An ambitious, long-awaited redevelopment project on CenturyLink Field's sprawling north parking lot — scheduled to break ground next month — has hit a last-minute snag that could delay it.
An ambitious, long-awaited redevelopment project on CenturyLink Field’s sprawling north parking lot — scheduled to break ground next month — has hit a last-minute snag that could delay it.
The problem: Developer Daniels Real Estate and the owner of the stadium, known until recently as Qwest Field, haven’t reached agreement on replacing 491 premium parking stalls the development would displace.
King County owns the property, nearly 4 acres covering the northern half of the parking lot. The sale to Daniels is to close Sept. 12. Work on the first phase — 444 apartments in 10- and 25-story towers, plus retail — is expected to start days later.
But one of Daniels’ prospective construction lenders put a hold on the loan last week, citing the dispute over replacement parking.
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The trigger: a resolution that the board of the state Public Stadium Authority (PSA), CenturyLink Field’s quasi-public owner, adopted Aug. 11, threatening to pursue ownership of the 4 acres itself if the parking flap isn’t settled.
That put a potential cloud over the property’s title, lender Pacific Life wrote.
Kevin Daniels, president of Daniels Real Estate, wouldn’t discuss the dispute’s implications for his project.
But Leslie Smith, executive director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square, a neighborhood group, said the project is stalled for now.
On Thursday the stadium board authorized legal action, if necessary, to protect its interests.
“Parking on the north lot has always been essential to the operation of the [stadium and adjacent exhibition center],” said former state Rep. Lorraine Hine, the board’s chairwoman.
In addition to Daniels, the county and the stadium authority (PSA), this dispute also involves Paul Allen’s First & Goal, parent company of the Seahawks, which leases the stadium, exhibition center and some surrounding parking from the authority and maintains and operates them.
All involved say they hope to settle this mess soon — they’re to meet Friday. All say they support Daniels’ project, long considered a catalyst for revitalizing Pioneer Square. And all say they want replacement parking provided.
But the PSA and First & Goal say Daniels and the county are trying to renege on commitments that date back 13 years to provide replacement parking acceptable to the PSA.
The 491 stalls that would be displaced is about one-sixth the parking the PSA and First & Goal control, they say. The lot also is used to stage big consumer shows, they add, and the parking has become increasingly important as other area lots disappear.
Washington taxpayers invested $300 million in building the stadium complex, said Paul Allen spokesman David Postman: “The PSA is protecting the taxpayer.”
But Smith — whose organization is co-chaired by Kevin Daniels — said Daniels has offered reasonable proposals to replace the parking, “and the PSA has said none of that is adequate.”
Its obstructionism threatens a project that will produce hundreds of jobs, she said, and is “of critical importance to the neighborhood — we don’t believe 491 parking spaces is the highest and best use for that property.”
Sung Yang, King County’s director of external relations, says Daniels has made a good-faith effort to provide replacement parking, and that’s all that’s required to close the sale. “The PSA does not have a veto over our authority to complete this transaction,” he said.
As owner of the long-gone Kingdome, King County once owned all the property in and around what’s now CenturyLink Field.
In 1998, after voters approved the new stadium, the county agreed to transfer all that land to the PSA, with one exception — the north half of the north parking lot, where Daniels proposes to build.
City and county officials had identified those 4 acres as ripe for redevelopment even then.
A series of inter-government agreements allowed the PSA and First & Goal to continue free use of the 491 stalls and all the revenue they generate until redevelopment happened.
Then the developer was to provide a replacement parking structure.
Those agreements also included language allowing the PSA to “seek transfer” of the 4 acres from the county if redevelopment hadn’t begun by July 2008, and if the board determined it needed the property.
That’s the provision the authority cited in its Aug. 11 resolution threatening to seek ownership.
It’s unclear how far the PSA can push that. The panel can’t condemn property, Hine said.
The sale contract the county signed with Daniels in 2007 included language requiring the developer to provide replacement parking both during construction and permanently, adding that it “must be acceptable to the PSA.”
Yang said the county and Daniels both have lived up to their legal obligations. Daniels has offered to build a replacement garage on two sites, or to pay cash to settle the issue, he said.
PSA officials wouldn’t discuss details of those offers. But Hine said none fully replaces what the stadium would be losing.
There’s money involved here. The county expects to get $10 million from Daniels when the sale closes.
First & Goal collects $2 million a year in revenue from the 491 parking stalls, Postman said; a 1 percent parking tax the PSA collects on that goes to help pay off bonds sold to build the stadium.
But “it’s not a question of revenue,” said another Allen representative, Lyn Tangen. “It’s a question of having adequate parking.”
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org