Washington 36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton has introduced legislation in the House to create an Interbay Community Preservation and Development Authority that would take over the National Guard’s armory property and manage its redevelopment.

Tarleton was joined by former governor Gary Locke in supporting the creation of the new agency during the Jan. 27 session of the Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Locke and Tarleton chaired an advisory committee last year that explored how to maximize public benefits through the redevelopment of the 25-acre site, which will only occur if the Washington National Guard is fully funded to relocate to North Bend and build a $100 million readiness center there.

“That’s the worst location for a National Guard armory,” Locke said of the Interbay property, where the facility has existed since 1974, “because in case of a natural disaster, a major earthquake, that site would be inaccessible. A lot of freeways leading into Seattle and servicing the surface roads would be impassible. That whole area is tidal area and subject to liquefaction. The facility itself would probably be destroyed.”

Washington Army National Guard Col. Adam Iwaszuk, who is director of construction and facilities, told senators relocating operations to North Bend was being talked about back in 1993, but a lack of federal funding has persisted to this day.

The Legislature approved $6.6 million during its last session toward the purchase of a 25-acre North Bend property from Puget Western, Inc. Locke said the process for acquiring the site is now in the due diligence phase.

The former governor said the Interbay armory site, which is currently zoned for industrial use, has been appraised at around $50 million. The Interbay Community Preservation and Development Authority (ICPDA) would be able to work with the City of Seattle and other local government agencies to acquire any additional funding and potential rezoning to maximize the value of the property. Whether it’s sold off in pieces or held in public ownership with longterm ground leases, the proceeds would need to be used to reimburse the cost of the National Guard’s relocation, and nothing can happen until the North Bend readiness center is operational.

Locke said he’s spoken with Gov. Jay Inslee, who was amenable to fully funding the relocation costs all at once, rather than staggering appropriations from design to construction.

“We cannot redevelop this property until the National Guard has actually moved out into a new, completed facility,” Locke said.

Iwaszuk joined Locke and Tarleton in pushing for the state to fully fund the National Guard’s relocation costs, as any scenario relying on federal dollars would push completion to 2035-36.

The new Readiness Center would be used by 800 soldiers, Iwaszuk said, 150 of which would come from a facility at Boeing Field, which is owned by the King County International Airport.

“We’ve been for 10 years trying to get that license renewed,” Iwaszuk said, “and we’ve been unsuccessful, so there’s a cliff out there.”

The National Guard’s license at Boeing Field expires on June 30, 2023.

Washington Sen. Bob Hasegawa asked Iwaszuk why the airport was declining to renew the license. The colonel said previous discussions had been positive during the economic downturn, but now the county has better options for the property.

The readiness center is estimated to cost $77.5 million and the other $23.5 million would be for a new maintenance shop.

The ICPDA would have to assess the multiple future redevelopment scenarios the advisory committee left on the table when it approved its findings and recommendations in late September. That includes leaving the site zoned industrial, housing and commercial models, and a hybrid industrial/residential concept. The advisory committee also envisioned a civic building and outdoor public spaces in each scenario. The ICPDA would also need legislative and financial support from the Legislature to get started.

Tarleton emphasized the Interbay neighborhood’s fast-paced growth over the last decade to the Ways and Means Committee.

“We are overwhelmed and under-infrastructured, and that is perhaps a new word, but we don’t have sufficient infrastructure,” Tarleton said, “whether it’s housing or transportation, access to health and human services, located in an area where the needs of the people are growing at an exponential rate.”

A public development authority would allow the state to maintain a stake in maximizing public benefits for the armory site, she said, adding it would take time for the authority to establish itself.

Creating a PDA now would also allow its members to engage with the City of Seattle as it considers rezones as part of its comprehensive plan amendments, said Matt Hoffman, senior planner at Maul Foster Alongi. The planning firm was hired by the Washington Department of Commerce to assist the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee in crafting a final report and redevelopment recommendations for the armory site.

Hoffman outlined for senators some of the challenges for redeveloping the property, including Sound Transit’s plans for light rail expansion to Ballard requiring acquisition of a portion of the armory site near the train tracks to the west. There is also only one access point for the site at West Armory Way, through an easement with a private property.

Even if the site were rezoned to accommodate any of the redevelopment options the advisory committee recommended for further consideration, land sale revenue would not fully cover the National Guard’s relocation costs, Hoffman said.

Sen. David Frockt, Ways and Means Committee vice chair, also served on the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee. He encouraged his fellow senators to be mindful of the many moving parts in play, including the inability to do anything with the armory site until the Department of Defense clears the North Bend readiness center as operational.

“I think clearly we need to try to maximize the value of the property and what goes on in terms of leases and things like that,” Frockt said.