The Seattle City Council has an opportunity to bring substantial improvements into our community this spring by approving the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition project.
The Addition received a major boost late last year with the announcement of an agreement between the Convention Center and the Community Package Coalition (CPC) – a collaboration between 12 community and non-profit organizations advocating for neighborhood-supported benefits.
Then-Mayor Tim Burgess, County Executive Dow Constantine, and community representatives proudly unveiled the deal with WSCC, which paves the way for significant contributions to affordable housing, investments in family-wage jobs, and open space and mobility benefits for everyone.
This partnership and cooperation demonstrate what is possible when developers, civic leaders, and the community work together. The project is now in the hands of the Seattle City Council.
I urge the City Council to continue the momentum that has been building for this project. The addition represents an extraordinary opportunity for working families and small businesses, while bolstering the region’s economy.
The Community Package Coalition agreement brings a suite of benefits totaling more than $92 million to our community, which is more than any other project has done when adjusted for size. This total includes nearly $54 million in neighborhood improvements and community connections. It also includes more than $38 million for critical investments in affordable housing.
Seattle has become too expensive for far too many of us and has the third largest homeless population in the nation, behind only New York and Los Angeles. An investment of this caliber from the Addition will create hundreds of affordable housing units in our community, providing the reasonably-priced housing options so desperately needed right now.
The addition also provides economic opportunities. The Convention Center has turned away more than 350 events over the past five years, due to a lack of available space or dates. The cost? An estimated $2.1 billion in lost economic activity for hotels, taxi drivers, restaurants, retailers large and small, regional attractions, and any other business that benefits from visitors.
The addition will support nearly 3,900 on-going jobs in the hospitality industry and will generate as many as 6,000 jobs during construction. Furthermore, WSCC is working with UNITE HERE to fund a training program for the thousands of job openings generated by the Addition. No other development opportunity creates jobs and affordable housing at this scale while being funded from a tax paid by visitors.
But before these community benefits can be realized, the City must approve ‘vacating,’ or selling, three alleys and the underground portions of Olive Way and Terry Avenue, in order for the WSCC project to move forward. In exchange, WSCC will pay fair market value for the land and provide these community benefits.
Public and private projects throughout Seattle are confronting cost increases as the city continues to lead the nation in home-price growth. The addition project is not immune to those same forces and the longer we wait, the more difficult and costly it is to move forward.
As a region, we must focus on livable communities and opportunities for all to succeed. We know the addition is a project our region needs. Thousands upon thousands of residents, workers and businesses are counting on it. The addition, and with it the amazing community benefits package, is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
Marty Kooistra serves as Executive Director of the Housing Development Consortium, an organization dedicated to meeting the housing needs of limited-income people throughout King County