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Apartment Building Owners Criticize KeyArena Renovation EIS

KeyArena renovation Oak View Group 2

A group of apartment building owners are expressing concerns over a KeyArena renovation environmental impact statement (EIS), and could file an appeal that effectively delays the project.

In April, Seattle released its draft EIS for the KeyArena renovation project that is being led by Oak View Group. The final report is expected to be released by September, and if approved would allow Oak View Group to begin construction this fall and reopen the renovated arena in 2020. In that scenario, the overhauled KeyArena could host a Seattle NHL expansion franchise by the start of the 2020-21 season, provided that the league eventually approves an ongoing expansion bid.

That schedule could be thrown off, however, if a group of apartment building owners appeal the EIS. A lawyer representing the owners of the nearby Expo and Astro apartment buildings has written a letter arguing that the EIS is inadequate given the scope of the renovation, in part because it designates it as a private project rather than a public one (Oak View Group is privately financing the renovation, but KeyArena is a city-owned building). While it has not been filed yet, it is possible that an appeal could follow and potentially delay the renovation. More from The Seattle Times:

[Seattle land-use lawyer Courtney] Kaylor argues that since KeyArena is city-owned, the EIS should treat it as a “public project” requiring the examination of alternative arena sites under state law. The failure to do that alternative-site study, she adds, means the process “is therefore inadequate on its face.’’

Her letter was the only one among dozens of public comments submitted to the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections that questions the legal validity of the process and appears in tone and scope to lay the groundwork for a possible EIS appeal once a final version is published by September….

Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the city’s Construction and Inspections Department, said a local hearing examiner would hear any appeals challenging the EIS. “This could add at least four months to the schedule and would not allow construction permits to be issued until resolved,’’ he said by email.

At this point, Seattle has not been formally awarded an expansion franchise, but that could happen later this year. Any delay to final approval of the EIS, however, could prevent construction from beginning on its scheduled time. While it is uncertain what effect this would have on the NHL’s plans for Seattle, it would make a 2020 launch at a renovated KeyArena a more challenging possibility.

Oak View Group is planning the renovation to bring the arena to modern NBA and NHL standards. Seattle is expected to pursue teams in both leagues, but the NHL is seen as the more imminent possibility, as the NBA has not launched an expansion process and does not appear to have any viable relocation candidates among its existing teams.

Rendering courtesy Oak View Group.

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