Just over a year ago we submitted a revised application for a conditional street vacation of a one block section of Occidental Avenue South in SoDo, where we hope to build a state of the art arena for the Sonics.
A lot has happened since then, so we wanted to update everyone on where things stand.
As you all know, the Oak View Group has an agreement with the City of Seattle to renovate KeyArena as a new home for the NHL, a venue for Live Nation promoted concerts, the Seattle Storm, and possibly even an NBA team. We’re excited for local fans and wish Oak View Group and city leaders the very best.
But our goal to bring the Sonics back to Seattle doesn’t end there.
We believe having two viable arena options would put Seattle in the best possible position to attract an NBA team. And we believe having competitive proposals effectively creates an insurance policy for the City. If, for example, some future NBA ownership group is unable to make KeyArena pencil out, or if renovating KeyArena to meet NBA standards proves difficult, Seattle will still have a path to attract a team if one becomes available.
So, we’re continuing our work to have an arena project that is shovel-ready, which is an important factor for the NBA to consider Seattle for league expansion or team relocation.
The last piece required for our project to be shovel-ready is the approval by the Seattle City Council of our revised application to vacate a one block section of Occidental Avenue South in Seattle’s zoned Stadium District.
Our proposal fell short of approval in 2016 when the City Council last considered our application. Since then we’ve listened to the concerns of the council members and the community and updated our proposal with several key differences. Those changes include:
- PRIVATE FINANCING – The arena is now 100% privately funded and requires no public financing or subsidies. Plus, the arena would pay many millions in property and other taxes which would benefit of the City and Seattle Public Schools.
- ZERO RISK – Approving the conditional vacation will not expose the city to any risk or cost because the arena would not be built, and the street would not be vacated, until and unless a team has been secured. Simply stated, no team means no street vacation, which means no risk to the city.
- IMPROVED FREIGHT MOBILITY – We agreed to contribute an additional $1.3 million to implement SDOT 2016 Freight Master Plan projects, including the Lander Overpass that was approved since the council last considered the vacation. Importantly, the new overpass will not only help freight mobility but also dead-end Occidental just south of the proposed arena, making the one block section of Occidental even less useful for the SoDo transportation network.
- PUBLIC BENEFITS – Our updated public benefit package totals almost $27 million. Including the cost of purchasing the one block stretch of Occidental plus SEPA mitigation, more than $60 million will be spent in exchange for a small and lightly trafficked portion of a non-arterial street.
- COMMUNITY BENEFIT AGREEMENT – We have committed to an expanded Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) to foster equity and social justice and provide meaningful benefits to the local communities. The CBA includes economic development, targeted local hiring and contracting, family wage employment opportunities, job training and apprenticeships, and a strong mechanism for ongoing dialogue and partnership. The agreement also establishes partnerships with organizations that serve youth and underserved communities, especially in areas with health and education disparities, and includes a strong commitment to foster the establishment and growth of Women and Minority owned businesses.
- JOINT SCHEDULING CONDITIONS – Scheduling conditions suggested by the City Council remain an important part of the street vacation petition. Those conditions will ensure a coordinated approach to traffic and transportation issue in the Stadium District and minimize the potential for multiple events on the same day.
On April 6, 2017, the Seattle Design Commission approved the urban design and public benefit of the proposed SoDo Arena and recommended the conditional street vacation be approved by the Seattle City Council.
We look forward to making our case to the City Council, and we remain committed to doing everything possible to bring back the Sonics and build an asset that will benefit the region for many years to come.
By approving the conditional street vacation for the SoDo Arena, the City Council can send a strong and clear message to the NBA that our city is ready – and eager – for the return of the Sonics to Seattle.