Google Maps: The Atlas Properties are at 1515-1519 Broadway.
Google Maps: The Atlas Properties are at 1515-1519 Broadway.

The Sound Transit Board approved a Capitol Hill land swap on Thursday that will allow Seattle Central College to reorient its campus while creating more affordable housing along Broadway than previously anticipated.

Site D, just north of Seattle Central, was acquired by Sound Transit as a staging area for constructing light rail and head houses for the Capitol Hill Station. The college has the first right of refusal to purchase the site, and has been in a lengthy negotiation period with Sound Transit.

The passage of ST3 set requirements for affordable housing around light rail, which is not something Seattle Central has experience creating, the college wanting to use that property to expand its STEM and IT programs. With the swap now proceeding toward final purchase and sale agreements, Seattle Central is planning for a new instructional building that will do that and provide ground-floor retail space, according to a news release that followed the board’s vote on Thursday.

Seattle Central in late December issued a Request for Letters of Interest from developers that may want to partner with the college to redevelop the 1515-1519 Broadway sites, and its South Annex/International Programs building at 907-909 Pine Street, with the purpose of satisfying its affordable housing requirements.

The South Annex is now slated to become a homeless youth center with housing. As reported by the Capitol Hill Times, House Speaker Frank Chopp is addressing Seattle’s housing crisis by working in Olympia to secure funding commitments for the project, which is around $2.5 million currently.

The old Atlas Clothing building at 1515 Broadway and the adjacent Eldridge Tire building went up for landmarks review in February. The Atlas building was not accepted, but the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board approved a landmark designation for Eldridge Tire in March, which Seattle Central had anticipated.

Seattle Central ended up selecting Capitol Hill Housing as its affordable housing developer; CHH proposes 78 units of workforce housing and ground-floor retail.

“Capitol Hill Housing was chosen as a partner because of its deep roots in the neighborhood, cultivated over four decades of service,” according to the Sound Transit news release. “It will work with Seattle Central College to honor the history of the buildings — including the landmarked Eldridge Tire Company building that represents an important link to Capitol Hill’s “auto row” heritage — by preserving key architectural details into the development’s final design. This reflects a key priority for the neighborhood.”

Sarah Lovell, Sound Transit’s transit-oriented development program manager, told the board part of the delay in negotiations was the fact that Site D was acquired at an 86.5 percent federal participation rate. That debt is being transferred to another eligible Sound Transit asset, said CEO Peter Rogoff.

Lovell said siting affordable housing on the Atlas site would increase the development capacity, with Site D only projected to accommodate 44 units.

Once the properties are transferred, Lovell said, Sound Transit would offer Capitol Hill Housing the Atlas Properties at a discounted price on the difference of the land values ($3-$4 million). She said CHH would likely pay the value of the commercial component.

Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson said it makes sense to skirt committing to less affordable housing in a more inconvenient location than more in a better-suited part of Broadway. The board voted unanimously to move forward.

“With the surging cost of living, we are proud to be part of a solution that will provide affordable housing,” said Seattle Central president Sheila Edwards Lange, Ph.D., in the news release. “This plan will also be a key part in our efforts to prepare more of our community’s residents for well-paying jobs in the technology sector, so they can share in the economic prosperity of our region.”