On Monday, Oak View Group president Tim Leiweke announced that his group has dropped a controversial 850-stall parking garage from its proposal to renovate Seattle Center’s KeyArena.
Per Geoff Baker with the Seattle Times, Leiweke says the group will now incorporate 400 parking stalls into underground space below the new arena. Leiweke stressed the parking will not affect the loading bays and marshaling area that have been a big selling point of OVG’s renovation plans.
In addition, the group will explore potentially adding parking to the three existing parking garages around Seattle Center that they still propose to manage for the city if selected as the winning bid for the arena project.
The parking garage had become a lightning rod in OVG’s proposal.
Initially viewed as a key component of their traffic and parking mitigation efforts, public release of their RFP (request for proposal) response revealed that the parking garage was not considered a part of the $564 million announced project cost. It would be additional development dependent upon a financial contribution from a public entity other than the City of Seattle.
It is generally believed, and OVG project lead Lance Lopes has acknowledged, that the Port of Seattle would help to fund part or potentially all of the cost of the garage. Estimates for the garage had ranged from $20 to $47 million.
As the port is funded by public taxes, this was seen by many as a potential subsidy that seemed to fly in the face of the city’s intention of minimal public financial participation in the arena project.
The Port of Seattle has denied any negotiations or agreements with OVG to support the garage.
Curiously, there were unverified reports two or three months ago of citizens receiving polling phone calls regarding the port potentially paying for a parking garage in the Lower Queen Anne area. This was before the deadline for OVG and competing group Seattle Partners to submit their responses to the RFP.
Leiweke stated they made the decision to remove the parking garage from their proposal after speaking with various stakeholders in Uptown. The prevailing feeling was the neighborhood was not interested in many additional buildings being “added on” to the arena and the Center in general.
The area south of the planned entrance lobby will now be more of an open plaza.
The stakeholders also expressed a desire to keep the streets around the arena “free-flowing.” Baker mentions the garage was seen as a potential bottleneck impacting that flow as up to 850 cars made their way in and out of the structure.
Yet, if they’re still planning on up to 400 cars being able to grab underground parking, presumably using the same tunnel/ramp below Thomas Street planned for the loading bays, it’s not entirely clear how free-flowing the area will be.
Mayor Ed Murray is expected to present his decision on the renovation bid winner to the city council within the next two weeks.
After that, the council will begin negotiations on a development and lease agreement with the bid winner. In addition, the council is expected to hear recommendation from the city’s Department of Transportation and consider legislation on the street vacation requested by the investor group proposing an arena in the SoDo district.
The city will decide between the Seattle Center project and the SoDo project later this year.