An apartment building may be the future of one of the empty lots around Beacon Hill Station. An early design guidance meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 25 to discuss a preliminary proposal to build a four-story commercial/residential structure at 2721 17th Ave. S., the southeast corner of the station block. Several lots on that block have been vacant and surrounded by chain-link fence since shortly after the opening of Beacon Hill Station in the summer of 2009. The lots were previously used for staging during the light rail station construction project.
Pacific Housing Northwest is proposing to build an apartment building with 30 housing units as well as 800 square feet of ground-floor retail. There would be underground parking. The Department of Planning and Development pages about the site and the associate permits are here and here. The site is currently owned by Alphonso Tucci-Grastello.
The early design guidance meeting will be held at the Wellspring Family Services community room, 1900 Rainier Avenue South, at 6:30 p.m. on October 25.
View Larger Map. This is the location of the proposed apartment building at the Beacon Hill Station block.
On Monday, April 11 the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 117114. This bill moves the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan Update “action plan and goals” into the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. (There’s other stuff in there, but this is only a summary of changes relating to Beacon Hill. Read it; it’s interesting. Really.)
Maintain the remainder of parcels and storefronts north and south of the immediate station area along Beacon Ave. S. for new and small businesses.
Rezone key opportunity sites to encourage redevelopment of parcels around the light rail station in a manner that incorporates housing, commercial services (such as a grocery store and small businesses) and amenities.
Evaluate a height increase within the Town Center for some but not all properties that have a current height limit of 40 feet, allowing up to 65 feet with required street and upper level setbacks.
Where land use changes are considered, give particular attention to zone transitions.
Change the land use and zoning to support the envisioned mixed use development on the El Centro site.
Develop neighborhood design guidelines and an urban design framework plan for the North Beacon Hill station area. Framework elements could include building height options, incentive features such as affordable housing, open space, and pedestrian connections.
The North Beacon Hill Council Board is submitting a letter of support for eight groups submitting applications to build new parks or improve existing parks in Beacon Hill. The 40+ people attending last night’s NBHC meeting unanimously supported this motion. Presenters were succinct and provided an impressive amount of information about their respective projects.
The Opportunity Fund is community-driven. A key aspect of the application is how much community support a project has. If you would like to share comments, concerns, or enthusiastic support about a proposal, contact Seattle Parks and let them know what you think. Use the comments page or contact Kellee Jones at 206-684-7052 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Susanne Friedman at 206-684-0902 or email@example.com.
Briefly, the eight proposals are:
Volunteers and community members seeking funding to continue efforts to improve Lewis Park, such as clearing invasive species, planting natives, and restoring the natural areas in the park’s ravines
Beacon Hill Youth Soccer Association efforts to improve the youth soccer field adjacent to Beacon International School so that it can be used year-round, by replacing grass with artificial turf
El Centro de La Raza seeking to improve their playground and increase access to the public by upgrading play structure; adding landscaping, outdoor meeting space, green features, and cultural aspects; adding ADA accessibility; and improving the basketball court
What if you could start from scratch and locate the Beacon Hill Central Park, the neighborhood’s focal point, anywhere on Beacon Hill—without disrupting existing businesses, without relocating current residents, without demolishing any of the many buildings of character on Beacon Hill? Ideally it would be located on Beacon Avenue, in the heart of the Urban Village, close to the transit station… and that is exactly what we are proposing.
The Parks and Green Space Levy Oversight Committee announced that there are funds available for the acquisition and development of park space. The intent of this project is to acquire the land surrounding the light rail station (see a map of the area here) to create an urban park in the heart of the North Beacon Hill Urban Village.
Our neighborhood has seen great changes in the past few years with the addition of a new library and the recent opening of the Beacon Hill light rail station. As both the adopted North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan (NBHNP) and the 2009 Draft Plan point out, the central area of our neighborhood is still missing public spaces that provide opportunities to play for young (play structure) and old (chess table), talk to friends and neighbors (benches, picnic tables), and for community gatherings (plaza). The adopted NBHNP points out that with the existing population North Beacon Hill does not even meet the minimum city standards for the ratio of open space to residents.
A park-like setting in the core will also help alleviate the lack of tree cover and vegetation. It would give residents and visitors a great opportunity to connect with nature, the environment, and the larger landscape of the Pacific Northwest, and for all to share the spectacular Beacon Hill views.
With community backing, this acquisition would most likely score highly due to the central location in our community, the consistency with the adopted plan, the coupling with the transit station, and the vacancy of the desired land. All these factors combine to make this an unique and creative opportunity.
Please comment on this blog about what you think and what you would like to see in the Beacon Hill Park. This proposal will be submitted to the North Beacon Hill Community Council for endorsement at the meeting on Thursday April 1, 2010. Please come out to express your support!!
Andrea Leuschke is a landscape architect who has worked on the Beacon Ridge Improvement Community (BRIC) stairway project. Tim Abell is a resident of Beacon Hill and an architect who designs and develops work force housing in Seattle.
(All images courtesy of Andrea and Tim. Click on each thumbnail image to see a larger version.)
