Morning Fizz

Murray Set to Make Announcement About Empty Civic Square Lot

A big announcement about the hole in the ground across from city hall and no big announcements from the NBA.

By Josh Feit October 28, 2016

1. With  1) Chris Hansen’s big announcement this week that he’s willing to put up the $200 million to build the SoDo arena himself in the hopes that the council will reconsider the Occidental Street vacation he needs to build the arena (they turned him down in May when the deal relied on $200 million in city-backed bonds) and 2) with the mayor’s announcement (coupled with the news that there are two different investor groups interested in revamping the KeyArena for an NBA venue) that the city is issuing an RFP for proposals to upgrade the Key,  there’s certainly an elephant in the room.

Nobody, not Hansen’s group, nor the new groups that want to upgrade the Key, has an NBA team in hand. And as NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said, there’s no big push coming from NBA owners to expand the league.

And here’s some other news that’s in play this week: TV ratings are notably down for the NFL. One of the reasons for that, analysts say, is oversaturation. That doesn't bode well for NBA expansion.

2. Speaking of big announcements: Look for Mayor Ed Murray to announce today that he’s closing in on a deal with a developer to build on the empty lot across the street from city hall.

The empty spot has been a source of embarrassment in downtown—and was at the center of an election year scandal in 2015 when the previous developer Triad was caught offering a crass deal to then city-council candidate Jon Grant. They told him, via former mayor Mike McGinn, that they’d stop backing his opponent, city council member Tim Burgess, if Grant would tell the Tenants Union (where Grant had been executive director) to drop a lawsuit against the group.


Murray reacted to the strong arm tactics by saying he’d no longer do business with Triad. But he got a little stuck because it wasn’t clear that he could legally walk away from Triad.

Moreover, just last May, the new developer Murray was trying to line up, Touchstone, said they couldn’t make the project work.

Well, the word is, there’s a new developer in the mix and talks are far enough along that the mayor will make a big deal announcement today.

It’ll be interesting to see if his announcement comes with any pledge to spend city revenue on affordable housing or homelessness.

And maybe they'll build an NBA arena there..?


Here's Murray's announcement:

Today, Mayor Ed Murray sent a mayoral directive to Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) to negotiate the sale of the Civic Square project to Bosa Development and direct the proceeds to establish a new Equitable Development Fund. The sale would also net $5.7 million in funds for affordable housing, meeting or exceeding the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requirement. Combined, nearly $22 million from this sale will go to equity and affordability projects around the City.

“Seattle is growing and we are working to ensure that it happens in a way that is equitable, benefitting everyone who lives and works here,” said Mayor Murray. “The sale of the Civic Square property allows us to leverage our resources to invest in communities most at-risk for displacement and to make a major investment in affordable housing. While we continue to revitalize our downtown core, we are strategically investing around the city to strengthen our communities for the future.”

The Equitable Development Fund will be established with the $16 million in proceeds from the sale, and used as part of the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), which helps ensure Seattle’s existing residents and businesses also enjoy the benefits of development around the city, rather than being displaced by it. These funds will go to community-driven projects such as a cultural center for long-time residents to maintain neighborhood character or a job training program focused on good-paying jobs in the community.

The Office of Planning and Community Development and FAS will work with Council and the community to develop a plan for using the net proceeds from the sale. The additional $5.7 million will go to the Office of Housing to leverage other funding for building affordable housing.

The agreement with Bosa Development replaces the 2007 agreement with Triad Civic Center LLC, which had been hindered by the economic recession and a lack of capital partners. Under the terms of the new agreement, Bosa will develop a residential tower that will include the Civic Square Plaza, as well as retail space. The City will maintain the rights to approve the final design. The City expects to send the agreement to Council for approval in early 2017, with the expectation that it will be finalized by June. Construction would start in 2018.

“Bosa’s vision for this project is slightly different than what was originally planned, which is why the City believes it has a greater chance to succeed,” said FAS Director Fred Podesta. “Office space construction in this area has brought a new and higher demand for housing and public amenities, and Bosa is bringing that to the table. We believe this site is the perfect location to meet that need, as it is close to transit and vibrant, diverse neighborhoods, including Downtown, Pioneer Square, the Chinatown-International District and First Hill.”


Filed under
Show Comments