New documents reveal Seattle Arena final pitch

SEATTLE -- New documents shed light on what will be likely the final public pitch for the Seattle Arena project.

The Seattle City Council will hold two different hearings Tuesday about the $500 million project as they decide whether to vacate a one-block stretch of Occidental Avenue to allow for construction.

The council has posted the final presentation on its website. It includes new designs, traffic flows, and their argument for eliminating the stretch of roadway.

At 2 p.m., the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mike O'Brien, is slated to hear the pitch from Jack McCullough, Chris Hansen's lead attorney, Seattle Department of Transportation Street Vacation Manager Beverly Barnett, and Mark Brands, who has done much of the architectural work on the proposal.

The new documents show that the group will be quick to point out that Safeco Field also required a street vacation in November of 1996 and SDOT's recommendation to eliminate the stretch of road for Hansen. 

Hansen has agreed to build a public park, pedestrian overpass, new sidewalks, bike facilities, and an access road for the Mariners on the east side of the new building. In exchange, he gets the street and the ability to build his NBA/NHL Arena.  Hansen's group, based on the documents, will argue that the park would be the first open public space in the SoDo neighborhood.

There are voluminous documents that are part of the public record. Hansen's team is expected to point to recent letters by the Seattle Police. They include a letter dated November 9, 2015, from Seattle Police Assistant Chief Perry Tarrant saying the department "(has) no issue with the closure of the street." Another from October 26, 2015, from Jennifer Ash of Metro Transit saying the agency has "reviewed the petition for vacation" and "has no concerns." They are part of nearly three and a half years' worth of documents which also include the environmental, design, and transportation studies on the project.

The Port of Seattle, and Seattle Mariners are expected to counter that a new arena will cause unneeded congestion in the SoDo area and point to a recent Port of Seattle-commissioned voter survey which claimed public support for the project was low.  They are also expected to push a KeyArena solution, although no public or private investor has stepped up to pay for such a project.

The meeting is the first of four over roughly the next month which could determine the future of the project.  If the council grants permission to vacate, Hansen could soon after that be granted a Master Use Permit.  All sides believe there will be at least one legal challenge filed against the project.

A rally, sponsored by Hansen's investment team, and led by former Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro, will start at 4pm, on Tuesday in Seattle City Hall's Bertha Knight Landes Room.

Public comment will follow at the 5:30 p.m. meeting, and be limited to two minutes per person.

The full schedule is as follows as listed on the council's website:

  1. The afternoon of Tuesday March 15, 2016, during the Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting at 2:00, the Committee will receive a briefing from the architects of the proposed Arena.
  2. The evening of Tuesday March 15, 2016, starting at 5:30 there will be a public hearing on the vacation request in City Council Chambers.
  3. The afternoon of Tuesday April 5, 2016, during the Committee meeting at 2:00, the Committee will receive a briefing on the transportation analyses of this application contained in the Environmental Impact Statement.
  4. The afternoon of Tuesday April 19, 2016, the Committee meeting at 2:00 will include a discussion of public benefits proposed for this project. This meeting may include committee discussion and a vote on the proposal.

If the committee votes unanimously on April 19, a full council decision could come as early as April 25.

If the committee is not unanimous in its recommendation, as some observers expect, a full council decision will wait until May 2 based on the current timeline.


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