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Nat Levy
Real Estate Reporter

June 5, 2014

Real Estate Buzz: First look at finalists for #CapHillStation TOD

Real Estate Reporter

Opportunities like this don't come around often.

Four prime parcels around a future light rail station in one of the hottest neighborhoods in a thriving city. This is what people mean when they say location, location, location.

Eight short-listed developers are vying to develop these sites near Sound Transit's Capitol Hill light rail station. The developers came together for a forum on Monday and talked about their desire to create something the neighborhood will be proud of, with retail, affordable housing and community gathering spaces.

More than 250 people packed the Broadway Performance Hall to listen, and more joined the conversation on Twitter using #CapHillStation to talk about everything from what kind of retail makes sense to which panelist had the best biceps.

Sound Transit has put some requirements on the sites, including affordable housing and a public plaza. Neighborhood groups want retail diversity and a home for the Broadway Farmers Market.

Who wants to do what?

Some of the developers want to build on all four parcels surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station, while others want to do just one. Here’s a guide to which parcels they want to do.

• Bellwether Housing wants to develop Site B North, the only site where all units must be low-income.

• Capitol Hill Housing also wants to do B North.

• Capitol Hill Housing and Jonathan Rose Cos. have formed a team to develop all four sites, and are working with GGLO, Skanska USA and Blanton Turner.

• Portland-based Gerding Edlen wants to build on all four sites, with architects Schemata Workshop and BIG, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, PAE Consulting Engineers, Berger Partnership and Gibraltar.

• Charlotte-based Lennar Multifamily Communities wants to do sites B South and C, with Weber Thompson as the architect.

• Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises Investors wants to develop all of the sites except B North. Lowe is working with Ankrom Moisan Architects and Downtown Works.

• San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners wants to do all four sites. The architect would be Santa Ana, California-based MVEI, and the team includes local developer Maria Barrientos and a San Francisco-based affordable housing developer called Bridge Housing.

• Security Properties wants to do Site A near the north station entrance on Broadway that includes a public plaza. Security Properties is working with Mithun.

• The Wolff Co. from Scottsdale, Arizona, also wants to develop Site A. Wolff is working with The Miller Hull Partnership and Runberg Architecture Group.

Here are the short-listed firms: Gerding Edlen, Lowe Enterprises Investors, MacFarlane Partners, Security Properties, The Wolff Co., Bellwether Housing and Lennar Multifamily Communities. Capitol Hill Housing made the list individually and also as part of a team with Jonathan Rose Cos.

A minimum of 397 apartments could be built on the four sites, which are on or near Broadway, between East John Street and Seattle Central College. At least 36 percent of the units must be reserved for lower income people.

Construction won't begin until after the station is complete in 2016. Proposals are due in September, and Sound Transit said it wants to name the winners in October.

Each site has specific requirements. Some must be mixed-use, others must be below-market-rate housing and others must participate in the city's Multifamily Property Tax Exemption program.

Capitol Hill Champion, a neighborhood advocacy group that is made up of people from Capitol Hill Community Council and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, held the meeting along with Sound Transit.

Champion representatives said they want the public plaza Sound Transit is requiring to include space for Broadway Farmers Market. They also want a community center and retail diversity. Cathy Hillenbrand of Capitol Hill Champion said Broadway's retail scene has been “missing its two front teeth” during the station construction. Hillenbrand said all the new retail in the neighborhood is either restaurants, bars, banks or gyms, and residents would like more variety.

Sound Transit's rules prevented the developers from talking about their specific plans. So the developers focused on their experience and how they see the neighborhood, and they also asked the crowd questions about community engagement, design and parking. John Marasco of Security Properties described the event as a “speed date with the Capitol Hill community.”

Local developers talked about how their past projects improved the community. National developers mostly steered away from out-of-town efforts and focused on their work in Seattle. Several of the national firms have either added local firms to their teams or have key personnel living on Capitol Hill.

“We want to see that as (the project) moves forward, the DNA of Capitol Hill and the qualities that make it special to all of us are preserved,” said Peter Wolff of The Wolff Co., which wants to develop Site A and the public plaza.

The Wolff Co. has opened one Capitol Hill apartment project and is building another. Peter Wolff said having different developers for the parcels, or “layering diverse hands,” will make the neighborhood better.

Local developer Security Properties also wants to develop Site A. Security Properties' Marasco said his company “does not do cookie cutter.” He said his company uses design and art to make its projects unique and fit into neighborhoods.

Security Properties has projects in Fremont and Columbia City that are near local farmers markets.

Marasco said Site A, which runs along Broadway, “has the potential to be Capitol Hill's most important plaza,” he said. “Everyone will come here.”

Gerding Edlen's Jill Sherman said the results will be better if the sites are viewed “holistically.” That way, opportunities won't be missed like shared parking or amenities for all residents to use.

Sherman said the biggest challenge will be financing. Affordability is a high priority for Sound Transit, and whoever develops the parcels must be creative with financing.

David Dologite of Capitol Hill Housing also talked about financing and said his organization has experience with creative financing and partnerships. With Broadway Crossing, Capitol Hill Housing came to an agreement with Walgreens to change its plan for a one-story store at East Pine and Broadway into a five-story low-income housing project with Walgreens on the ground floor.

Capitol Hill Housing wants to develop low income housing on Site B North, and is also on a team with Jonathan Rose Cos.

Jonathan Rose's Kristin Ryan said these new developments will transform the neighborhood. She said Jonathan Rose made its name working on key projects like schools, parks and low-income housing projects that are the centerpiece of neighborhoods.

Jonathan Rose wants to develop all four parcels because it is “an opportunity to inspire all who work and live here,” Ryan said.

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate editor Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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