The Urbanist Board of Directors has submitted a letter to the Seattle Department of Transportation endorsing several neighborhood organizations’ public benefit requests for the Convention Center Addition. The project would redevelop the entire site at Convention Place Station in Downtown Seattle as well as two isolated blocks to the north side of the site. Importantly, the Addition project is proposing five street and alley vacations in order to construct an 11-story convention center (1.4 million square feet) and two highrise towers.

Under City Council Resolution 30702, petitioners for street vacations must in return propose a public benefit package equal to the value of the vacations. The Convention Center’s development proposal also contains a request to develop the site under the Planned Community Development process, which allows the project to be built in phases. Both processes must include improvements that benefit the public realm and can include pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, public spaces, landscaping, lighting, City parks, and low-income housing along with in-lieu fees.

Therefore, we believe that it’s vitally important for the City of Seattle to require the Convention Center Addition to provide enhanced public benefits. The following is how we think that the proposal should offer them:

The Urbanist is excited to support the Addition to the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). The project will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life in Downtown and spur economic development citywide. However, the scale of the project ($1.4 billion) and its unprecedented petition for five street vacations (Clerk File 314338) merits a strong public benefit package that supports a variety of community interests. Seattle City Council Resolution 30702 provides for the use off-site public benefits and in-lieu mitigations that should be used to full effect.

We hereby endorse the public benefit requests of the following organizations:

Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council: Funding the extension of Plymouth Pillars Park at the eastern corner of the Boren Avenue and Pine Street intersection, funding a comprehensive consultant study of lidding Interstate 5 between Pike Street and Olive Way, and ensuring the WSCC Addition is designed to be a civic landmark in keeping with its program, location, and cost.

Capitol Hill Housing: Funding low-income housing near the WSCC Addition site and studying the lidding of Interstate 5 to provide space for parks, jobs, and housing.

First Hill Improvement Association: Funding the Terry Avenue green street/woonerf, an open space and pedestrian project identified in the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan.

Capitol Hill Community Council, Central Seattle Greenways, and Melrose Promenade: Funding physical safety improvements to Olive Way, including rechannelization of the Interstate 5 ramps and the intersections with Melrose Avenue and Bellevue Avenue.

Freeway Park Association: Funding safety and accessibility upgrades to park entrances, new wayfinding infrastructure, and improved pedestrian-scale lighting.

This collection of projects will greatly transform the Center City for the better and improve local quality of life for a diverse array of people. We look forward to seeing these items as part of the public benefit package. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.

The Urbanist Board of Directors
Owen Pickford
Stephen Fesler
Ben Crowther
Sarah Oberklaid
Scott Bonjukian

Our full letter and the referenced public benefit requests can be viewed below:

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The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting and disseminating ideas, creating community, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live.