The “quiet side” of Capitol Hill will undergo big changes in the near future. Come out tonight to see design concepts aimed at putting people and public life first.

With their history of activism and community engagement, it’s not a surprise that nonprofit architectural firm Environmental Works has taken a proactive stance in response to the proposed development coming to their longtime home neighborhood in Capitol Hill. After all, the firm was founded on the Earth Day in 1970, and their first act as an organization was to take up residence in Fire Station 7 on 15th Avenue E in order to save the building from being razed.

Environmental Works founders in front of their Fire Station 7 headquarters. Photo credit: Environmental Works

In partnership with fellow architects, 15th Avenue residents, and Board & Vellum, Environmental Works has sponsored a community design initiative aimed at engaging local residents in a conversation about the community’s hopes and dreams for 15th ahead of the changes slated for the neighborhood. Kaiser Permanente is moving forward with a redesign of their Capitol Hill campus and developer Hunters Capital is planning to replace the QFC block with a new mixed use development. Substantial changes are coming to 15th Avenue E.

The first part of the design workshop resulted in a community “visioning” and interactive design session back in April of 2018, which used the “Pomegranate Process,” for collaboration and public participation. Feedback from the event was compiled into a community workshop summary and provided to graduate students in Architecture and Landscape Architecture at University of Washington.

These graduate students have been completing an in-depth study of both the built and social environment of 15th Avenue E with the goal of creating designs for a new commercial center that will enhance public life. Tonight’s open house will feature the students’ work midday through the design process and create opportunity for community members to share feedback on their work.

With its history as a commercial street dating back almost 100 years, 15th Avenue E has undergone big changes before, although it has retained more of its historic buildings than many other commercial thoroughfares in Seattle. But a review of the photographs on the website Seattle Before and After shows how car-centric design came to dominate parts of the street, in particular the QFC block. Neighborhood activists and stakeholders hope that the new development can foster a vibrant and active streetscape that preserves and strengthens 15th Avenue’s small business community.

Photo credit: Seattle Before and After

Common themes that emerged from the first community design session included preservation of history, building a unique neighborhood character, providing a safe environment for all, and supporting local retail. These themes will be brought to life in the graduate students’ open house designs, along with other community requests such as the addition of bike lanes, a P-patch, and other public amenities.

Community members who are interested in learning about future events focused on 15th Avenue, should subscribe for 15th Avenue Community Design Workshop email updates.

Tonight’s Event: 15th Ave. East Community Design Workshop Open House, 6:00 PM, Board & Vellum Annex, 125, 15th Ave. East, 98122