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KeyArena proposal timeline comes into focus; neighborhood expresses concerns

City officials fielded many questions about bringing the NBA and NHL to a remodeled KeyArena at a meeting with Uptown residents

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle mayor Ed Murray has set a deadline of June 30, 2017 to receive arena proposals and recommendations from various city departments for a potential renovation of KeyArena, per a report by KING5-TV's Chris Daniels. Though, city officials admitted at a community meeting Thursday that a full traffic analysis for the site would be "unlikely" to meet the deadline.

The timeline came to light in an internal memo from Murray to city departments obtained by KING. In addition to the June 2017 date, Murray has ordered the city to coordinate a KeyArena renovation project team "no later than November 15, 2016."

The memo also sets the expectation that the project team must "deliver a work plan with project deliverables and deadlines no later than December 15, 2016."

The milestone dates should allay concerns that the city might mire itself in a drawn-out process analyzing KeyArena. A lengthy process could potentially cost the option of the existing SoDo neighborhood arena proposal from hedge fund manager Chris Hansen's investment group.

However, the accelerated timeline limits the ability to study for the RFP process the traffic, transportation, and parking impacts that form the biggest worries and objections about the Seattle Center site. Traffic studies would likely be required in an environmental review if the city chooses to proceed with a KeyArena project.

Sonics Rising's Mike Baker attended the meeting of Lower Queen Anne residents where officials presented the city's vision of arena renovation proposals. More coverage to follow, but he offers his initial thoughts.

Mr. Baker on neighbor concerns over KeyArena

On Thursday evening, Seattle's Uptown Neighborhood held their monthly General Meeting. Among other business, they had guests from the city explain the Seattle Center arena Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The guest speakers were: Robert Nellams, Director, Seattle Center; Ben Noble, Director, City Budget Office; Brian Surratt, the city's Economic Development Director; and Sally Bagshaw Seattle City Councilmember for the 7th District.

The speakers walked through the process, and that parking and transportation studies could not be done before the RFP is issued in January. They do have prior studies on Seattle Center, parking, and remodeling KeyArena. The old studies should be useful in creating a better RFP; better than nothing. I would suggest looking at the SoDo Arena FEIS that completed last year for more recent study of traffic around Seattle Center.

Saving the old building was another major concern. When asked about the KeyArena's historic landmark status, Ben Noble said it wasn't one. Robert Nellams said it was more than 50 years old and could qualify. I'm sure they are both aware of the 2013 Historical Landmark Study that included KeyArena in the group of buildings by noted architect Paul Thiry to be put forward to the Landmarks Preservation Board.

As Knute Berger wrote in last year:

"… the [AECOM] report acknowledges that the roof of the Paul Thiry-designed arena is eligible for landmark status, and would almost certainly be landmarked if any major redevelopment was in the offing." - KeyArena still has a winning play

Well, it's "in the offing" now. Two groups have shown interest in the project after reviewing last year's AECOM report. If the proposals come back as completely new buildings, it will be interesting to see the city straddle that fence. It would be a time for choosing for Sally Bagshaw.

Nellams talked about the AECOM report that a new arena under the old beams was a possibility. He also noted that the last 3 arenas built around the country were in urban centers and slightly smaller than other arenas. That seemed to focus the questions on the neighborhood's hard work in recent years. Bringing back the Sonics to KeyArena would hurt the change in the nature of the relationship between the neighborhood and Seattle Center as a partnership.

Many neighbors repeated the point that there has been a dramatic increase in residential building, lots of jobs, "with another 60,000 on the way". It wasn't terribly explicit, but the general argument against a new arena was that they are already going to have an increase in density, traffic, and jobs that the arena would be too much. They essentially put it on the city to show how the traffic would be mitigated. It was a difficult conversation to have without information.

Curiously, in SoDo the traffic mitigation is on Chris Hansen. The way traffic was talked about around KeyArena, it was something for the city to mitigate.

I sure hope the city takes into consideration the total cost of all it will take to put a new arena in Seattle Center and the proposed arena in SoDo.