A Seattle City Council vote Monday afternoon authorized a project to expand the Washington State Convention Center to move forward.
The $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center Addition project is set to transform the Downtown Seattle area, and not just because of the 1.4-million-square-foot center itself. Timing of construction affects the closure of Convention Station, which will drive tunnel buses aboveground. And a robust public benefits package, negotiated by community groups, means more than $80 million in public benefits.
The council vote authorized use of land owned by the public through a street vacation. The project needed 7,665 square feet of alley space, and 47,985 square feet below ground.
Typically with projects like this, the public gets something in exchange. In this case, the developer started negotiations with a coalition calling itself the Community Package. During negotiations with City Council, the developer eventually agreed to a few more, including more money for affordable housing—now due in advance—and stricter standards for hiring contractors from disadvantaged zip codes and women and minority-owned businesses.
In addition to the $30 million for housing, the public benefits include $10 million for Freeway Park; $16 million for bike improvements, both on Pike and Pine and on Eighth Avenue; $4 million for a Terry Avenue promenade; $1.5 million for a study on lidding Interstate 5; and $500,000 for pedestrian improvements on Olive Way.
That’s in addition to other benefits originally proposed by the developer, including $10.6 million for pedestrian improvements in both the Pike/Pine corridor and on Olive Way, $1 million for lighting historic buildings, $2 million for public art, $8 million for “on-site features”—publicly accessible parts of the Convention Center—and $200,000 for Olive Way improvements.
The project passed design review in January.
Construction is expected to start later this year, with an opening date in 2021. When completed, the project will double the capacity of the existing convention center.