There have been recent setbacks on the team acquisition side of solving the Seattle professional winter sports equation, but work on the two active arena projects continues to steam forward.
Lost amidst the hubbub of NHL expansion and Milwaukee's retention of the NBA's Bucks in the Great Arena Showdown (patent pending) in the last few weeks, the Seattle Arena Group edges forward unabated in the permitting process required to move onto the transaction phase of the SoDo arena project. Some upcoming key dates have been revealed.
Seattle Arena in SoDo
August 6 - The Seattle Design Commission meets on their final discussion of the street vacation of Occidental Avenue S, the road that currently bisects the proposed arena site. The SDC will take the second of two votes on recommendation to submit to the Seattle Department of Transportation.
This vote will be on the public benefit of the street vacation, presented by the arena group to include repavements to both Massachusetts and Holgate streets to improve traffic flow and freight mobility in the area, public art and green space projects, and the $40M transportation infrastructure fund to be established by a "go" project.
End of August - SDOT will finish its own recommendation report on the street vacation to submit to the Seattle City Council. The report will feature costs and logistics of the vacation, and incorporates the two recommendations from the SDC.
September 1 - The final recommendation meeting of the Downtown Design Review Board will offer one last pass at the architectural design of the Seattle Arena project. It will be nearly two years since the DDRB last met and we expect to see finalized plans. (read: New arena renderings!)
The recommendation of the Review Board is one of the final pieces needed to aid the Department of Planning and Development in its decision to issue a Master Use Permit for the project.
September - The Seattle City Council will take its first legislative action on the SoDo project since passing the Memorandum of Understanding in October 2012. An ordinance on the street vacation will be proposed with voting by the council expected by the end of the year. Once proposed, a public meeting to hear comments on the vacation will be scheduled within two weeks.
Northwest Arena in Tukwila
Meanwhile, the RLB Holdings group presses on with its environmental review for the Northwest Arena project in Tukwila.
A Determination of Significance, which identifies that there is enough potential impact to the environment to require study, was issued by Tukwila on May 22nd. This kicked off a scoping period to determine what impacts would by analyzed in such a study, which ended on June 12th.
One month ago, a summary of the scoping period commentary was released that identified the key aspects of the environmental review: air quality; land use; height, bulk, scale, and aesthetics; recreation; and transportation.
Late August/Early September - While there is no official date set by the city nor a standardized timeline, the issuance of a Draft EIS is anticipated at around 60 days from the start of the review. As we all well know, any number of factors can play into the length of time of the review on either side of the DEIS.
Once a Draft has been issued, there is a standard 30-day commentary period. The City of Tukwila will have the option to take an additional 15 days of commentary if it feels the need. (Seattle DPD elected for a 45-day commentary on the SoDo DEIS because of the complexity of the project.)
December - If everything goes swimmingly, this is roughly the earliest we can expect a Final EIS published. SEPA law states an FEIS should be issued within 60 days of the end of the commentary period for the Draft EIS.
Of course, they also allow that, if a project is large or complex, it can neglect the 60-day timeframe and take as long as is necessary. RLB and the city anticipated the review process to last 6-12 months, which places the end between December and June 2016.
While investment and acquisition of a team are vital, the biggest impediment to Seattle getting either the NBA or the NHL is the lack of a suitable arena. As we fans fall under the distraction of the team side of things, the two arena groups continue to diligently follow their projects through to the end.
It may not be as sexy, but it's exciting all the same.