Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Los Angeles based Oak View Group, said Monday his company has scrapped plans for an 850-stall parking garage it had hoped to fund with a subsidy from the Port of Seattle
One of two groups proposing a half-billion-dollar renovation of KeyArena has scrapped plans for an 850-stall parking garage that would have been built with Port of Seattle funding.
Los Angeles based Oak View Group (OVG) said Monday that it will instead privately fund space for roughly 400 parking stalls underground at the KeyArena site. Company CEO Tim Leiweke said the decision was made after conversations with an Uptown neighborhood association and other local stakeholders, which expressed a desire to keep the area surrounding KeyArena more “free-flowing” without a traffic bottleneck the above-ground garage would likely have caused.
“The neighborhood doesn’t want a lot of cement buildings added on,” Leiweke said. “So, we came along and redesigned it. It essentially has some underground parking, but we got rid of all the parking at grade and above. So, the parking garage is gone. Everything now is a plaza. There is a lot more open space with a focus on the neighborhood.”
Leiweke said the new underground parking spaces would not impact the group’s plans to increase loading dock space for the arena. He said the design plan for the building won’t change at all and that the only noticeable difference will be the space adjacent to it becoming more open.
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Public funding has become a hot-button topic surrounding the two KeyArena renovation groups. Rival bidder Seattle Partners (SP) has asked the city for $250 million in public bond funding as part of its $521-million renovation proposal — saying the plan could generate up to $144 million in surplus funds for the city.
The Seattle Times first reported that OVG would seek Port funding for the parking garage, which quickly became one of the more controversial elements of OVG’s $564 million renovation proposal. OVG had insisted the garage cost wasn’t included in the $564 million and that its construction was contingent on receiving the public subsidy it had yet to officially request from the Port.
SP referred to the garage last week in a “comparison” pamphlet to its own project, claiming it would cost taxpayers $47 million. A group pitching a new Sodo District arena, led by entrepreneur Chris Hansen, claimed in its own comparison of projects earlier this month that the garage could saddle taxpayers with a $30-million bill.
Leiweke said OVG isn’t going to put out its own project comparison or take shots at the two other groups.
“From Day 1, we made a decision to stay above the fray and make this a positive conversation,” Leiweke said. “My own opinion is, I get people shooting at us and I get character assassination. We’re not going to do that. What Seattle deserves is a great arena based on a great vision. What they shouldn’t be dragged into is an arena where you destroy the other two proposals. That doesn’t work.”
Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) — part of the Seattle Partners proposal alongside partner Hudson Pacific Properties — last week suggested OVG had kept certain details about its financing sources hidden from the public. But city spokesman Joe Mirabella told The Times that OVG had wanted to include all financing details in the portion of its proposal that was released for public consumption.
Rather, Mirabella added, it was the city that redacted that financing information during this initial round of review in order to avoid inadvertently releasing specific private information about third parties contained within that documentation.
Leiweke reiterated that his group is committed to financing a renovation to make KeyArena “perfect” for NBA and NHL teams while historically preserving the site. He dismissed as inaccurate an SP claim that OVG will seek two-thirds of all parking revenue at existing Seattle Center garages and cost taxpayers an estimated $140 million.
He said OVG will guarantee the amount of money the city currently generates via parking and various taxes at the site. After that, he added, OVG will collect up to $40 million in additional parking revenues and taxes genrated as a result of the arena upgrades.
Any amount beyond that $40 million would be split equally between OVG and the city. The addition of NBA and NHL teams, he added, would help surpass that $40 million threshold more quickly to where OVG and the city share all incoming revenue totalling “hundreds of millions of dollars” throught the 35-year lease duration.
“The city never goes backwards, ever,” Leiweke said. “So, there’s zero cost to the city. None. Not a penny. There’s zero risk to the city. None, not a penny.”
Leiweke said OVG has limited involvement in a 25,000-seat MLS stadium project pitched in Miami by former soccer star David Beckham, aside from helping him acquire the land for the deal. News reports have identified Leiweke as the “top negotiator” for Beckham’s group.
“OVG has never been an investor in Miami,” Leiweke said. “OVG is not putting a penny into Miami. We never contemplated financing it and we won’t finance Miami. Our task was to assemble and acquire the land, which we did in a year and a half. We’re seven years into the conversation of a new arena in Seattle. So, I’d say a year and a half in Miami is pretty darned good.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to pick between OVG and the SP proposal within the next two weeks. After that, the Seattle City Council will have to decide between formulating a written contract with one of the KeyArena groups, or approving the sale of a street to Hansen’s group so that his plans for a new Sodo arena can move forward.
Leiweke said OVG will explore upgrading the existing Seattle Center parking garages to accomodate some of the additional 400 or so stalls that will be lost by the project not building the Port-funded garage. He added that the group’s traffic mitigation plan calls for the creation of a smartphone application to help commuters find under-utilized parking spaces at lots within a three-quarter-mile radius of the arena.
“I know there’s a great debate about traffic and congestion around Seattle Center,” Leiweke said. “And we agree that it has to be a work in progress. We’re going to allocate some additional capital for the purpose of traffic mitigation and traffic control. But we’re also going to spend a lot of time and energy on technology that will allow people to find and reserve parking spaces in advance.”
Also, OVG is working on identifying “satellite drop-off areas” for Uber and Lyft drivers in order to better improve traffic flow around the venue.
“Transportation is going to be a long vision and a long plan,” he said. “We don’t claim to have it all figured out today. What we claim is, just like we did with the parking garage, we will enter this conversation with an open mind and a commitment to helping find the right solutions and work with the city on making sure we create a long-term traffic plan. And make sure that it fits in to the neighborhood.”