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KeyArena designation approved by landmark board

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City council will vote to grant official landmark status at a later date

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship-UCLA vs Oregon State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, KeyArena - and its signature roof - was approved for historical landmark status by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board on Wednesday. The arena fulfilled all six of the possible criteria for designation, not the least of which is being associated with a major historical event, in this case the World’s Fair in 1962. Other factors include being representative of the work of a well known designer (Paul Thiry, respectively) and having a significant impact on a community.

The city council will ultimately draft legislation and vote on an ordinance to grant official landmark status based on the Preservation Board’s designation approval.

The designation obviously has a major impact on the proposed renovation by the Oak View Group. Many people thought initially that the building’s potential designation would be seen as a road block, but it’s actually good for OVG, as they can receive a $70 million tax credit if the building is declared a Federal Landmark. This is the first step in that process.

Speaking of processes, there will now be a guideline for OVG to follow in their renovation plans. “They can make alterations but they have to go through a process,” Erin Doherty, landmarks board coordinator for the KeyArena project, told the Seattle Times. Members of OVG are expected to meet with the landmarks board soon to discuss what that process will entail and how to keep their designs in line with the designation.

A potential wrench was thrown into the gears when the Bressi Garage, home to Pottery Northwest, was also given landmark status. The city originally offered the building up in the Request For Proposals and OVG’s plans called for demolishing the 1923 structure to make way for a staging area and entry point for an underground loading dock. The designation will require a new plan for that loading dock, or possibly a negotiation with Pottery Northwest. OVG would have to get approval for any changes to the building.

"The project team (in this case OVG) would pursue proposed alterations through the Certificate of Approval process," Lois Maag, spokesperson for the Department of Neighborhoods, wrote in an email to KING 5. "The applicant can apply for a Certificate of Approval to alter or demolish the building, following the procedures in the Landmarks Ordinance. Before pursuing that option, the staff would urge them to explore alternatives to demolition and discuss them with the Landmarks Board."

The designation of the Bressi Garage could also end up as a net positive for OVG, as it creates the possibility of even further tax credits. "This property will be eligible for Special Tax Valuation as a city landmark. The buildings need to be listed on the National Register to be eligible for the federal rehabilitation tax credits," Maag wrote.

The Council's select committee on Civic Arenas has a meeting scheduled August 14th at 10:30 a.m. to review the status of the KeyArena proposal.