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$1.6 billion Convention Center expansion includes funding for public projects

The benefits package for the Convention Center expansion includes: $10 million to improve Freeway Park, $10 million to improve bike lanes along Pike/Pine and $29 million to pay for affordable housing. There is also another $1.5 million to study putting a lid over Interstate 5. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Seattle has long been a sought after city for conventioneers.

But, according to the Washington State Convention Center, getting a reservation has been nearly impossible over the last five years.

The Convention Center has been pushing to expand – building a massive addition on land adjacent to its main facility downtown. Until Monday, there has been major pushback from community organizers, neighbors and politicians.

On Monday, Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced an agreement where the developer would pay more than $90 million to benefit public projects in an effort to move the construction forward.

“This is a good day for the people of King County and the State of Washington,” Constantine said during a news conference at Seattle City Hall.

The convention center expansion, estimated to cost $1.6 billion, will benefit bike lanes, parks and affordable housing.

“New money into Freeway Park, better connections for pedestrians and bicyclists up Pike/Pine corridor,” Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said.

The benefits package includes: $10 million to improve Freeway Park, $10 million to improve bike lanes along Pike/Pine and $29 million to pay for affordable housing. There is also another $1.5 million to study putting a lid over Interstate 5.

Speakers at the news conference, which included leadership from the Washington State Convention Center board, politicians and organizers for neighborhoods and the hotel-workers union praised the agreement. City officials say parts of the project still need approval from the City Council and the Seattle Design Commission.

Deryl Brown-Archie, vice chair of the Washington State Convention Center Board of Directors, said Monday that people wanting to host their convention in Seattle haven’t been able to.

“The convention center has had to turn away as much business as we’ve booked for the last five years,” she said.

Speakers at Monday’s news conference said the project will create thousands of construction and hospitality jobs. Once built the new convention center would have nearly 400,000 square-feet of exhibition space and meeting rooms.

McCaela Daffern, sustainability manager for Capitol Hill housing, said the expansion is “the single largest real estate project in Seattle’s history.”

Daffern, who lives near the proposed project site, said there has been community concern about traffic congestion, affordable housing for workers and construction impacts to the neighborhood.

“It has huge potential to provide great civic benefits for the people living in and around the convention center,” she said.

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