Cathy Hillenbrand, who just completed two years as chair of the CHH board of directors, applauds the work by the community to help shape the project.
Cathy Hillenbrand, who just completed two years as chair of the CHH board of directors, applauds the work by the community to help shape the project.
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Developers, government officials and community advocates said goodbye to the large asphalt lot above the Capitol Hill light rail station on Tuesday, and celebrated the start of Sound Transit’s largest transit-oriented development to date.

The project includes four seven-story mixed-use apartment buildings, three of which are being constructed by Portland-based Gerding Edlen Development — 20 percent of those units will be at affordable levels.

Capitol Hill Housing will develop the fourth building — Station House — with all 110 units at affordability rates of 30-60 percent of area median income.

CHH vice president of advancement Michael Seiwerath said the public corporation is concerned with creating housing where people can thrive.

Station House will offer a number of two- and three-bedroom units, which are housing options hard to find in Capitol Hill, Seiwerath said, let alone at affordable rates.

Sound Transit issued a request for proposals for transit-oriented development around the under-construction Capitol Hill Station in June 2014. Gerding Edlen Development (GED) was the highest scored proposal out of four, and negotiations were initiated in April 2015. CHH was brought in to develop Site B-North to be completely affordable.

“I can’t believe we’re here,” said Cathy Hillenbrand, who just completed two years as chair of the CHH board of directors. “I would love to drive the first bulldozer.”

U-Link, which brought light rail from Westlake Center up to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, opened in March 2016. Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff noted that was two years and three months ago — with people walking by a fenced asphalt lot the whole time.

“This has been a longtime coming,” said Rogoff, ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony, “and, as you can see, it will be worth the wait.”

Gerding Edlen partner Jill Sherman said GED expected to enter its ground lease with Sound Transit on Wednesday, June 20, and begin construction immediately after. The first thing to happen will be shoring for the project’s below-grade parking garages.

“I think the design is pretty much what everyone saw at the design review hearings,” Sherman told CHT.

After years of speculation about the anchor tenant that would fill the ground floor of Site A at Broadway and John Street, the Capitol Hill Seattle blog reported in March that H-Mart was in talks with GED for the space.

Sherman said no leases have been signed for any of the retail spaces for the TOD project, nor has a daycare operator been tapped for Site C, at Broadway and East Denny Way.

All three GED buildings are expected to be completed in April 2020.

Rogoff told CHT work on Capitol Hill transit-oriented development helped shape the TOD policy the Sound Transit board approved in April, and the expectation now is that light rail and housing come online at the same time.

“Going forward, we only want to rip up the community once,” Rogoff said, that promise to be tested with the 245 housing units planned at the Roosevelt Station for the Northgate Link Extension.

Sound Transit approved a land swap last November that will allow Seattle Central College to develop a new academic building on campus on Site D. In return, Sound Transit was granted Seattle Central’s Atlas Properties at 1515-1519 Broadway, which CHH will use to develop another 78 affordable housing units.

CHH is also developing housing units on Seattle Central’s South Annex property at Broadway and Pine for a homeless youth opportunity center through a partnership with YouthCare.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said during the June 19 groundbreaking ceremony that Seattle can’t build housing fast enough to keep up with the affordability and homelessness crisis, and the Capitol Hill TOD project is a “small down payment,” but an important step forward.

Durkan said it was great to be kicking off the project during Pride Week in Capitol Hill, and thanked former councilmember Tom Rasmussen for his work on creating a Seattle AIDS memorial, which will be part of the transit-oriented development.

Rasmussen had the idea for a memorial that would tell the history of the community’s response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and ‘90s. The AIDS Memorial Pathway (AMP) will also be a call to action to fight to finally end HIV/AIDS.

Rasmussen said 3,000 people died in Seattle during the AIDS crisis, and 8,000 people live with AIDS or HIV in King County today, but there are no memorials like there are in other cities that suffered such large losses.

The center of the LGBT community for decades, Rasmussen said Capitol Hill was the obvious place for the AIDS Memorial Pathway, as well as the adjacent Cal Anderson Park, renamed in 2003 for Washington’s first openly gay legislator, who died from AIDS in 1995.

“This is the place for our memorial,” Rasmussen said, “and the best place.”

AMP vice chair Michele Hasson told CHT the committee has narrowed 40 artist submissions down to three finalists, and a final decision should be made by the June 21.

“All three are very creative, understand the mission, understand what the job is, and that’s what you want,” she said.

AMP expects to work in unison with developers and architects to make sure the memorial fits well. Fundraising continues for the memorial project, which has a budget goal of $2.5 million.

People can find more information and make donations at theamp.org.