Council Hears From Public On Key Tower Plan
A key Seattle City Council committee this morning authorized Mayor Norm Rice to pursue the purchase of a downtown skyscraper for $125 million after it added a condition to guarantee the price won't climb because of a long-term parking-garage lease.
The vote to seek the purchase of Key Tower followed last night's public hearing by Finance Committee chairman Tom Weeks, who today said he attributed the lack of concern by the public to the public's accurate conclusion that the purchase is a smart fiscal move.
The lone dissenter in the 3-1 vote was Councilwoman Jane Noland who questioned how well the 62-story skyscraper would house city workers.
But Weeks, joined by councilwomen Martha Choe and Jan Drago, called the chance to buy the Key Tower, between Cherry and Columbia streets on Fifth Avenue, a unique opportunity that minimizes the city's financial risk.
The majority also cited the recommendations of two panels that last week concluded the acquisition was the superior choice over two other options: Remaining in the Public Safety and Municipal buildings, or constructing new buildings.
The Capital Finance Review Board, a citizens' group, concluded that buying the skyscraper would be at least $47 million cheaper than new construction, and at least $121 million cheaper than renovating existing facilities.
A Citizens Advisory Panel found that the Key Tower "does meet the great majority of the city's space needs."
In action today, the committee adopted an amendment proposed by Weeks to guarantee that a 30-year lease to operate the skyscraper's 688-stall parking garage - sought by Herman Sarkowsky, managing partner of the present owners - be subject to analysis by the city to ensure it gets fair-market value for the leasing rights.
Since mid-June, the city has had exclusive rights to negotiate to buy the building, which cost $200 million to build five years ago. The full council is expected to vote on the panel's recommendation Monday.
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