OVG seeks up to $70 million in historical landmark tax credits for its possible renovation of the arena.
KeyArena, and specifically its “iconic’’ roof, is one step closer to being designated a historical landmark.
A nine-member landmarks preservation board, appointed by the city, voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the venue being nominated for the status. The board, consisting of architects, historians, a structural engineer and representatives from the fields of urban planning, real estate and finance, also approved nominating the nearby NASA Building and Blue Spruce Apartments — both part of the same 1962 World’s Fair — and the Bressi Garage. But the board rejected the same for the West Court Building.
“I think it pretty clearly meets most of the criteria, if not all of them,’’ board member Steven Treffers, a senior architectural historian at Rincon Consultants, told his fellow panelists.
The historical designation is coming into play now because a Los Angeles-based company, the Oak View Group (OVG), has proposed a $564 million renovation of the 55-year-old venue for NBA and NHL use. OVG had members present at Wednesday’s hearing, including senior projects director Lance Lopes, who declined to comment afterward other than saying the decision was expected.
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The nomination now moves on to a designation hearing scheduled for Aug. 2. After that, if approved, the board would confer with the city and OVG to negotiate controls and incentives surrounding the modification of construction to meet preservation needs.
OVG submitted its proposal to the city assuming the venue — and more specifically, its Paul Thiry-designed roof — would gain historical preservation protections. In fact, OVG has also submitted a federal request for up to $70 million in historical landmark tax credits for its renovation.
There are six criteria to be considered for landmark designation, and buildings must meet only one for the nomination to go forward. As several board members noted during the hearing, KeyArena appears to qualify under all six criteria — the biggest being its association with a major historical event and impact on the community.
“The roofline and its iconic presence is in so many photographs about Seattle,” said board member Rob Ketcherside, author of the book, “Lost Seattle”. Fellow board member Jordan Kiel, an associate principal for the Bassetti architectural firm, agreed, calling KeyArena “a Seattle icon and landmark.”
The board didn’t specifically limit preservation aspects to the roof in the wording of the nomination approved. But from discussions throughout the three-hour meeting, it was clear the future envisioned preservation would involve mostly the roof, arena trusses and walls.
Preservation consultants hired by the city to present to the board noted that most of the arena’s interior was gutted by a 1995 renovation and would not require specific landmark protection.
This month, Mayor Ed Murray named OVG the city’s official KeyArena renovation partner, choosing it over a $521 million proposal submitted by the Seattle Partners group. The SP group withdrew its bid days before the winning pick was announced — citing concerns with the bid process — though city documents show the choice of OVG already had been made the previous week.
The Seattle City Council now must choose whether to proceed with a KeyArena renovation or approve a $600 million proposal to build a new arena in the city’s Sodo District led by entrepreneur Chris Hansen.