By Meghan Hall
The Washington National Guard Armory could be up for redevelopment if a consulting team hired by the Washington Department of Commerce finds a new Seattle-area home for the National Guard. The 25-acre state-owned property could be rezoned to accommodate a variety of developments in the coming years, including an urban village and commercial corridor, if the guard’s move is successful. The Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consulting team in mid-October 2018 and hopes that the team will be able to assist officials and the military in weighing all options for the guard’s move and site’s repositioning.
While many in the community are excited about the site’s potential, Interbay Project Manager Sean Ardussi is careful to keep that optimism in check.
“Before anything happens at that site, they need to have a new home and be operational at it. That’s very important,” said Ardussi of the first critical — and large — hurdles the state and city need to overcome before redevelopment can be considered.
RFPs will be due to the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee on November 13th, after which the board will formally select its consultant in December. The consultant will be tasked with producing an existing conditions report that will further elaborate on the shape of the armory, as well as producing a list of possible new sites that can house the National Guard. The committee will also look at what public authority will carry out the relocation and redevelopment of the property.
Ardussi said the committee will carefully weigh all decisions before making a decision.
“We’re going to wait and see what the committee and the consultant team come up with in terms of recommendations,” explained Ardussi. “We’re not excluding anything, and nothing is off the table.”
The National Guard has occupied the site since 1967 after it vacated what is now the Center House in downtown Seattle to make way for the 1962 World’s Fair. Located in Seattle’s Ballard-Interbay manufacturing center, the site is presently bounded by land owned by the Port of Seattle and a shopping center anchored by Whole Foods Market on 15th Ave. W.
The National Guard’s desire to move has been documented since the early 2000s, when it asked the University of Washington seismology labs to identify stable sites for a new armory. According to Ardussi and the state Department of Commerce, the current armory no longer meets the national guard readiness standards. The guard has long taken issue with transporting military equipment in and out of the city limits; as Seattle’s rapid growth continues, traffic and quick response times are becoming increasing concerns.
“Everybody is all excited about redeveloping the Interbay site, but the hardest part is working with the military department and looking for a new facility, and finding all of the ways to make that happen,” said Ardussi. “That has to happen before anybody gets to dream big about what to do.”
So far, the Interbay Public Advisory Committee has just two meetings under its belt and will continue to focus with the consultant on options for redeveloping the armory and relocating the National Guard over the course of the coming year. Four public meetings are planned during the course of 2019 alone to garner public feedback.
“Public benefit will be the real focus of the committee in the next year,” added Ardussi.
According to public documents, the Department of Commerce has budgeted $500,000 for the evaluation and study of the site. Kickoff for the study will begin in December 2018 following which the consultant will present a final economic development report and draft public development report to the committee by July 2019. After additional public commentary and feedback, the commission will give a final version of the reports to the State Legislature and Office of the Governor by November 2019.