King County Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett, Presiding Superior Court Judge Richard McDermott, and Jim Burt of the County’s Executive Services Facilities Management Division met with the 12th Avenue Stewards committee on Tuesday night to outline the most recent proposal for improving the Youth Services Courthouse, detention center, and the surrounding nine acre site in the heart of the 12th Avenue neighborhood.
Last week the King County Council was presented with legislation that, if passed, would put a property tax levy proposal on the August, 2012 ballot. The “levy lid lift” would raise about $200 million for construction of a new courthouse and office building, and a new juvenile detention center.
Unlike earlier proposals which would have replaced only the “tower building”, the four-story courthouse and office building, this proposal would also replace the detention center. While, as recently as last year, the County said the detention center did not need to be replaced, newer studies have persuaded the County it could save money, over the long run, by replacing the detention center with one of a newer design with operational efficiencies.
By constructing a new taller courthouse-office building and concentrating parking in a parking garage, replacing the current large surface parking lot, The County would be able to make a portion of the nine acre site available for neighborhood-serving development. Although site planning is at a very conceptual stage, Jim Burt described a plan that the County believes responds to long-standing community interests. The County buildings would be located in the middle of the site, making available about half of the 12th Avenue front and all of the Spruce Street (south) front for residential and/or commercial development. Residential development capacity could be approximately 430 housing units.
The site is currently zoned to allow neighborhood commercial development up to 65 feet high along 12th Avenue while much of the site is zoned for lowrise residential development. The current concept would require the County to seek approval from the City Council for a rezone to allow buildings to rise up to 75 feet. The plan acknowledges the sensitivity of the smaller scale residential development on 14th Avenue east of the site with setbacks along that edge.
Currently the northeast portion of the site is the location of the Marvin Oliver sculpture “Spirit of our Youth” — a bronze whale fin and sculpted earthworks surrounding it. While the concept for redevelopment of the site includes some green space at that location, it’s smaller than the existing one acre sculpture site. The County is considering the possibility that the sculpture would be moved to a different location — a move which would require approval of the artist. Overall, Burt said, the plan, as envisioned now, could result in more than one acre in green space on the redeveloped site in several locations.
Some of the street grid that was destroyed when the site was developed by the County for its current use could be restored. East Alder Street could become a pedestrian route through the site if not entirely restored as a vehicle route.
While the plan includes a proposal for a new parking garage of over 440 stalls to serve the County facilities, current thinking does not include provisions for better transit service to the neighborhood, a key community concern.
If the levy proposal is placed on the August ballot and is passed, the new buildings would be built alongside the existing tower building and detention center and completed by 2018. Then the existing buildings would be demolished, the parking garage built, and the remainder of the site could be available for development.