For one thing, the Mariners and Seahawks are no strangers to the area. The teams have already played there for years, nourishing various Pioneer Square bars, restaurants, shops and the Tuba Man who oompahs in front the Kingdome on game days.
But a gale of other forces will combine with the $1 billion in new stadium construction to transform more of the neighborhood from industrial to entertainment and retail, planners and real estate experts say.
The mostly drab northern end of the industrial district will become the Puget Sound area’s main mass transit hub when light and heavy rail trains begin disgorging passengers at the King Street and Union stations. Many of the passengers will work in a glitzy new high-tech office campus at Union Station, or live in some 500 new condos and apartments nearby. They’ll visit a new collection of bistros, sports bars and cookie outlets at which to fuel up before and after the games.
Rumors persist about a new hotel, and the state plans to create more-efficient on- and off-ramps to the area from nearby interstate highways.
While all that puts a gleam in developers’ eyes, at least one group — owners and operators of industrial businesses — urges caution so that a vital element of the area’s economy doesn’t get choked off in the process.
“The Duwamish manufacturing and industrial center provides the largest concentration of family wage jobs in the Puget Sound region, generating enormous tax and export revenues,” states a recently completed plan for the area that was written over the past four years and now faces City Council review. “This valuable employment base must be preserved.”
Yet even the industrial-use supporters concede the blocks closest to the two new stadiums will evolve away from industrial viability.
The plan for the area, drawn up by the Greater Duwamish Planning Committee, calls for compromise by giving up heavy industry along First Avenue South, along the west side of the two stadiums. The stretch of three long blocks to Massachusetts Street would become an “industrial-commercial buffer zone,” said committee co-chairman David Huchthausen, though he stipulated the committee doesn’t like to use the word “buffer.”
In return, the plan proposes strengthening barriers against nonindustrial uses creeping further south of the stadiums.
“We’re proposing some pretty sweeping changes to eliminate incompatible uses,” Huchthausen said.
Hotels wouldn’t be allowed south of the stadiums. Conversions of industrial to office use such as the Starbucks Center will be grandfathered in but wouldn’t be allowed to happen again.
Developer David Zarett‘s conversion of a four-story cold storage building at 2200 First Ave. S. into offices and first-floor retail, now under construction, would be grandfathered in. But similar projects would be prohibited under the plan’s recommendations.
Allen at work
The biggest single agent of change north of Massachusetts is Paul Allen.
The billionaire Microsoft co-founder bought the Seahawks last year after voters approved paying much of the cost of a new, open-air football stadium on the site of the Kingdome. That’s just north of the retractable-roof Safeco Field for the Mariners, set to open July 15.
Allen then became an investor with developer Nitze-Stagen & Co. in Nitze-Stagen’s planned redevelopment of Union Station, an unused train depot northeast of the Kingdome, between the dome and the International District. Nitze-Stagen proposes a campus of five 10-story office buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet on Union Station’s seven acres, atop 1,100 underground parking spaces.
Allen’s Vulcan Northwest next bought one of the five building sites and planned to start construction this month on an innovatively designed 11-story building. Vulcan will move its offices into that building.
Two other development companies stepped in to build on the other four sites. One of them, Opus Northwest, plans to start construction on at least one structure this summer.
Planners say the Union Station project is of such magnitude that it will upgrade the character of the now-gritty streets around it. In the International District, the Uwajimaya grocery store plans to build a bigger store for itself along with 171 new apartments.
Union Station’s historic Great Hall is under renovation to serve as headquarters for Sound Transit, the bus and train system operator. Commuter trains will start using the station, which will be connected by walkways over Fourth Avenue South to the King Street Station, now under rehabilitation by the state to become a main hub in the new light-rail transit system.
A 10-story office building to house King County employees is also more than halfway through construction next to King Street Station.
As part of creation of the new football stadium, 450 new housing units are expected to be built a few years from now on the Kingdome’s north parking lot.
Allen has already begun construction of a major exhibition hall that will adjoin the new football stadium at its south end.
Allen also is converting a warehouse building southwest of the Kingdome into 36 loft-style condominiums, with first-floor retail. That project, called Palmer Court, is at 1000 First Ave. S. In time, Allen anticipates building new housing on the site of Mac’s Smokehouse, next to Palmer Court.
The next big proposal for the stadiums area is Martin Smith Real Estate Services’ still-evolving notion of converting the seven-acre WOSCA warehouse site west of the Kingdome into some 600,000-square-feet of offices and retail.
The state ferry system had targeted that site, between First Avenue and Alaskan Way, as a lot for cars to await ferry boarding. The proposal now is for that lot to occupy the west half of the site and the office-retail development to take the east half. The Martin Smith project has a long way to go through public review and city permitting before anything would happen.
The state also plans a $167 million reconfiguring of Highway 519, which now serves as the ramp from Fourth Avenue onto Interstates 90 and 5.
Highway 519 will become the route solely for incoming traffic off the interstates to Royal Brougham Way, remaining elevated until it touches down near First Avenue, said Steve Pearce, senior planner in the city of Seattle’s Strategic Planning Office.
South Atlantic Street, a long block south of Royal Brougham, will become the route for outgoing traffic from First Avenue to the freeways, also elevated from First Avenue.
“A lot of other cities (notably Denver and Baltimore) are putting in stadiums as economic development tools,” said Pearce. “Here it’s an entirely different matter. These stadiums came out of improving franchise competitiveness (of the existing teams). We’ve got a healthy downtown, lots of activity in Pioneer Square already, and the industrial district. The challenge is to fit the stadiums into the fabric here.”
By JOE NABBEFELD