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$6.6M to protect Peninsula forest

400 acres of forest land on the Olympic Peninsula will be permanently protected from development, thanks to a $6.63 million conservation easement.

The announcement comes from the Trust for Public Land, Green Diamond Resource Co., and the state Department of Natural Resources.

Funding is from the U.S. Forest Service.

The land is owned by Green Diamond Resource Co., which will continue to manage the property. The land, located between Hood Canal and Case Inlet, will remain in active timber production.

This is the second phase of a three-phase effort to protect more than 20,000 acres from development.

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Ohio unveils the ‘Smart City’ system Paul Allen helped fund

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s capital city unveiled an operating system on Thursday that will gather data for its pioneering smart city transportation project.

Columbus beat out six other mid-sized cities in 2016 to win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, a contest aimed at encouraging innovative ideas for moving people and goods more quickly, cheaply and efficiently.

The effort is supported by a $40 million federal grant and $10 million from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies. It has the potential to reduce collisions, speed first responder response times, curb freeway delays and get products to consumers faster.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said launching the Smart Columbus Operating System is a major milestone on Columbus’ smart city journey, allowing officials to better analyze, interpret and share data that will help solve critical challenges and inspire innovation.

But the Democrat said the ultimate goal is to make life better.

“Fundamental to ‘becoming smart’ as a city is discovering how to use data to improve city services and quality of life for residents,” he said. “When we apply data to the challenges we experience as a city, we can transform outcomes in education, employment, healthcare and even access to healthy food.”

The city’s Smart Columbus team will manage and distribute 1,100 data feeds through the new operating platform to government offices and private companies.

The information that’s collected will help Columbus integrate self-driving cars, connected vehicles, smart sensors and other developing transportation technologies into the life of the city.

The city won its spot as the testing ground over San Francisco; Pittsburgh; Denver; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Thursday’s operating system launch comes amid efforts by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich to advance smart transportation technology statewide.

Kasich signed an executive order last week authorizing autonomous vehicle research to take place on all public roads across the state. The order laid out safety parameters for such projects and creates a voluntary pilot program linking local governments to participating companies.

The order extended Kasich’s efforts to make Ohio a hub of smart vehicle research and development.

The Associated Press

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Space Needle wrap is coming down

SEATTLE — The $100 million Space Needle renovation has been under wraps since last September — literally.

But the colorful, 400-by-20-foot weatherproof screen around the Needle’s construction platform is coming down. The removal was scheduled to begin last night and could take up to 48 hours to complete.

The 100-ton construction platform, suspended underneath the restaurant level, will take three to four weeks to lower to the ground.

The Needle’s observation deck remains open during construction. By mid-June, both levels — including the world’s first rotating glass floor — will be fully open.

The opening will conclude the first phase of a multi-year effort. The next phases include repainting the structure, which will begin this summer, and updating the elevators, which will happen over the next few years.

Hoffman Construction is the general contractor.

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Sound Transit breaks ground on $449M Bellevue light rail base

There will be 14 service bays and one wash bay in the operations and maintenance building.

A future transit-oriented development of 1.1 million square feet is planned.
Sound Transit broke ground this week on the $449.2 million Operations and Maintenance Facility East, along 120th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue’s Spring District.

The 28-acre site will be the base for maintaining and storing 96 light rail vehicles for regional Link expansions to Northgate, Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond.

There will be 14 service bays, a wash bay, shops, locker rooms and offices in a 131,200-square-foot building. A separate 34,000-square-foot building will be used by trackway and station maintenance staff.

About 250 full-time employees will work in both buildings.

Sound Transit has set aside 6.5 acres of the site for 1.1 million square feet of future mixed-use transit-oriented development after the operations facility is finished in December 2020. The agency plans to issue a request for proposals for a master developer by year end.

As part of the design-build contract for the facility, Hensel Phelps will deliver a temporary bike and pedestrian trail connection and identify portions of the construction staging area that can be developed for transit-oriented uses.

Last fall Hensel Phelps awarded a $28 million design-build subcontract to Granite Construction for demolition, grading, utility installation, pedestrian trail construction and asphalt paving. Granite began that work in December.

VIA Architecture is the designer.

The Eastside facility will supplement Sound Transit’s existing operations and maintenance base across Airport Way South from the old Rainier Brewery in Seattle. That base is expected to reach its capacity of 104 vehicles in 2020.

Sound Transit says Link light rail will expand from 20 miles today to 58 miles by 2024, with longer and more frequent trains. The fleet of light rail vehicles will expand from 62 to 214 during that time.


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Gonzaga’s $48M science building gets OK for site on lake in Spokane

SPOKANE — Gonzaga University has gotten permission from the city to build a $48 million science and engineering building near the campus’ Arthur Lake, but the university is still raising the funds to pay for construction.

