We told you there was news coming. We told you Chris Hansen was "still here, still working." We can now report that Hansen has purchased another 4.88 acres of land in SODO, reaffirming his commitment to the Sonics Arena project.
The land is a strip consisting of two parcels stretching from Holgate Street to Walker Street. Hansen and his group, WSA Properties, paid $32 million for the land, three times its assessed value. This is the same land that Hansen purchased an option on back in 2014. Why he decided to act on the option now is still uncertain, but it seems to indicate a possible renewed confidence in getting an arena deal done. One source told KING 5 that "This is still all about the Sonics." The plan was, and by all indications still is, to use that stretch of land to build a parking garage. Hansen now owns 12.26 acres - over 534,000 square feet - in SODO, land that he has spent nearly $100 million on.
It would seem that owning that much land in the area would help him earn a seat at a meeting of the newly formed "Industrial Lands Advisory Panel," which Mayor Ed Murray created last month. The purpose of the panel is to determine what to do long-term with industrial areas in Ballard and, yes, SODO.
Some of the current issues in the area include the Lander Street Overpass - which received $45 million in federal grants but is still short of being fully funded - and Terminal 46, which saw a major setback last month when Hanjin Shipping - the Northwest Seaport Alliance's biggest customer - declared bankruptcy.
Included on the panel is Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson, who voted in favor of the Occidental Avenue street vacation. When told of Hansen's latest purchase, he told KING 5 it was "news to me" but added that he "hope[s] this is one of the items we'll discuss." Johnson believes the panel could revisit the "Stadium District Complex" and asked the one question we are all asking; "Can we find any sort of way to say this (arena) can work or is it clearly not going to happen?"
Hansen's next move isn't entirely clear, but we do know he will have to reapply for street vacation if he wants to get the deal done. When that may happen, or what may change in order to try and flip at least one vote, remains unknown.
All of this news was first reported by KING 5's Chris Daniels, who joined Paul Rogers on the Sin Bin podcast to discuss all the latest details. You can listen to that below.
UPDATE 7:55 pm
Bill Vipond, a real estate consultant for Hansen, told the Seattle Times' Mike Rosenburg that the City Council's vote didn't "thwart our efforts."
"I’ve never gotten any direction (from Hansen) other than full steam ahead, we’re bringing the Sonics back," Vipond said. "The general directive is, ‘Let’s go, let’s get the Sonics back, let’s keep working on getting the team.’ "
He also thinks that one of the City Council's issues with the street vacation was a lack of parking for the arena, and that making this purchase official can take care of that concern. "I think it could cure the parking riddle down there, or at least put a huge dent in it."
Ed note: A previous version of this story incorrectly labeled Rob Johnson as the head of the Industrial Lands Advisory Panel.