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June 6, 2018

WSDOT getting easements for viaduct demo, but some properties may face condemnation

  • The agency is trying to negotiate easements for parcels it needs for demo work and staging, but some owners haven't responded.
    Journal Construction Editor

    Photo by Benjamin Minnick [enlarge]
    Easements are needed adjacent to the Journal Building, right, and The Post apartments to remove the viaduct ramp safely.

    Demolition crews will need space to work and stage equipment next year when they take down the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

    Washington State Department of Transportation is preparing for that with temporary construction easements. The agency is trying to negotiate easements with the owners of 74 properties, but it hasn't heard from some owners and could use condemnation to get those easements.

    WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn said there are 17 parcels near the viaduct that could be condemned. There also are four parcels near Battery Street Tunnel, which will be decommissioned as part of the viaduct project, and two parcels near the new waterfront tunnel's north entrance that will be needed for surface street connections.

    “WSDOT is not seeking to demolish or take private property. We are seeking rights to restrict access for 30 days so we can safely conduct demolition work,” Newborn said.

    The owners of 38 properties have verbal or signed agreements with WSDOT and 13 more are pending. The remaining 23 could be sent to the Attorney General's office for condemnation.

    Newborn said many of the owners of the 23 properties didn't respond to legal notices posted in the DJC and The Seattle Times. WSDOT also attempted to contact them at least three times — in-person, by mail, phone or email — before posting the legal notices, she said.

    WSDOT posts the notices as a final action before condemnation. Each notice sets a date and place where the state will determine whether to proceed with condemnation, and the owner can provide input at that meeting.

    Many properties in the notices appear to be condominiums: Belltown Lofts, Marselle, Belltown Court and Colonial Grand Pacific. Others are commercial/office space and mixed-use buildings, including 6th & Wall, Western Triangle, Maritime Building and Waterfront Place.

    Boris Castellanos of Allegra Properties, which owns Western Triangle, said they are negotiating with WSDOT.

    Another property is The Post apartments at Western Avenue and Columbia Street. The 16-story building has above-ground parking for 124 vehicles that is accessed from Columbia Street. The viaduct's southbound ramp hangs over the garage entrance. Demolishing the ramp will likely mean closing Columbia and blocking access to the garage.

    Newborn said WSDOT is negotiating with The Post's management and hasn't moved the case to the AG's office. She said The Post management raised issues that require further study.

    Attempts to contact Greystar Real Estate Partners, manager of The Post, were unsuccessful.

    Newborn said WSDOT considers several factors when appraising for condemnation, including whether access is fully or partially blocked.

    WSDOT successfully negotiated a deal with the owners of the Seattle DJC and the Journal Building, which is across Columbia Street from The Post.

    Ramp demolition will require closing the Journal Building's main entrance on Columbia.

    DJC Publisher Phil Brown said WSDOT offered up to $25,000 to relocate pedestrian entrances to Western and Post Alley, and said he was happy with the deal.

    Newborn said the Journal Building's main entrance could be blocked for up to 30 days. The ramp demolition could involve up to seven days of 24/7 “impact” work, which can include jackhammering.

    Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. was picked in May to demolish the viaduct under a $93.7 million design-build contract. The work area covers 1.4 miles, from South Dearborn Street to Battery Street Tunnel.

    Kiewit will start demolition after the replacement tunnel opens.

    Initial work — removing part of the viaduct to make room for a new road near the stadiums — could start later this year. Most of the work will be done in 2019.


    Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.