Brian McGinn, the city’s hearing examiner, approved the project, allowing the three-story building to be constructed within 200 feet of the lakeshore.

The project required his permission under the city’s shorelines law. A final determination regarding the shoreline rules will be made by the state Department of Ecology.

The 80,000-square-foot building, called the Integrated Science and Engineering Center, is part of a building boom on campus. The university recently constructed the $24 million Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement and the $13 million Della Strada Jesuit Community residential building. Work on the $30 million, 57,000-square-foot Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center is anticipated to be complete next year.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said the university hoped to raise half of the nearly $50 million needed for the new science center. The other half will come from the university’s cash reserves and restructuring debt.

“We are actively in the process of fundraising for the center,” he said. “We’re still working towards it.”

In November, the university said it surpassed its two-year fundraising goal by bringing in $286 million. McCulloh said the work to raise more money for construction and scholarships will continue through April or May.

The new science building will be an interdisciplinary space that brings together faculty from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. A range of subjects will be taught, and ongoing student research projects will be on display.

McCulloh said the idea was to develop programs beyond the “bedrock” disciplines currently offered at Gonzaga. In addition to mechanical and electrical engineering, students would be able to study bioinfomatics and materials science.

“We’re seeing information that is critical to research in biosciences that really is derived from large, large amounts of data,” he said, referring to bioinfomatics, which collects and analyzes complex biological data such as genetic codes. “We are looking at ways in which a discipline like biology can interface with engineering to look at micro-technologies, especially in the health sciences.”

The building will have four types of learning spaces: general classrooms, project areas, teaching labs and research spaces, according to Portland’s SRG Partnership, which helped design the project.

It will have a central gathering space on the ground level. McCulloh called it a “hub of innovation” and a “dedicated space for the incubation of ideas.”

The science center isn’t directly linked with the growth in the nearby University District, but is related programmatically, McCulloh said.

Earlier this month, Eastern Washington University announced plans to move three degree programs and around 1,000 students from its Cheney campus to a building along East Sprague Avenue on the south side of the University District that it said allows for growth in its science and engineering departments.

“We obviously do what we’re doing in close relationship not only with Avista but with our colleagues at WSU and other institutions, developing things with an intention to be a partner with what is being developed and offered,” McCulloh said.

Gonzaga’s new building will connect to the existing Paccar building to the east and, via skywalk, to Hughes Hall to the north.

The land is zoned for high density residential. McGinn, the hearing examiner, said Gonzaga’s plans for the science center are “allowed outright,” and required no rezoning.

As part of the decision, Gonzaga will have to restore or enhance the shoreline, and update the Habitat Management Plan for Arthur Lake. McGinn noted that information Gonzaga provided as part of the State Environmental Policy Act showed that the “project will not have significant impacts on the environment or the surrounding properties.”

McGinn also noted that public access to the lake won’t be affected, since the paved trail on its southern front won’t be changed. The lake is wholly owned by the university.

Lake Arthur wasn’t always a lake. For many years, it was an inlet of the Spokane River used to store logs for the McGoldrick Lumber Co., which bought a mill on the site in 1906.

After a fire in 1945 destroyed the plant, Gonzaga purchased the land and closed off the inlet with a dam made of rocks, creating the lake.

The Spokesman-Review

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$82M in public benefits for WSCC expansion

As part of the planned expansion of the Washington State Convention Center, the city and county have announced the terms for “a suite of benefits” worth some $82 million.

The WSCC expansion will replace the county-owned four-acre Convention Place Station, which is now the last northbound bus stop for the transit tunnel. The $1.6 billion project will add about 1.4 million square feet to the nearby existing facility.

King County Council voted in June to sell the property to the WSCC. That deal will be worth about $275 million over 31 years.

The public-benefits agreement essentially sweetens that deal. With WSCC payments phased over several years to both the city and county, it includes:

• $29 million for affordable housing

• $20 million for improvements to the Pike-Pine corridor (including bike lanes)

• $10 million for improvements to Freeway Park

• $6 million for bike lanes on Eighth Avenue

• $4 million for improvements to Terry Avenue

• $1.9 million for public art

• $1.5 million for a study on lidding Interstate 5

Beyond that $82 million, the WSCC expansion will add about $10 million in zoning and affordable housing fees.

The agreement comes after 10 months of talks between the WSCC and the Community Package Coalition, with discussions beginning at $61 million. The CPC includes Capitol Hill Housing, Cascade Bicycle Club, Central Seattle Greenways, First Hill Improvement Association, Housing Development Consortium, Freeway Park Association, Lid I-5 and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

In a statement, Mayor Tim Burgess said, “This historic agreement will expand Seattle’s wildly successful convention center while creating more open spaces in the surrounding neighborhood, safer routes for pedestrians and bicyclists, and more affordable housing.

