The revamped plan, unveiled to the Seattle Design Commission, shows an all-glass atrium that will give visitors a better view of the historical KeyArena roof.
A revamped plan for a new main entrance at the south end of a remodeled KeyArena got a mostly positive reception Thursday when officially unveiled to the Seattle Design Commission.
The Oak View Group and members of the Populous architectural firm have scrapped what was to be an above-ground parking garage and replaced it with a glass atrium serving as the arena’s main entrance once a $600 million remodel is completed. Visitors entering from the street can walk through the atrium and directly into the arena’s upper level, or can take an escalator to lower-level sections below ground.
“We’ve looked at it as an opportunity,” Populous architect Geoff Cheong told the commission. “What can we do now that the above-ground parking garage is gone?”
The 360-foot-long atrium has been scaled back in spots from initial concepts and will have glass on all sides and its ceiling. Cheong told the commission the idea was to build “a transparent lens” through which visitors could better see KeyArena’s Paul Thiry-designed roof, which has gained historical landmark status and must be preserved during the renovation.
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Meeting with and gaining approval from the design commission is part of an approximately yearlong public review process needed before construction to modify the 56-year-old arena can begin.
The above-ground-parking-garage idea was controversial when unveiled last April. OVG revealed at the time it planned to seek public funding for the garage from the Port of Seattle, while community activists worried about the traffic bottleneck it might cause.
OVG scrapped the idea a few weeks later and released new design renderings that showed a staircase and plaza leading up to what was then a solid-roofed atrium on the south end. In this latest rendering, the stairway and plaza remain while the scaled-back, all-glass atrium now offers better views of the existing roofline both on approach and once inside.
There also were improvements made to the south boundary of the arena site — along Thomas Street — to offer an “improved pedestrian experience” to those approaching the venue from that side.
Deborah Frausto, an executive with the Uptown Alliance community group, told the commission during a public comment period that her organization is pleased with what OVG has done with the building’s south end. OVG attended a recent Uptown Alliance general meeting of around 80 residents, with many expressing concern about aesthetics and public spaces — especially on the Thomas Street south end portion serving as an important connector route to other neighborhoods.
“I think it’s great,” she said of how those concerns were handled in the latest designs. “I think it’s really needed.”
Frausto did express concern about OVG plans to build vehicle drop-off points on First and Second Avenues. The Uptown Alliance and OVG are having a second general meeting to deal with mobility issues, and Frausto said the drop-off points had raised “real concerns, a lot of questions. It’s really hard to figure out how that works well in our community.”
OVG officials at the commission meeting said a “broader area” for the drop-off points is being considered to try to ease concerns about how they would impede traffic flow and hurt the area’s overall aesthetics. The group also said it will continue to look at ways to improve vehicle egress away from the arena once games conclude.
Aside from the $600 million renovation – which OVG hopes to have done by October 2020 in time for the start of the NHL season – the group has committed another $60 million toward a city transportation fund and various local charities.
A statement released by OVG after Thursday’s meeting said the latest renderings were merely meant to update the commission on where things are at and “will be further refined in response to community input and design evolution during the public review process.’’