The Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee had its first look at concept designs for what could replace the Washington National Guard’s 25-acre armory site on Wednesday, May 8.

A high-level analysis regarding feasibility and public benefits will be provided in July, and committee members made clear their expectations for what that will entail.

Any redevelopment potential hinges on the National Guard’s ability to relocate outside Seattle, where it wants to create a new Readiness Center that meets modern facility standards and is more strategically located when the need to respond to a disaster arises.

The total relocation cost for the National Guard is $95 million to $100 million, and federal funding can’t be requested until ownership of the new property is secured by the state.

Washington 46th District Sen. David Frockt said $6 million was included in the Legislature’s capital budget this past session to be put toward purchasing desired property in North Bend.

That 25-acre site is owned by Puget Western Inc., and would provide access to Interstate 90 and proximity to other field maintenance shops.

The Department of Commerce is leading the redevelopment planning process with the Military Department.

The Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee began meeting in September, and lead consultant Maul Foster and Alongi was hired just before Christmas.

When asked if the $6 million appropriated by the Legislature this past session would cover the cost of the North Bend site, Maul Foster and Alongi senior planner Matt Hoffman said communications are ongoing.

The Interbay committee is expected to submit a final report with recommendations for the property that provide a maximum public benefit to the governor’s office and Legislature by Nov. 15. That report will first be checked with the public during a final open house in October.

Building affordable housing was valued most by 47 attendees, followed by 10 marking additional open space during a March 19 open house. Seven valued creating living-wage jobs most, while preserving industrial land and maintaining movement of people and goods tied.

The next open house will take place 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at the Ballard Eagleson VFW Post, 2812 NW Market St. There people will be able to weigh in on the alternatives presented by Makers Architecture and Urban Design on May 8.

All designs assume a worst-case scenario for redevelopment, which would be Sound Transit selecting a route for its Ballard extension that runs along the west edge of the site between the BNSF rail yard. Adding in easements and stormwater management, the amount of developable land is about 19 acres.

The fate of the Magnolia Bridge is also an unknown. It’s possible the bridge could be replaced, but it’s unclear if that would be in its original location or north to West Armory Way.

“We don’t know,” Hoffman said. “No one knows where the bridge might go.”

Interbay project alternatives

The first alternative presented during the May 8 committee meeting would keep the armory site zoned as General Industrial 2, which allows for some commercial activity that may improve employment opportunities. That alternative considers 66,300 square feet of commercial retail space on the north end of the site, near the Interbay Self Storage and surrounding retail, including Whole Foods. There would be no housing.

Most of the site — 415,500 square feet — would be for flex/makerspace development that supports industrial activity. Building heights are assumed to reach three stories.

The northwest and southeast corners of the property would be considered for public open space, which would also address stormwater runoff.

Each alternative also considers a bike and pedestrian trail running along the west edge of the site.

A “Pedestrian Village” alternative contemplates residential density at 75 units per acre or a little more than 1,800 spread across midrise buildings between six to eight stories. This would require a rezone, and the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program for creating more affordable housing is expected to apply.

 

This alternative would also include 102,000 square feet of commercial space, including ground-floor retail in residential buildings. Makers principal Bob Bengford said there could also be office space.

One public benefit for the “Pedestrian Village” alternative would be a 160-square-foot educational or community center building, which is located at the corner of 16th Avenue West and a West Howe Street extension in a concept design.

A car-free pedestrian “Green Spine” is proposed to extend from the north to the south end, each capped with a corner of green space. There would be numerous public and private open spaces between the buildings.

The spine would have a West Howe Street extension breaking it up and connecting 16th and 18th avenues west. This is where ground-floor retail might be focused, treating it like a main street, Bengford said.

A third alternative — “Towers and Circle” — considers residential high-rise development along the west edge of the property and midrise on the east. The high-rises could reach 20 stories, with a three-story parking deck, Bengford said, which could buffer noise from the railyard. Ground-floor retail would be focused in a central plaza with a roundabout for an extended 17th Avenue West. This concept would include more cross streets.

The alternative also proposes a community or educational building, but at around 94,000 square feet.

Residential density would be around 109 units per acre or 2,679 total, with MHA requirements provided offsite.

Commercial space is proposed at 108,000 square feet. Total open space would be about 6.6 acres — 4.2 acres public and 2.4 acres private.

While the the team of consultants working on the project feel the market would be receptive to all of the concepts, Hoffman said, he stressed that these alternatives are not development proposals but “rough-order building blocks.”

Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire, who serves on the redevelopment committee, said she didn’t see the concepts explore maximum public benefit, creation of high-quality jobs outside retail and environmental justice, given the site’s proximity to eight railroad tracks. She said she expects the public to demand air-quality monitoring.

Hoffman reiterated that all of the concepts will be thoroughly studied, with the results to be provided at the July 23 committee meeting, and a deeper dive into issues with the site will also conducted during the environmental impact statement process.

Committee member Brian Lloyd, vice president at Beacon Development, encouraged Hoffman and his team to communicate with affordable housing developers to find out what they can do with the site.

“You’re going to be busy until July,” he said.

Property challenges

The armory site has its development challenges. It was built on fill and has a high water table, making any below-grade development costly should a developer elect to do so, Hoffman said.

“You really don’t hit solid ground until 30 feet or so,” he said.

Any new development would have to do as the National Guard has and incorporate pilings under structures. The site is also within the Seattle fault tsunami zone.

The National Guard has operated on the site since 1975. It includes a field maintenance shop. Out of 21 borings, two areas tested higher for contamination than the standard for unrestricted development, Hoffman said; arsenic on the northeast corner and hydrocarbons on the southeast corner of the site. Washington Army National Guard Col. Adam Iwaszuk said he’s committed to having a clean site ready for redevelopment when the time comes.

“This site, all things considered, is relatively clean,” Hoffman said.