Community Post

Swedish Medical Center and Sabey Corp. Reveal Plan for Major Growth at Central District Campus

Swedish Medical Center and the Sabey Corporation unveiled on Thursday night an attention-getting vision for future growth at their Central District campus in which the population of the campus would increase three-fold.  The campus, between 15th and 18th Avenues and E. Cherry and E. Jefferson Streets – originally Providence Hospital – is currently occupied by Swedish Medical Center, Northwest Kidney Center, and several tenants of the Sabey Corporation.  Swedish and Sabey are embarking on the process of developing a “Major Institution Master Plan”, required by the Seattle Land Use Code for medical centers and universities, which are given the right to develop in residential zones with buildings of a size that are not allowed to other developers.  In return for that right, the City Land Use Code gives a Citizens Advisory Committee, and ultimately the City Council, the obligation of fashioning a plan that balances institutional growth and the surrounding neighborhood’s vitality and livability.

At present the institution has about 1500 parking spaces.  Swedish and Sabey are asking for a plan with 3000 additional spaces, for a total of 4500 structured parking spaces. Current Swedish and Sabey buildings measure about 1.2 million square feet. In the future there could be up to 3 million square feet.

Two alternative conceptual schemes to accommodate this growth were described.  One, called the “dispersal” alternative, would expand the institution’s campus boundaries on three sides — to the north, east and south.  The current height limit for institutional development on 18th Avenue, bordering a single-family neighborhood to the east, would increase from 37 feet to 90 feet.  Expansion areas north of Cherry would have height limits of 50 or 65 feet, south of Jefferson, up to 50 feet.  The greatest height limit would be 200 feet between 15th and 16th Avenues.  Currently, the greatest height limit for the campus is 105 feet, (although the tower of the former Providence Hospital, now called James Tower, exceeds that height.)

Another alternative conceptual scheme, called the “concentrated” alternative, calls for a smaller boundary expansion, limited to one parcel at the northwest corner of 16th and E. Cherry.  Proposed height limits include a 200 foot limit along the west edge of the campus and a 90 foot limit along the east edge.  18th Avenue and 16th Avenue would be vacated under this proposal.

Over coming months, the Citizens Advisory Committee will meet to react to these proposals, with the goal of producing a Major Institution Master Plan to guide growth over the next several decades.  Numerous public meetings will be held, the next on February 21, at 6:00 P.M. in the James Tower on the Swedish/Sabey Campus, 557 18th Avenue.

21 thoughts on “Swedish Medical Center and Sabey Corp. Reveal Plan for Major Growth at Central District Campus

  1. They need to follow the process and create an updated MIMP. Further, we need to elect a Mayor and Council that will implement the laws under the Growth Management Act. It’s not good for the developers, the institutions, or the community when lobbying replaces established processes.

  2. “18th Avenue and 16th Avenue would be vacated under this proposal” Does this mean we would lose the option of walking north or south on 16th and 18th like we have other places along 17th Ave? (Swedish and TT Minor Playfield)

  3. Very good news.

    I wonder if we could get the height limits here raised. Have a little Downtown CD with 60 story cluster of buildings with 360 degree mountain views. Let’s stop being little people. We could make this the center of all things good. New bowling alleys too.

    • The loss of 18th is being coordinated with the overall goal of reducing north/south traffic through Seattle to half or less than current volumes. Broadway is limited. 14th is essentially eliminated as a viable route at Jackson. 12th was never a great route and will have the trolly in the way. 18th with all it’s one lane areas is actually the fastest route to Capitol Hill now. I weave along that route fast. Once 18th is eliminated 20th will will turn into a highway, bikes will have to switch to 16th, 19th, and 23rd, or start using the sidewalks.

      The main point is to prevent different classes of people from impacting the northern people.

      • This was segragation was tried when a freeway ramp was proposed by some Leschi and Mt Baker people to keep the CD form using the new I-90 lid park. Did not happen due to a rise up of community councils from the surrounding neighborhoods who saw the racist outcome. Ths wall is common globally in cities to keep minorities segregated to one area.

  4. I have not had a chance to review all details. On the surface there seems to be no public benefit included, only benefits to Swedish/Sabey. Just the parking plan by itself raises alarms for me regarding traffic impact on the neighborhood. “At present the institution has about 1500 parking spaces. Swedish and Sabey are asking for a plan with 3000 additional spaces, for a total of 4500 structured parking spaces.” This represents a huge increase in traffic. Increased institutional boundaries are also concerning. In order for a neighborhood to retain its vitality residents are necessary, along with infrastructure that serves a diverse residential population. Swedish has many different campuses, and at what point, does it no longer make sense for them to try to expand in an urban residential neighborhood? Some services can be moved to other campuses.

