An Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee is in the early stages of strategizing what could be the best option for repurposing the 26-acre site where the Washington National Guard’s Seattle Armory has operated for more than 40 years. Whether anything pans out is contingent on the National Guard’s ability to relocate outside the city.

“It is not a given that the National Guard will move,” said Interbay project manager Sean Ardussi with the state’s Department of Commerce. “It’s a given that the National Guard wants to move.”

The armory was built in 1974 on land granted to the state by the federal government at 1601 W. Armory Way. Armories are now referred to as readiness centers, Ardussi said, and the Interbay armory suffers from many deficiencies under current guidelines for such facilities.

“There’s a long list of requirements for a current readiness center,” he said.

Some of the deficiencies outlined by the National Guard include too small training, administrative, kitchen, arms rooms and assembly hall space. The field maintenance shop is also too small for its assigned vehicles, and convoys are limited in their movements due to the armory’s location, degraded parking, roads, and exits being too small for larger vehicles. Insufficient lighting on the site is also a security concern, according to the National Guard.

There are more than 600 personnel that use the armory, and most guardsmen are reporting from Thurston, Snohomish and South King counties.

“They feel as though if they can be outside the city limits, it’s actually going to help them with their mission,” Ardussi said.

The Legislature passed a proviso last year to form the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee, which is tasked with forming recommendations for new uses for the armory site that would provide the greatest public benefit.

The group began meeting in mid-September, and one its first decisions was to extend the deadline to provide the Legislature and governor’s office with a report from late June to Nov. 15.

“We have a strong advisory committee,” Ardussi said. “They’re just starting to look into this now.”

Among them is Washington 36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton, former Washington governor Gary Locke, Col. Adam Iwaszuk, construction facilities management officer for the Washington National Guard, and Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire.

The Department of Commerce is leading the process with the Military Department, and lead consultant Maul Foster and Alongi was hired just before Christmas. An existing conditions report is forthcoming, Ardussi said, addressing the site’s environmental constraints, seismic analysis, transportation infrastructure and cultural resources.

“That’s part of what we’re going to be looking at in March,” he said.

The next Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee takes place 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at the armory.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in during the first open house for the project from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the VFW Hall, 2812 NW Market St. Under the proviso the committee is required to hold at least three open houses, but members voted to add one on Oct. 1, when a draft report will be provided before being finalized for consideration in Olympia.

A public development authority will likely be formed to carry out the committee’s recommendations that provide the greatest public benefit.

“Housing is just one of many different issues that the committee will be looking at,” Ardussi said.

The armory is in the Ballard-Interbay Industrial Center, just southwest of a Whole Foods and growing commercial corridor, so creating affordable housing would require a rezone. The land value of the 26-acre site was appraised at $32 million in 2017.

“There’s been a lot of interest in that (property) and I think a lot of people are following this process to see what the recommendations are,” Ardussi said.

But a replacement National Guard Readiness Center must be operational before any recommendations can go forward.

“They can’t be down for even a minute,” Ardussi said. “It’s a seamless transition.”

Iwaszuk provided the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee with the National Guard’s North Bend proposal, which would involve purchasing property from Puget Western Inc., during its last meeting in December.

“I’ve seen estimates somewhere in the range above $90 million for the acquisition of the land and to build the new readiness center,” Ardussi said.

But the relocation is not a high priority for federal funding, he said, and the National Guard doesn’t anticipate it would receive that funder any sooner than the mid-2030s. Ardussi said it will likely take multiple partnerships to expedite the process.

Learn more about the Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee and sign up for project updates here.