The Seattle Center is expected to file formal paperwork this week to landmark seven buildings.
While on the surface, it may not seem like a big deal, those buildings all stand in the middle of a proposed redevelopment of Seattle Center.
The oddly-timed announcement came before the Seattle City Council's Select Committee on Civic Arenas, and signaled a much bigger request than previously indicated.
Kerry Smith, who is a Strategic Advisor for the Center, made the announcement as the Council discussed the proposal redevelopment of the Center, and the current Request for Proposals on the site. She said a historical landmark application has been made for the Pottery Northwest/Park Place buildings on the Southwest corner of the Center. The City plans to file five more by the end of the week for West Coast Building, NASA Building, Blue Spruce Building, Seattle Center Pavilion, and KeyArena.
It is another wrinkle in a complicated process. The City put the land out for a redevelopment bid, and the RFP asked for bidders to come back with proposals for redevelopment of KeyArena with, and without the roof. The Arena has long been expected to be included in a historic landmark filing. Two companies - AEG and Oak View Group - are expected to make independent bids.
Council members seemed surprised by the announcement.
Council President Bruce Harrell admitted "I'm not at all pleased with how that sort of plays out," he said, adding, "We could've since we have control of that process, could have submitted that."
The Historic Landmark designation process could complicate the timing of any KeyArena redevelopment proposal.
According to Lois Maag, of the Department of Neighborhoods, which handles Historic Landmarks, says normally, nomination reviews are done within 3-4 weeks. The nomination would then go to a public meeting of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, and if the nomination is approved, go to another public meeting 30 to 60 days later. If the Board signs off again on the designation, it would trigger another process for "controls and incentives", which runs for another 75 days. After all that, the Council would need to approve any deal.
"None of those kind of issues are insurmountable that can address that, I don't think it's going to hang out there," said Council member Debora Juarez, who is co-chairing the committee. "You basically tell the proposer, A, there may be no landmark issues, or B, be prepared with controls and incentives."
AEG did not immediately respond to the developments. OVG said, through a spokeperson, they were aware of the historic designation plans.
The Monorail is also a historic landmark, and has generated a significant amount of discussion recently as a potential transportation solution for a KeyArena remodel.
"I think the Monorail is going to be a critical factor," said Harrell. "We have to be honest that traffic in South Lake Union is less than desirable, in my mind the parking or traffic criteria is critical." He hinted, in the committee meeting, both groups are expected to mention the Monorail in their proposal.
Juarez, however, said she doesn't think the impact has been seriously investigated. "That has not been a fully vetted subject," she said, "(But) If I were in charge, it would be silly to not use the infrastructure." She called transportation a "deal breaker". Juarez added "you have to address (that) you can move 18000 people in and out".
The committee is also expected to review Chris Hansen's proposal on the SoDo Arena. His group has refiled a street vacation petition, asking for a one-block stretch of Occidental to be eliminated so it can build a privately financed building.
Council member Tim Burgess, on Monday, cited SDOT's plan to "dead end" Occidental in order to build the Lander Street overpass. Harrell acknowledged "my main concern with the SoDo Proposal wasn't that I had concerns." Harrell voted for the street vacation the last time around, and said today, "We heard public testimony today on job loss that a SoDo Arena would cause somewhat lower (job loss) than people were saying they were."
The KeyArena proposals are due April 12th. The Council's Arena committee meets again April 17th.