    • My question would actually be, is this enough parking. What makes you believe they don’t already have a need for more parking. I live a block from the hospital, and work at home, and watch employees and patients play the 2 Hour parking game all day M-F. There are even employees who clearly have “friends” from the neighborhood that have permanently “loaned” them their residential guest passes. One such person has a pass that nearly says 500 blk 19th Ave., but parks daily on our block, 3 or 4 blocks from where the pass was issued for. In my opinion we should require them to have free parking for at least all of their employees. That would certainly eliminate the need for this type of behavior.

      • Except the amount of parking you’re talking about (a) completely disincentivizes the employees from using transit service; remember we have a streetcar coming online that will stop just a few blocks from the campus, and (b) will completely destroy the neighborhood character; unless all that parking is underground (doubtful, given the $30-40K/stall expense) you’re going to be staring at above-ground parking lots instead of buildings with windows.

        I have significant concerns about the wisdom of this proposal.

      • The Land Use Code puts an upper limit on the number of parking spaces an institution can provide. (The exact number is based on a formula that considers number and types of employees and other visitors.) The upper limit is intended to encourage the institution to put in place policies that result in at least half of the daily commuters using some mode of transportation other than single occupancy vehicles. The City considers it good policy to prevent residential neighborhoods from some of the traffic impacts of institutions. Of course, as you have noted, free parking spaces on neighborhood streets plays havoc with that strategy. The neighborhood may be getting, not only the high vehicle traffic volumes, but parking issues as well.

        Although it’s been years since the Sabey Corp. acquired much of the Swedish campus and developed buildings with its tenants, it has resisted providing the information that the City requires to determine whether or not at least half of its tenants are commuting some way other than in SOV’s. Diane Sugimura, the Director of the Department of Planning and Development has stated recently, in a letter, that the Department has recently had meetings with Swedish and Sabey in order to come up with a plan for compliance (finally). It might help to encourage the effort if you were to express your concerns to [email protected] (Possibly more effective than posting observations to this news site and worth a try.)

  5. My understanding (I may be mistaken.) is that the current garage is not fully utilized. Some of the activities you observe may be due to the fact that employees are acting to avoid the fees for the on campus parking. Swedish does provide a free Orca pass to all employees.

  6. Totally free parking would defeat the mass transit effort and would likely have a negative impact on the neighborhood. However, perhaps they should charge a good deal type of price for the Orca pass and still charge for parking. UW is an example of an institution that got it about right in the balance. Many employees and probably students gave up driving and use transit. Parking is expensive and there is a charge for the UPASS.

    The additional parking likely does not reflect an effort to increase for current size, but reflects the growth in numbers of employees, patients and others under the new proposal. Thus it would not relieve the current situation or a future one.

    • I liked it when I could edit some of the punctuation in the my posts. I have to learn to lay off the Post Comment button.

    • There is a meeting tonight, (Thursday)
      6PM At the Cherry Hill Swedish Campus. Hopefully there will be a good turnout from the local neighborhood!

  7. MY quesstion is do we need more healthcare facilities at this site with Swedish central close by and the recent expansion of HMC and Virginia Mason?

  8. Other than cutting off 18th street and stuffing all the traffic to 16th 19th and 20th, I think it can only be beneficial. It certainly won’t “completely destroy the neighborhood.” 1) 1000 jobs many of which could be filled by hoodters as nurses, security, maintenance, etc. 2) More people to frequent our restaurants and coffee shops. 3) People who want to buy our houses, townhouses, and rent our apartments so property values go up. 4) You may be able to walk to the doctors office rather than go up to pill hill. 5) Lots of nurses and people on the street to be robbed. 6) General increased interest and vibrancy in the hood. 7) Hot doctors to date and have affairs with.

    I don’t forsee any significant traffic impact. If the people going there live in the area – they would already be heading out Jefferson, Jackson, Cherry or Yesler coming and going from wherever. Now they would just go here. Ousiders would come and go on arterials, mostly from the West – thus affecting only and handfull of residents.

    The negatives are of course – 1) Parking on neighborhood streets. 2) nurses wearing scrubs to our restaurants and coffee shops – scrubs are contaminated with all kinds of festering nasty hospital diseases like MRSA, hepatitis, clamidia, and pneumonic insanity. We must ban the wearing of scrubs outside of the contaminated medical environment. The whole point of scrubs is to put on a steril gear to protect the patient and to take them back off to protect the public. Scrubs are not hot or cool. They are vile cesspools of disease and body fluids. This final point actually flips me against progress. If they can’t keep walking around the hood spreading disease, we don’t want them here.

  9. Guess again Sabey…..some of us are not moving out as quickly as u think we should!!!! Sitting here in my neighborhood and not moving….hopefully the tax man will start hitting u up soon for the houses that u have illegally bought and are not paying correct taxes on.

  10. It’s a big change.. but exciting. Still early, lots of work to do, I hope we can work WITH Swedish constructively to make this a great project. Too much fighting will get us a watered down compromise.