing, a lack of visibility for the queer community and the arts community, those issues aren’t going away.”

Legal Battle Over Convention Center Expansion Continues

 

A rendering of the proposed convention center expansion.

A rendering of the proposed convention center expansion.

The massive expansion being undertaken at Washington State Convention Center remains in limbo as a heated legal battle between the convention center and Skanska-Hunt continues. The conflict between the two parties originated in March, when Skanska-Hunt, the construction company the Washington State Convention Center Public Facilities District hired in 2015 for the $1.4 billion expansion, was dropped from the expansion project. In response, Skanska-Hunt filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, which aims to stop convention center officials from beginning another contractor selection process.

On Wednesday King County Judge Beth Andrus denied Skanska-Hunt’s appeal to be reinstated as the contractor. The larger issue of whether the convention center authority wrongly terminated Skanska-Hunt, will be decided in a trial to take place within the next four months. During the trial, Judge Andrus has granted Skanska-Hunt’s request to stop the convention center officials from finding a new contractor.

The grounds of Skanska-Hunt’s termination are at the center of this case.  The construction company called the dismissal “shocking and tremendously disappointing.” Arguing further that:

“We have operated in a professional manner consistent with our corporate values and in the best interest of the Washington State Taxpayers who will ultimately fund this $1.4B project, the statement said. The services, which we have provided WSCC, are consistent with the manner in which we have delivered similar projects for the cities of San Francisco, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Jose, Seattle and others over the past decade.”

Pine Street Group, which is serving as the expansion’s project manager, believes that Skanska-Hint is perhaps “not the right fit for the project.”

Despite the common process for publically funded projects to select contractors based on price, the convention center chose Skanska-Hunt for a variety reasons.  According to Judge Andrus’ ruling, the convention center dropped Skanska-Hunt in order to peruse a cheaper option.

The Washington State Convention Center expansion is expected will increase the center’s exhibition and meeting space to 1.2 million square-feet.  A 30-story residential tower, a 16-story office building, and new retail and public spaces are also part of the project. Despite the legal issues currently playing out, the project is still slotted to break ground in 2017.

Local Artist Adds Whimsy To The Neighborhood With New Park


12th Ave 2  You may have noticed a new addition to the corner of 12th Avenue and East James Court in the last few months.

What was once a vacant lot, filled with patchy grass and not much else, has been transformed into a beautiful work of art, thanks to Local artist Ellen Sollod.

Sollod is noted for her imaginative and whimsical artistic contributions all over the city, including a sculpture entitled “Origami Tessellation” prominently located on Mercer Street, and “Lost in Thought”, consisting of three seven-foot diameter mosaic insets placed in the sidewalk at Valley Street and Westlake Avenue, and at Valley Street and Fairview Avenue in South Lake Union.

Her latest contribution to the city’s aesthetic is this thought provoking 7,332-square-foot hardscape park, right here in Capitol Hill. The park, which the artist calls more of a “plaza” than a park in many ways, took about eight months to construct and is a bit more personal to the artist, as it’s located close to her home. “I’ve never lived quite as close to something I’ve done, I feel like I’m more of a guardian than I ever have before.”, she is quoted as saying.

12th ave 3Though it’s been open to the public for months now, a grand opening is set for Thursday, April 14, to coincide with the Capitol Hill Art Walk, and will feature live music by the Garfield High School jazz band trio and folk singer Noami Wachira. In addition to live entertainment, the grand opening will also include food and beverages provided by local favorites Starbucks, Ba Bar and Cherry Street Coffee, and will surely prove to be a lovely community gathering and celebration.

 

 

For more information about 12th Avenue Square Park, visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/ProParks/projects/12thAve.htm. To learn more about Sollod and her work, go to www.sollodstudio.com.