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. — Eleanor Roosevelt
All of this recent rezoning talk has gotten me thinking about North Beacon Hill’s business district. I’ve lived in many different areas of Seattle and although I love Beacon Hill, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that does not work with our business areas. I love our coffee shops, funky grocery stores, and ethnic restaurants and I do my part to make sure that I spend money locally, but why do I so often find myself leaving the hill for other services? Some of the answer is obvious: when I want to go see a movie I head over to Columbia City Cinema or the Admiral Theater, since this is a service that I just can’t get in our neighborhood. But I also find myself going to Georgetown just to eat dinner or grab a beer after work. If you have been paying any attention you will have noticed that Georgetown has been booming for the last ten years, with many new restaurants and shops and just funky things going on. What do they have that we don’t?
First I decided I should look at available data to see if I could find some truths. According to Zillow.com, Beacon Hill has 4104 residences, our median income is $45,965 (above Seattle’s median income), our highest percentage age group is people in their 30s, and our average household size is 3.107 people. Add to this mix an awesome underground light rail station, stunning views, a large brand-new park coming soon, convenient freeway access, and a location that is a stone’s throw from downtown, and Beacon Hill has been dealt a winning hand.
Now let’s take a minute to look at Georgetown. If you can dodge that freight train and try to concentrate over that low flying plane noise for a minute, let’s try to take a look at their numbers. Depending on where you draw the line, Georgetown has a mere 379 residences, their median income is $33,654 (almost the lowest in Seattle), their highest percentage age group is people in their 20s, and their average household size is 1.94. Add to this mix a few Superfund sites, eclectic zoning, and some disjointed industrial areas, and it’s a wonder that Georgetown survives at all. Despite all of this, Georgetown is not only surviving, but thriving. Their vibrant business district has added new bars and restaurants almost yearly, and their events such as Artopia attract people from all over the region. Music stores, bakeries, multiple coffee shops, pet supplies, a beer store and antique stores have all opened in the last few years.
The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) recently released a study focused on retail in Rainier Valley. Although the study didn’t focus on Beacon Hill, one of the study’s main finds was “leakage,” which is roughly defined as people leaving their own neighborhoods to buy products and services in other areas. Just as Beacon Hill clearly suffers from leakage as many people leave the area for basic services, neighborhoods such as Georgetown clearly capitalize on this, since there is no way that the 379 people that live there could possibly support their range of businesses.
It’s hard not to conclude from this data that zoning alone will not fix our business district. Neighborhoods like Georgetown and Columbia City have certain less-measurable qualities about them that have helped them thrive. Chief among them has to be neighborhood pride, creativity, activism, long-term vision, building owners willing to take chances, investors with vision and tough as nails entrepreneurs that are brave enough to swim against our economic current. None of these are qualities that we can zone for; they are qualities that we must earn with a lot of difficult risk, vision, community participation, cooperation and tenacity.
Are you tired of looking at gravel lots surrounded by wire fencing next to the Beacon Hill Light Rail station? Do you dream of potential businesses that would be perfect for our community? The comments on Joel’s post “Beacon Hill’s Post Alley” indicate community support for development around the light rail station. For any development to occur, the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan Update must be approved.
That plan is being challenged. A community member has filed a petition with the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner (see the earlier news post in the BHB) calling the update process into question and requesting that the DNS (Determination of Nonsignificance) be vacated. Concerns listed in the petition include construction noise, increased traffic, lack of specific guarantees regarding service improvements, and overall disregard for community opinion and the existing neighborhood plan.
Simply put, it’s a request for DPD to be required to throw away over a year’s worth of community input and other work on this project—essentially starting the entire process over.
“Increased density is a worthy goal… We need housing, employment, and services for our future neighbors.”
Neighborhood, City and transit groups have worked hard to update the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan in a way that respects the core values of our community and includes the reality of introducing mass transit into the neighborhood. Two critical considerations for an urban neighborhood served by mass transit include increased residential density accompanied by increased employment, service, and other business development.
Increased density is a worthy goal for our neighborhood: people should live and work near transit. We need housing, employment, and services for our future neighbors. This doesn’t have to/shouldn’t mean increased vehicle traffic—the entire point is that new residents will be using light rail.
If the North Beacon Hill Urban Village is ever to develop, we must move forward as a community. Change can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to improve.
Get involved. Learn more about this issue and take action to make Beacon Hill the place you want it to be. Please attend the North Beacon Hill Council meeting on Thursday, February 4 at 7:00 pm. Meetings are held at the Beacon Hill Public Library. The full agenda is here and also here.
I was walking to light rail yesterday when I noticed that the alley behind the station is a perfect straight shot to El Centro—it almost frames the building like a painting. I had not thought about this alley much in the past. I imagined it someday being a little-used space filled with dumpsters and graffiti, tucked between two large condo buildings where the only use it might get would be the occasional employee taking a smoke break.
But seeing it yesterday helped me re-imagine the space. What if instead of it being a forgotten space behind some buildings, it became Beacon Hill’s Post Alley filled with micro businesses? It could be an extension of the planned courtyard at El Centro and a useful arm of Festival Street. For those of you that don’t get downtown much, Post Alley is an offshoot of the Pike Place Market. It is a pedestrian-friendly sort of mini-market where many smaller businesses have been able to take root in its less-than-prime real estate. It includes Seattle’s famous gum wall.
Rarely do neighborhoods get a chance to redefine their “downtown” the way that Beacon Hill will with light-rail and El Centro’s future development, and I’m hoping that with imagination and thoughtful planning, we will be able to maximize our potential.