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August 8, 2018

Here are Simon's big plans for Northgate

Journal Staff Reporter

Rendering by GGLO [enlarge]
Pink indicates buildings that would remain (for now). Office buildings are shown in purple, the hotel is green, the mixed-use apartment buildings are tan and the gym on the southeast corner is red. New parking garages are shown in gray, but not all at their true height.

Simon Property Group's plan to redevelop Northgate Mall is so massive that the initial design review will be spread over two evenings this month.

The meetings will start at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 and 27 at Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.

The first will focus more on the office, retail and hotel projects. The second will focus on housing.

GGLO is leading Simon's team for the 55-acre site at 401 N.E. Northgate Way. CallisonRTKL and KPFF are also the team.

The northern third of the property will be developed in a future Phase II.

Phase I covers about 33 acres, with almost 3 million square feet planned (including parking and open space).

About 1,205 residential units will go above the retail. Several old buildings will be demolished and new buildings will be developed on most of the parking lots.

Nordstrom, the food court, the new above-ground garages and some other structures on the west side, closer to Interstate 5, will remain.

The basic program is for a dozen new buildings ranging from 65 to 125 feet. Taller heights are allowed closer to Northgate Station.

The plans include about:

• 768,800 square feet of offices in four buildings with five to eight stories (one complex would have two towers)

• 1.1 million square feet for 1,205 apartments in four mixed-use buildings with six to eight stories

• 240,177 square feet of retail in all buildings

• 145,000 square feet for a separate fitness center and pool

• 109,840 square feet for a seven-story hotel with about 200 rooms

• 4,035 surface and underground parking stalls (bringing the mall total to about 6,682 stalls, and replacing most of the surface stalls on land that is being redeveloped)

About 428,000 square feet of existing retail will remain for now; some may be removed in Phase II.

In Phase I, the mixed-use apartment buildings will be concentrated on the east side, closer to Fifth Avenue Northeast. The hotel will be just north of the light rail station, facing the elevated tracks and freeway.

The redesign will feature a central green space with about 48,000 square feet. Dubbed Central Park, it will have a great lawn, fountains, outdoor seating and a stage for events. In a sense, this marks a return to the original open-air mall, which wasn't covered until 1974.

In addition, GGLO writes, the “superblock is broken up by the new grid of pedestrian-friendly streets and walkways. This framework organizes the new development and provides intuitive connections to surrounding neighborhoods. Block sizes are similar to the established Seattle street grid, which yields a fine-grained network of routes and choices for walking through the site.”

A roughly diagonal path will lead from Northgate Station, at the southwest corner, through Central Park and to the northeast. Other amenities include a dog run, mini parks and walkways, and a hill climb on the sloping southeast corner.

Apartment tenants will have roof decks and some live/work units.

The phasing of Phase I will start from the southeast corner, where a Lifetime Fitness pool and gym will go on parking lots near the current Red Robin. The middle section would be developed next, and then the north section. (Phase II will begin roughly north of Mama Stortini's.)

No schedule has been announced for the redevelopment, but permitting and design work typically take a year or two. Construction would take several years.

GGLO writes that, “By transforming Northgate Mall into a dynamic, mixed-use development with a vibrant live, work, play atmosphere, Simon is helping to ensure that the rapidly growing North Seattle community has a central hub which is resilient to industry changes and retail tenant turnover.”

Simon, an Indianapolis-based REIT, announced the plans in March.

Simon acquired DeBartolo Realty in 1996. DeBartolo acquired the now 68-year-old mall in 1986 as part of a deal worth $102 million, which included some adjacent property that was later sold.

Light rail service is expected to begin at Northgate Station in 2021.

Simon's plans leave unanswered several key questions that will likely depend on market conditions during each phase.

• Will there be a grocery store to serve the estimated 22,000 daily light rail users and 1,200-plus new residents? (Even more housing will come directly to the south, on King County's Park & Ride lot.) The mall originally included an A&P grocery, which later became a QFC.

• Will some of the housing be condos? Who will operate the hotel, and under what flag? Who will lease the offices?

• Who will be Simon's financial partner or partners? It has partnered with other firms on recent projects in Miami, Fort Worth and Atlanta. Simon calls itself the No. 1 publicly traded real estate company in the world. It has a market capitalization of about $93 billion, and says it has invested over $1 billion in new projects over the last half-dozen years.

• Which tenants will return? Macy's has been struggling and closing stores nationwide, the same fate afflicting JCPenney and numerous other big-box and mall tenants. (Parking for one of the residential towers is described as using the existing Macy's basement; but the tower has only 29,190 square feet of retail, with no other mention of Macy's.)

Nordstrom, still a public company, has also been affected by the shift to online shopping.

Northgate currently has about 130 shops, plus two dozen food vendors and restaurants, which total about 1 million square feet. Overall, Northgate will lose retail space, and add much more space for other purposes.

Meanwhile, Redmond Town Center (which will have a light rail station) and the Village at Totem Lake (which won't) are undergoing similar conversions that deemphasize retail in favor of housing, hospitality, offices, entertainment, food and services.

But Northgate gets light rail first, and is best positioned to capitalize on its transit-oriented location.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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