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Seattle Gives Green Light to Northgate Mall Redevelopment Plan with New NHL Seattle Facility

GGLO, KPFF, CallisonRTKL, Generator Studio, DeBartolo Properties, Northgate Mall, NHL Seattle, Seattle, Simon Property Group
Image courtesy of GGLO

By Vladimir Bosanac and Meghan Hall

The NHL is coming to Seattle, and the group that will bring a team to the Emerald City has announced that it would make its home at the Northgate Mall, where developer Simon Property Group is looking to transform an ageing retail destination into one of the region’s most vibrant new neighborhoods and experience centers. This week, the project owners also received approval at a second Early Design Guidance meeting to advance the revised plans for the redevelopment that now include an ice hockey center, offices for NHL Seattle, the team ownership, and a second hotel.

The reinvention of the Northgate Mall had begun some time ago, and attempts to expand and renovate the Northgate Mall have occurred several times since its landmark opening in 1950. The mall was expanded in 1965, but further efforts made by DeBartolo Properties in the 1980s to expand a second time were unsuccessful. Simon Property Group began renovating the property in 2005, when it demolished the Northgate Theater, a deteriorating medical center and Red Robin located at the northwest corner of the property.

But it wasn’t until October 8 that the city of Seattle knew for certain that it would be home to a hockey franchise in the National Hockey League. It was at that time that NHL Seattle, and its CEO Tod Leiweke, announced that Northgate would become the epicenter of all things hockey in the Pacific Northwest.

“We believe this facility will give us an extraordinary advantage,” said Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle in a statement. “If we do this facility right, dreams will come true. The ultimate dream of building this facility is bringing the [Stanley] Cup back to Seattle.”

The development is an effort to create what Simon has described in its plans as a walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented district. The proposal presented on Monday is the first step in that process.

This week’s meeting was only intended to provide an overview of the changes to the proposal that focus on three main areas: the ice center, an office complex adjacent to the center and a new hotel. There are also additional changes associated with these that include landscaping and retail, as well as access to public space and massing of adjacent buildings. However, given that this is a very large, major phased development, the different pieces of the project will be brought back for review in due time.

Given the announcements around NHL Seattle’s new home at Northgate, the design team at GGLO, KPFF, CallisonRTKL and Generator Studio, quickly moved to alter the central portion of the development from a residential use to now incorporate a mix of entertainment, retail, office and recreation structures. The new ice center is planned to add a total of 262,000 square feet of space that would include a 20,000 square foot training center, 120,000 square feet of office space, roughly 12,000 square feet of retail space and 110,000 square feet of sports and recreation space.

In addition to the ice center, over 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use office, retail and parking space is proposed to the site with over 1,000 housing units in four mixed-use residential towers and two hotels totaling 372 rooms.

“[We] still have a project that is focused on the strong community heart and recreational aspect that is part of it in between the residential and commercial zones ringed by retail,” said Don Vehige, senior associate GGLO, who along with Marieke Lacasse, principal at GGLO, presented the revised vision to the design review board

The revised proposal shifted some of the residential properties around, reduced the size of other buildings and added a central feature to the land anchored by the ice center and central park amenity. The central park feature was carried from the previous design proposal, but the orientation of the park is different, while the size of the park remains the same.

“Central Park is the heart of this new community!” said Lacasse, and its main objective is to contribute to a network of open spaces that will seamlessly mesh with the existing environment and uses. Since the ice center is visualized as a place that will be used throughout the year and during all seasons, the programming is very important.

In a statement made to the NHL Seattle group, Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan stated, “We know our future has to be a city that keeps reinventing itself,” adding that Northgate will soon be home to not only a world-class hockey club but also new affordable housing, a LINK light-rail station as well as higher education, with North Seattle College’s campus on the west side of Interstate 5. “It’s an amazing opportunity for all of Seattle, but particularly for our kids.”

The board overwhelmingly supported of the revised proposal. With over 30 members of the development team and one person from the public in the room, there was a lot of positive energy about the project. There were a few clarifying points that the board made, which the developer and the design team will have to address. These included the use of public space and what happens around it during the time when the ice rinks are not in use, the roof form on the ice center, the massing of the NHL Seattle building adjacent to the center, as well as the massing and programming of the some the retail buildings surrounding the central park plaza.

Overall, the board approved the new proposed changes for further consideration, and it expects several meetings on the development to commence over the next few months and years.