This Ain’t Indiana

Northgate Mall Aerial

I  have this dream.  Others share it, too.  Northgate Mall as we know it today: vast surface parking lot, underused retail, no housing on site, pedestrian dangerland, becomes a memory.   In its place is a vibrant, attractive, walkable, mixed-use community with retail, housing (including affordable housing), office space and open space.

Northgate Mall was the first shopping mall in the United States, built just after World War II when Americans left their core cities empowered by automobiles and the Federal Housing Administration with a dream of single-family homes with green lawns and ample parking.  That was two generations ago.  The world we live in now is as different from 1950 as 1950 was from 1890.  The City of Seattle population has grown.  And, we understand the impacts of over-reliance on single-occupancy vehicles.

We are investing billions to bring light rail to Northgate and the City of Seattle has invested over $50 million in recent years in a library, community center, parks, a p-patch, the new Thornton Place Water Quality Channel and street improvements in Northgate.  As taxpayers, we should expect the return on that investment to be richer than an easy way to get from the U District to a shopping mall.  We should a complete transit-oriented community where residents can live, work and shop, without relying on a car. We should be creating transit-oriented development on the current King County transit center surface parking lot.  We should be moving forward on the proposed Northgate Way rezone and urban design framework.  And, more than anything, we should move forward with a complete redevelopment of Northgate Mall.

Lorig Associates and Wallace Properties recently completed projects in Northgate that are forward thinking.  But, without a larger vision for the entire urban center that includes rethinking the Northgate Mall property, these piecemeal developments will not be enough to transform the area to a transit-oriented neighborhood.

Environmentalists, urban planners, pedestrian activists, community organizers, and property owners (including single family property owners) in Northgate would like to see a new vision for the Northgate Mall property.  Let’s start this discussion for real.  We should begin the dialogue with Indiana-based Simon Properties, the current Northgate Mall owner.  While they have not been progressive in the past, maybe times have changed.  And, if they are not willing to come to the table, perhaps they would be willing to sell the property to new owners who have a different vision and are able to transform Northgate to its full potential and to give all of us proper return on our investment.

Northgate Mall Ground