Makers Architecture and Urban Design examined various scenarios, from leaving the low density industrial zoning on the property as is, to rezoning it for residential towers as shown here. Next to the rail yard is the future light rail line (route still to be finalized) and a bike trail.
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Makers Architecture and Urban Design examined various scenarios, from leaving the low density industrial zoning on the property as is, to rezoning it for residential towers as shown here. Next to the rail yard is the future light rail line (route still to be finalized) and a bike trail.

Seattle may get a new neighborhood

A 25-acre property north of the Magnolia bridge is about to become vacant.

It had previously housed Humvees for the Washington National Guard, but the guard wants to park those vehicles far outside Seattle's traffic mess ... which means Seattle may get a new neighborhood.

On Wednesday, members of the public shared their blue sky ideas for the site.

A community sports facility.

A place for pet shelter volunteers to walk their dogs.

A gigantic homeless camp with thousands of tiny homes.

Those were some of the ideas people had at a community meeting to discuss the future of one of the biggest pieces of nearly undeveloped property available in years. The property is so big, it could form the center of a new neighborhood north of Expedia's new Seattle campus.

The old military property where this would all happen isn't even dirty. Even though consultants "Swiss-cheesed" the site with test pits, only a couple spots show the faintest glimmer of contamination.

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The process of moving the Guard out and building something else could take years. But it represents a unique opportunity because the state isn't simply putting the property on the market. Its charge includes achieving the "highest public benefit" for taxpayers. That's significant, because it's more than just a financial calculation. A committee including officials like former Governor Gary Locke and Courtney Gregoire examining the work of seven separate consultants are looking into what that means.

The Interbay Golf Course, which is not part of the property, is right next to the property, which has people dreaming about re-imagining that property.

"Imagine these 25 acres as a dense, climate resilient, economically diverse, energy efficient community, home to 5,000 or more residents with shops, childcare facilities, and a huge park next door, because that’s what we’re gonna do with the golf course," said Nancy Helm of the group 350 Seattle at the public meeting.

The part about the golf course is aspirational and the idea of a dense neighborhood would require a major rezone from the City Council. But it all seems possible, given the fact that Sound Transit is planning a light rail line that would likely skirt one side of the property or the other.

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A trickier sticking point might be the loss of industrial land. Keeping the land for industrial purposes could mean the state would have to come up with more money to subsidize the National Guard's relocation, whereas rezoning the site for 20-story apartment towers could earn the state enough money to build community centers, schools, and parks.

None of the above ballpark calculations are certain, though, as consultants have only begun to define the range of what's possible and are nowhere near accurate cost estimates on any of this.

The property is in a liquefaction zone, which means pilings would have to go all the way down to bedrock, adding cost. But the property is similar to property in SODO, where a developer built a luxury residential tower overlooking CenturyLink field.

Another risk factor is a potential tsunami, which could temporarily put this part of Interbay underwater following an earthquake just offshore. But these obstacles are not insurmountable, according to consultants for the state, and the analysis ahead will incorporate those risks into the final recommendations, due for delivery to Governor Inslee by mid-November of 2019.

Some community members asked the committee to more aggressively court participation of minority populations in the long process, arguing that people of color in south Seattle should also benefit from development on the site, as should Native Americans who once relied on the estuaries long buried underneath the parking lots.

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The next opportunity to weigh in on the project is at an open house on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at the Ballard VFW Hall (2812 NW Market St.) at 6:00 PM.

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