In Friday’s guest column, Dave Gering took on the desire of some city leaders to build an entertainment area like L.A. Live in Sodo around the proposed Sonics arena. Here is Monday’s Seattle Times news story about L.A. Live and a recent trip the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently took to visit the complex.
I agree with Gering. We already have a great entertainment area to support a sports arena. It’s called lower Queen Anne. There are bars, restaurants, Seattle Center and parking garages. This neighborhood was abandoned first by the Sonics when they moved to Oklahoma, and again when the city of Seattle chose to strike a deal with Chris Hansen’s investment group to build a new arena in Sodo.
Here are some aerial map screenshots Gering grabbed from Google maps. Here is L.A. Live:
Here is Sodo:
Here is lower Queen Anne:
Hansen’s reasoning for choosing Sodo is that it would be cheaper to build from scratch than to tear down KeyArena first and build a new arena in the same spot. That, and because Sodo offers far greater return from a a real-estate investment perspective.
This city is thinking too small about Seattle Center. Leaders see it as an aging property that requires maintenance. They should instead consider it an opportunity to attract developers, Seattle Schools and yes, an NBA team franchise.
The city could partner with a developer to build a new arena, plus incentives to develop high-density housing. The income a developer could make from selling or renting the housing, plus special city incentives, could make up for the higher costs of tearing down KeyArena. It’s already opened the door to commercial ventures with Dale Chihuly’s museum and the Experience Music Project. City leaders could offer incentives for the developer to provide space for a public school that would serve children living in downtown who currently have no neighborhood public school.
The city seems a lot like a woman who married the first guy who came along because she was worried no one better would propose. There are other suitors, investors and developers who want to own an NBA team and would jump all over the right, creative approach for Seattle Center that benefited private, as well as public interests.
Instead of grabbing on to the first offer from an investor group, the city should, and still could, take a step back and reconsider Seattle Center.
Otherwise, I can guess what’s going to happen in the next few years. Instead of using this opportunity to revitalize Seattle Center, city leaders will come to the voters in a few years and ask us to fund a $300 million 10-year property-tax levy to remake Seattle Center. (This will come a few years after the city asks for a $300 million property-tax levy to remake the post-Viaduct waterfront.) And city voters will approve it, because Seattle has never met a tax it didn’t like.
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