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UPDATED: Seattle Arena Earns Final Design Thumb's Up, Street Vacation Recommendation

It's been a good week for the Seattle Arena project.

HOK, SiteWorkshop, City of Seattle

UPDATED FRIDAY 9/4: That's 2 for 2 in unanimous votes for the Seattle Arena project this week.

On Thursday morning, the Seattle Design Commission voted unanimously to recommend the street vacation of Occidental Ave S. to the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Seattle City Council.

The recommendation is based on the public benefits of the arena project. Coupled with the SDC's unanimous vote for the project based on its urban design merit in May and the Downtown Design Review Board's unanimous approval of the arena design earlier this week, things now move to the city council.

KING5's Chris Daniels has more on the SDC meeting and recommendation.

Original Article

The unique towering turbine design of the Seattle Arena project gets a final enthusiastic, and official, thumb's up. Eyes now turn to the street vacation.

On Tuesday evening, the five members of the Downtown Design Review Board voted unanimously to approve the updated arena design proposal, nearly two years after their last meeting on investor Chris Hansen's project. Board member Murphy McCullough stated the project had "evolved in a significant way."

Per our pal Chris Daniels of KING5-TV, the board did have some conditions for the approval, primarily related to the specific building materials used in the project and design of some of the overhangs at ground level. Based on Sonics Rising's reviews of the proposals, this would seem to specifically center around the longevity and durability of a surfacing material called Trespa that will simulate a dark walnut wood motif around the arena. That's our guess, though it could involve other materials. These conditions will need to be addressed to satisfaction of the Department of Planning and Development in order to issue the Master Use Permit for the project.

The three-hour meeting of the DDRB consisted of the project presentation by the design team, which lasted about an hour, followed by a relatively brief Q&A by the board on a general level. The meeting was then opened to public comment, and only one comment was provided.

This, of course, was an objection by the Port of Seattle, long in opposition of the project in its SoDo location.

According to Daniels, the Port questioned both the pedestrian bridge -- their rep inexplicably declaring the bridge will be "shoved" into the area -- and if the sidewalks around the arena would be adequate enough. For those of us who have followed the design process closely, both the Seattle Design Commission and the DDRB made comments in the past that perhaps the width of the sidewalks planned by the design team was actually a bit too much. The Port's objection seems incongruous with the process. As for the bridge, a remedy suggested by the city and born out of concerns previously expressed by the Port and the nearby rail companies, this again seems like a reach of an objection.

For any keeping score, the Mariners organization didn't make a public comment during the meeting but did write a letter to the DDRB expressing concern that the numbers used in the FEIS in calculating pedestrian flow for both Safeco and CenturyLink Fields were too low. That pesky impending World Series traffic threatens to throw a wrench in everything.

The board delved into specific technical architectural questions for the last hour-and-a-half of the meeting before granting their approval.

Next, the SDC meets on Thursday morning to go over a final presentation and discussion of the various public benefits of the project. They are widely expected to vote on a recommendation to the Seattle Department of Transportation on vacating the part of Occidental Ave. S that currently bisects the arena project site. Daniels points out that the SDC seems ready to move the project forward, matching a unanimous approval on its urban design merit back in May.

What's Next

Following the SDC vote on recommendation, SDOT compiles a report with its own recommendation to submit to the Seattle City Council. The council will then introduce legislation regarding the street vacation. They will then either open a council meeting or set a specific hearing to gather public comments. This should occur within two weeks of proposed legislation.

The mayor's arena timeline from earlier in the year had this occurring this month. That timeline also anticipates that the council vote on the street vacation will likely take place at or by the end of the year. Keep in mind that there are council elections for all nine of the seats coming up in November, so that likely plays into the timeline of said vote.

With the design approval/recommendation of the DDRB and a positive street vacation vote, DPD can then make a decision on issuing the Master Use Permit. That's anticipated to occur in early 2016. And that, my friends, will make a "shovel ready" arena.

In the meantime, pop some corks. It may not be sexy -- to open his article, Daniels succinctly (and hilariously) noted, "If a new Seattle Arena ever sells hot dogs, it will be after watching sausage made on nights like this." -- but this is another big step forward in the arena process.