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NEWS|February 9 2021

February Newsletter: Bridge could sustain WSCC Addition Project

The Washington State Convention Center Addition takes shape above Pine Street (foreground) and Interstate-5 (right).

 

Hello,

The Washington State Convention Center’s (WSCC) Addition project – and some 1,000 construction jobs – are still in jeopardy. Without a solution to the project’s roughly $315 million coronavirus-induced gap in its financing capacity, the project will start shutting down in spring 2021.

The impacts of a potential shutdown are significant, including sending all the project’s construction workers home in 2021 in an industry expected to shrink. The jobsite worker population is composed of more than 30 percent people of color. About 25 percent of the workers are from distressed ZIP codes, and more than 15 percent are apprentices who are developing long-term, family-wage careers in the building trades.

On February 6, the New York Times reported on the “anemic jobs report” from the day prior, “affecting the most vulnerable groups disproportionately.” Many of the jobs affected are in the hospitality sector.

City Explores Bridge Loan
January brought hopeful news on filling the financing gap to keep the Addition (also called Summit) on track for completion in mid-2022. Washington state and the City of Seattle joined King County in announcing their intention to explore loan options to continue construction of the WSCC project. In a letter to the WSCC Board of Directors on January 22, the City said it is exploring providing a bridge loan to help WSCC overcome its financing gap. The City’s support could take the form of a short-term repayable loan or an equivalent form of debt guarantee. Approval by the Seattle City Council also will be required, as details are worked out.

It’s important to note that options being explored are not gifts or a bailout. Loans would be repaid with interest, and WSCC would bear all borrowing costs.
 

“The City believes that completion of the WSCC Summit Addition project is critical for the long-term future of Seattle’s economy. In addition, continued work on the Addition will provide hundreds of family-wage construction jobs right now, which will help the community more quickly recover from the current recession,” said City of Seattle Senior Deputy Mayor Michael Fong in the letter to the WSCC Board.

The City joins the County in support of the project. In December, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the County’s plan to provide a $105 million loan to the Addition.

Both the City’s and County’s participation depends on participation by the State.

“I am committed to finding a solution that supports the completion of the Washington State Convention Center Addition project that benefits our entire region. My staff and I will continue to work with legislative leaders to find the best way to join King County and Seattle in providing a $315 million bridge loan to the Convention Center. We look forward to completing the construction of this critical project in 2022,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

Immediate Shutdown Avoided
With these indications of support, Addition construction is moving forward. A plan for an orderly mid-year shutdown of the project will remain on hold as loan agreements are pursued. The project team will assess in March whether construction can continue full-speed, or if certain activities need to be curtailed.

Our region’s prosperity relies on projects like the Addition. For more information on the Addition project’s community and economic benefits, visit our website.

Yours in Partnership,
The Addition Team

Open for business 2022.

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