Sound Transit Reveals Development Plan for Capitol Hill Station

By Erica C. Barnett September 14, 2012

Earlier this week, Sound Transit gave reporters a sneak peek at its plans for transit-oriented development (i.e., dense, mixed-use buildings) at the new, under-construction Capitol Hill light rail station. The short version: 441 new residential units; 85-foot buildings (an increase from the current 40-to-65-foot zoning); about 160 new units of affordable housing; a ton of new bike parking; big sidewalks; and a large new plaza that will house the Broadway Farmer's Market.

The long version:

• The development around the station, which will take place on five sites totaling around 100,000 square feet, will include about 441 units of residential housing. Of those, about 36 percent, or around 160 units (the total number depends on the size of the units) will be "affordable," although that definition varies. For the site in the southwest corner of the development area (site "B" in the rendering above), all of up to 86 units would be "affordable," with affordable defined as 50 percent of Seattle area median income---$30,800 for one person, or $44,000 for a family of four.

In all of the other residential buildings, a fifth of the units would be reserved for people making up to 80 percent of the area median income and would be funded out of the city's multi-family tax exemption program, which guarantees  that those apartments will be affordable for at least 12 years. (In contrast, the apartments that are affordable to people making 50 percent of median would be guaranteed affordable for 50 years.)

Asked why Sound Transit decided to go with the city's much shorter-term MFTE program, rather than trying to get a longer-term guarantee of affordability, Seattle Department of Planning and Development senior planner Vanessa Murdock said, "It was a less risky option than just outright requiring a certain level of affordability without a specific program attached. ... Unfortunately, the MFTE program is not a long-term commitment to affordability, [but] it's the kind of package that happens all the time."

• The buildings will be as much sa 85 feet high---45 to 20 feet taller than the underlying zoning. Asked why Sound Transit didn't push for even taller buildings, like the ones that will be built in the University District, Sound Transit's transit oriented development program manager Scott Kirkpatrick said, "I think 'possible' is the key word---the development on Broadway  has been 65 to 70 feet, which seems to be working. ... As a matter of policy, Sound Transit has never asked a community to increase its zoning. ... Existing TOD policy says that we are to work with local jurisdictions and help them realize their values."
• Sound Transit's plan includes a number of community amenities, including a new community center and a public plaza that will house the Broadway Farmer's Market as many as three days a week. (Currently, the farmer's market is only open Sundays and is located at the plaza at Seattle Central Community College to the north of the station.) Asked whether Sound Transit would take an active role in programming the plaza when the farmer's market wasn't around (a larger plaza proposed for the agency's University District station was controversial, with opponents concerned that it would be a vacant wasteland when it wasn't the site of events), Kirkpatrick said he believed the surrounding community had expressed an interest in making sure the plaza was busy.

• Finally, the proposal includes 266 new bike-parking stalls.

The next public meeting on the Capitol Hill station plan is Monday, September 24 from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm at Lowell Elementary School, 1058 E. Mercer St.; read more about the proposal here.
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