While the Oak View Group rolls out regular milestones in its effort to rebuild the former KeyArena and bring an NHL team to Seattle, a lingering civic question remains: What is happening with Chris Hansen’s competing SoDo project?
The answer, as it turns out, is complicated. Neither really alive or dead, Chris Hansen’s Seattle Arena proposal, appears snared in the city’s Department of Transportation office. Depending on who is asked, the stalled proposal is either the victim of inadequate information about a street-closure request or it is the target of city leadership intent on delaying it into oblivion.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has declined to either endorse or kill the proposal outright, saying that along with the city-endorsed Seattle Center arena project, “they can move forward.”
Except they haven’t. Only one has. OVG’s arena proposal seemingly has another new announcement each month: New building renderings, new hires, record season ticket deposits.
Not so for Hansen, the hedge fund manager whose effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle unintentionally opened the door for the other pro sports arena plan. He now finds his own competing effort stalled by a request to permanently close one block of Occidental Avenue South, a process called a vacation.
The closure of that block is necessary for Hansen’s SoDo arena proposal. A different section of Occidental was closed in 1996 to build Safeco Field.
This isn’t the first time the Hansen project has stopped on this point. In May of 2016, the city council turned down the request on a 5-4 vote. But Hansen’s team refiled the vacation request with new information — and no use of public bond money — a year later. And after a series of back-and-forth discussions with the city’s transportation department, Hansen’s team received what they thought was the final set of requests from the city.
In a letter dated Nov. 29, 2017, Beverly Barnett, SDOT’s public space manager, asked attorneys with the land development law firm working for Hansen for details in two additional areas:
1. How the proposed Lander Street bridge would affect the requested closure of Occidental between Massachusetts and Holgate streets?
2. Had the group talked about even scheduling with other groups potentially affected by the street closure including the Seattle Mariners and Sounders, the Seattle RV show, First & Goal among others?
On Jan. 30, 2018, the Hansen group filed a detailed report with SDOT about the traffic impact of the bridge coupled with the requested Occidental closure. And the group said it has reached out to all of the stakeholders and reached scheduling agreements with those who responded.
And now Hansen, sources said, wants to see the requested vacation back in front of the city council for another try.
But still no word from SDOT.
Asked what the Hansen group still needed to provide, SDOT’s communication supervisor Norm Mah said in an email, “…the additional documentation relates to the potential scheduling of events. SDOT will be working with the applicants and other parties on this issue as part of the review process.”
Asked specifically what additional documentation Hansen’s group needed to provide, Mah replied in a second email, “I do not have anything additional to share with you other than what I previously provided.”
Durkin’s office also declined to comment on the Hansen project.