Neighbors are outraged the state seeks to condemn the Montlake Boulevard Market to make construction easier at Highway 520 — but a state senator says there’s still hope.
Neighbors are objecting to a decision by the state to condemn the Montlake Boulevard Market next to Highway 520, and use the land to store construction equipment.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) filed a lawsuit naming the store owners, cellphone companies that share a tower there, and others in mid-May, following months of community forums.
After an uproar in the residential neighborhood over demolition scenarios, project officials said last winter they would consider ways to keep the market open, and demolish only the gas station along eastbound 520’s Montlake offramp.
The lawsuit “breaks WSDOT’s promises to the community,” says an email campaign started Friday by the Montlake Community Club.
Messages are aimed at WSDOT secretary Roger Millar, City Council President Bruce Harrelland state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle. The club insists the state should prove the land is needed for more than mere construction staging.
The condemnation reflects an analysis by WSDOT, following a March 30 community meeting, that it needs the market land for construction — not just for the new Montlake interchange, but also for the future Portage Bay Bridge a short distance west, says a court declaration by Denise Cieri, deputy administrator for the $4.6 billion Highway 520 rebuild from Interstate 405 across Lake Washington to Interstate 5.
A key issue is the need to provide 16 ½ feet of clearance under the new highway, which in turn requires raising Montlake Boulevard by 4 ½ feet, Cieri wrote. To complicate matters, a huge wastewater pipe beneath the boulevard might need to be rebuilt, which can only be done using the market property, she said. WSDOT also expects to use some of the lot for traffic detours.
Cieri pointed out that $1.2 billion in work will be affected, and it includes neighborhood benefits such as a landscaped, noise-muffling lid over the rebuilt highway.
Without the market, people who walk, bike, or briefly park to grab fresh produce, milk or beer might drive more frequently to University Village or Capitol Hill supermarkets.
“I’ve lived here in the neighborhood 25 years, and we have just a little business district,” said Leslie Brazeau. “They’re a neighborhood institution. It’s where the kids go after school, where neighbors meet each other every day after work.”
But the matter is not finished, Pedersen told some neighbors in a message on Friday that says House Speaker Frank Chopp has joined him in talks with a WSDOT ombudsman.
Meanwhile, the landowners’ attorneys issued a counterproposal this week, which Pedersen hopes the state will examine.
Instead of condemning the whole area, WSDOT should let future construction bidders figure out which slices of the 29,000-square-foot triangle they truly need, and market owners will accommodate their needs during another 10 to 15 years of construction to finally reach I-5, it says.
“I feel like Frank and I have gotten a strong commitment from them [WSDOT], they will use their best efforts to keep the market open,” Pedersen said late Friday. “I am optimistic.”
“This is about long relationships,” he said, “and they’ve got to work with us for over 10 years, until this project is done.”