“Thousands of hospitality industry jobs are likely to be created as a result of this project, and so our partners in labor are also launching a training program to help workers prepare for these coming jobs.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said, “For Metro, the sale of Convention Place Station means a total of $275 million for expanded bus service, as well as funding for affordable housing and public art. With today’s announcement, we take a big step toward of our goal of creating jobs while keeping the region moving.”

Seattle City Council will vote on the public-benefits agreement early next year.

Pine Street Group is managing the WSCC expansion. LMN is the architect. Clark Construction of Maryland and Lease Crutcher Lewis are the contractors.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2019, with completion expected in 2021.

Bus service will move to Third Avenue in late 2018, and the tunnel will be used only for light rail. Westlake Station will become the last northbound stop in the tunnel.

The main site for the expansion project is bounded by Olive Way, Pine Street, and Ninth and Boren Avenues.

The new 11-story facility will have underground parking for 742 vehicles. There will be about 250,000 square feet of new exhibition space, 120,000 square feet of meeting rooms, 60,000 square feet of ballroom space, a 150,000-square-foot underground exhibition hall and 20 loading bays.

The expansion will roughly double the size of the existing center, which was built in 1985-88 and expanded in 1999 and 2010.

Pine Street is also planning two related projects on nearby properties owned by WSCC: a 29-story apartment tower at 920 Olive Way with 409 units; and a 16-story office tower at 1711 Boren Ave. with 500,000 square feet. LMN is also the architect for both.

WSCC will sell both those projects.

By: Brian Miller

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Homebuilders are nervous about Mercer Island’s impending restrictions

Taking aim at mega-mansions, the Mercer Island City Council is poised to vote whether to implement the Puget Sound region’s tightest controls on homebuilding Tuesday.

Builders are anxious about the new residential design standards, which would limit the bulk and scale of both new homes and the size of expansions on all of the the nearly 6,950 single-family lots on the island.

The city council is expected to reduce the “gross floor area” of new houses from the current base of 45 percent of a lot to 40 percent. Medina’s base is 45 percent and Bellevue’s is 50 percent.

There are other updated standards as well as a new rule to protect “exceptional” or mature trees greater than 2 feet in diameter. The rules would take effect in about a month.

The new standards will have a huge impact, said City Councilmember Wendy Welker, who earlier this month cast the lone vote against moving the standards to a final vote.

“A lot of the revised code changes are overly restrictive and complicated and worse when you add in the new tree ordinance,” said Welker, who – like some builders – thinks the city is ramming the legislation through without comprehensive public outreach.

Builders say this is the council’s latest anti-development move. Last year the council approved new development standards for the town center, which is next to a future light-rail station. The center is where the city is funneling most of its growth, yet only one project, a 209-unit luxury apartment building, has gone up in recent years.

Now come the new design standards, which the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties says this will drive builders’ customers to places like Bellevue.

“At what point does it stop?” said David Hoffman, a government affairs staff member for the association. “At what point does leadership on Mercer Island have a wake-up call that they need to slow down and be deliberate and listen to larger voices at the regional level?”

Mercer Island Development Services Director Scott Greenberg disagrees the new standards will make it tougher to build.

“It just means the maximum size of the house you could build in the past, you may not be able to build in the future,” he said.

No single mega-mansion spurred the new residential standards. The standards were driven by citizens who worried about the size and scale of new homes in general, said Greenberg, who added that Mercer Island is not adverse to growth.

The city’s population grew from around 22,000 in 2000 to just over 25,000 last year, or 13.6 percent. During the same period, King County’s population increased nearly 21.2 percent.

Greenberg said Mercer Island has had a comprehensive public outreach about the new standards, including two public hearings and other public meetings. The city has placed ads and notices in local media and city mailings.

Hoffman said the city rolled out the new standards in bits and pieces, not as one comprehensive package, and that sometimes the debate occurred at the end of council meetings late at night.

One island building company, JayMarc Homes, hired a land-use attorney and architects to come up with what the company said would be a more reasonable approach. It was presented to the council this summer. JayMarc President Marc Rousso said members briefly discussed it one night at 11 o’clock, and took a pass on the proposal.

The kicker, according to builders, is the updated standards will not actually address concerns about bulk and scale.

“You’ll be able to build a 30-foot tall box that maxes out your (40 percent) gross floor area, and it will drive the neighbors just as crazy as it does today,” Hoffman said.

Marc Stiles covers real estate for the Puget Sound Business Journal.