The $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center Addition’s public benefits package narrowly passed the Seattle Design Commission on Thursday.

All totaled the public benefit value of the $92 million in proposed WSCC contributions was $58.25 million, with $36.5 million coming from several projects secured by the Community Package Coalition.

Seattle and King County officials celebrated the $90 million in public investments the convention center has committed to with its expansion project in mid-October. That includes $61 million in funding secured by the Community Package Coalition, which includes $1.5 million for an I-5 lid study, $10 million to upgrade Freeway Park, $15 million in affordable housing investment and $10 million in Bicycle Master Plan funding.

The total CPC agreement took more than 1,000 hours of work making sure the public benefits from the convention center expansion was commensurate with the project’s scale, said First Hill Improvement Association executive director and CPC spokesperson Alex Hudson. She encouraged the Seattle Design Commission during its 13th and final meeting on the matter to pass the benefits project, citing the 380 affordable units it would provide and deferred maintenance that would be addressed in Freeway Park.

While SDC members generally supported several of those CPC projects, there was division among the commission about whether accepting them would create a precedent. Public benefits are generally tangible in the sense that they can be created in step with the development.

Formerly a skeptic of accepting the I-5 lid study as a public benefits package item, Commission vice chair John Savo was its most vocal supporter on Nov. 16.

For the commissioners wanting more onsite public benefits that connected Downtown and Capitol Hill, Savo said the results of a study to build over the interstate between them would provide real connections.

“This raises numerous questions downstream,” said SDC director Michael Jenkins, “but without this work those questions don’t get answered.”

The Lid 5 group has a $48,000 Department of Neighborhoods grant to create a vision for a lid over I-5, and is forming team members to do that through the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative.

“If we approve this, then we will hear it again from someone else later,” said Commissioner Rachel Gleeson, who favored supporting the study but not as a public benefit.

Commissioner Rick Krochalis said the study would answer a lot of questions regarding the feasibility of setting a lid over I-5. Freeway Park was the first freeway lid park, and the current convention center is also a lid project. SDC Chair Ross Tilghman said the study was “off the charts” in terms of public benefit policy.

Jenkins said every proposal but the I-5 lid study would create a physical improvement.

Gleeson said she wasn’t seeing a strong connection with Freeway Park, and was particularly concerned about whether the $10 million in funding would be more beneficial to park areas around the WSCC than the park as a whole.

The largest component of the public benefits package left to be fully addressed through the lengthy SDC process, and a requirement for the urban design merits for the project were plans for artwork.

The SDC approved the Addition’s urban design merits in March, but with a condition that the project include an art package to partially mitigate the loss of right-of-way space and treat blank walls.

The King County Sale & Purchase Agreement with the WSCC for Convention Place Transit Station requires the developer to employ “the services of a qualified, public art professional or organization to manage the process” for art it is requiring.

At the request of the design commission that planning include an active artist, Pine Street Group brought on metals and kinetics artist Cathy McClure.

McClure was unable to make the SDC meeting on Nov. 16 due to a family matter, said Matt Griffin, principal at Pine Street Group, which is leading development of the WSCC Addition for the convention center.

While there are plans for where the art would be sited around the Addition and two codevelopment sites, one planned for offices and the other a market-rate residential tower, a WSCC Addition Art Plan needed more time to develop.

Griffin said the WSCC Art Advisors group is comprised of several members nearing retirement and more time is needed to develop an art plan.

“We haven’t actually gotten as many comments as we wanted,” Griffin said.

He proposed the WSCC Art Advisors be reconstituted and more work be done to finalize a vision for the project. Under a proposed timeline, calls for artists to handle the $1.85 million in public benefit art would take place in spring 2018 and artworks developed that summer. The urban design merit works, which are primarily focused around garage doors, walls and at a truck ramp, would also start in the spring. A third category of WSCC Addition artwork is valued at $4.6 million, which includes $100,000 for a presentation that acknowledges Convention Place Station works in collaboration with 4Culture. There is a different budget process and timeline for that.

Margery Aronson, an art consultant and vice president of the WSCC Art Foundation, which maintains art gifted to the convention center, is assisting with the Addition art plan. She told the SDC discussions are ongoing with the Artist Trust and 4Culture for developing the selection process.

The WSCC Addition team proposed including a design commissioner on the selection panel for the public benefits artworks, and then coming back to the SDC with artist finalists and proposals in summer 2018. Artworks would be presented to the SDC that fall.

Gleeson said she was bothered by the lack of art planning earlier in the development process. Art is usually inherent in a large development, Tilghman said, agreeing he was disappointed those plans were not farther along.

The SDC approved of the Pike Pine Renaissance: Act One concept design in mid-October, which would make transportation and public open space improvements from Pike Place Market to the Melrose Market on Pike and Pine streets.

Improvements from First to Ninth avenues are estimated to cost $20 million, and would be funded through a local improvement district.

The WSCC is committing $10 million to push Act One from Ninth to Melrose. Krochalis again looked for assurances that the convention center would still fund Ninth to Melrose improvements even if a Waterfront LID didn’t get approved.

Commissioner Ben de Rubertis said he’s hopeful for the Pike Pine Renaissance: Phase One project to go through. What he wanted to see in the public benefits package, however, were more investments in onsite benefits. He said those proposals, which include plazas and garden spaces, didn’t change much since the start of the process.

Tilghman, Gleeson and Commissioner Laura Haddock were the dissenting votes on Nov. 16. They all said more attention to onsite public benefits and art would have helped.

Jenkins said a Seattle Design Commission report will be created and sent to city council, which will now make a final determination on the project’s moving forward.

WSCC Addition Public Benefits Package Final Presentation to Seattle Design Commission 11-16-17 by branax2000 on Scribd