A redevelopment planned by the owner of the 68-year-old mall includes plans for retail, offices and housing for the property that spans about 55 acres.
Northgate Mall is lining up a major overhaul as the North Seattle neighborhood grows and anticipates the arrival of light rail.
The mall, considered one of the first of its kind when it opened in 1950, is preparing to add offices and housing while retaining some shops as part of what its owner called “a complete re-imagining of Northgate.” It would add density to a property defined by parking lots and single-story shopping since it debuted during the golden age of the automobile. Construction could start as soon as 2019.
Simon Property Group, a national mall owner based in Indianapolis, said it filed an application for a redevelopment Thursday but declined to release many details or grant an interview.
Simon declined to say whether any part of the mall itself will be torn down, but that seems likely: The company said it envisions 500,000 to 750,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor of the property, down from 1 million today, while early design drawings show an open public space where the middle of the mall is today.
Simon said it plans to add 500,000 to 750,000 square feet of office space to its property. That would accommodate about 2,500 to 3,700 office workers.
The company said the Class A office space would be an alternative to the high office rents in the region’s hottest markets, like South Lake Union and the Eastside.
In addition, Simon plans to add “several hundred units of housing,” and a hotel, though the company declined to elaborate.
The development across the 55-acre site also contemplates “abundant green and public space” that would be open to the broader neighborhood.
“We are extremely excited to undertake a complete re-imagining of Northgate, reinforcing this real estate as the heart of the ever-changing Northgate area,” Simon said in a statement.
“This would be a several-year transformation of the property,” Simon said. “We anticipate a process with the city of Seattle that could take up to several months.”
Early documents filed with the city include a map that indicates the scope of the project spans the block between Northeast Northgate Way and Northeast 103rd Street, and between First and Fifth avenues Northeast.
The preliminary plans show offices over shops along the center of the site, and stand-alone offices near the periphery near 103rd Street. Homes would be added above shops along the Fifth Avenue corridor, on the opposite side of the property from the freeway and the light rail stop.
The map also features a hotel along First Avenue Northeast, next to the existing parking structure. And there is a large open space area slated for the middle of the property.
A Nordstrom, a Lifetime Fitness and a food court are also mentioned. Some of the existing shops and parking area along Northgate Way aren’t included as part of the proposed project area, but much of the area to be redeveloped is currently parking.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections said the planning process will likely take at least 12 to 18 months and include multiple public meetings.
Northgate has been a hot spot for development plans with the anticipated 2021 opening of the new light rail station at First Avenue Northeast, which will connect the area to central Seattle through the University District. One of the station entrances will be on mall property, and a ride to downtown is expected to take 14 minutes.
It’s one of 27 neighborhoods the city has proposed to allow for taller buildings — the plan for the Northgate Mall property would allow buildings up to 95 feet tall.
The Northgate neighborhood has added 1,000 apartments in the last 10 years after building just 140 in the previous decade. At least 360 units are in the pipeline for future construction, while the city expects an additional 3,000 homes to be built through 2035.
The area has among the highest housing-development capacities of any of the city’s urban villages, behind only downtown. Rents in outlying neighborhoods like Northgate continue to be cheaper than the core of the city.
King County is also preparing to transform the Northgate park-and-ride property with 200 units of affordable housing, market-rate housing, shops and offices.
The Northgate Mall property is valued by the county assessor at more than $200 million, though it will become more lucrative with the addition of light rail.
Northgate Mall has undergone transformations before. In 2005, Simon tore down the old movie theater and the buildings on the northwest part of the property.
Two decades before that, former owner DeBartolo Property Management tried to expand the mall but was stymied over the years by environmental laws and neighborhood protests against traffic.
And in 1965, the mall underwent an expansion to double in size, coinciding with the opening of the adjacent Interstate 5.
When it opened in April 1950, anchored by the Bon Marché department store, Northgate was the first regional shopping center in the United States to be defined as a “mall,” though there were at least three predecessor shopping centers in the country, according to HistoryLink. The mall was also featured that year in Life magazine for hosting a 212-foot Christmas tree, the world’s tallest at the time.
Today, the mall has 130 shops and lots of parking. It’s anchored by Nordstrom, JCPenney and Macy’s, and includes a play area and large food court featuring 24 restaurants and quick-bite stops
Malls have been struggling generally across the country, though they have been thriving in the Seattle area recently. Still, Northgate pulls in far less money per square foot than other popular regional shopping centers, like Pacific Place, Bellevue Square and University Village.