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Thursday, May 16, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nickels pushes for city to build pond, civic center at Northgate

Seattle Times staff writer

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels yesterday waded into the long-running debate over the future of Northgate and Thornton Creek, unveiling his recommendations for getting development moving on a new library, community center and park, and an expansion of the mall.

While the plan makes clear how the mayor wants to proceed, it won't end the controversies that have stalled the projects.

"It is a framework to break the planning impasse in Northgate,'' said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis.

"It sets out the action steps we need to take in the near term."

Neighborhood efforts to protect and uncover Thornton Creek, which runs through a pipe under the mall's south parking lot, has stymied plans by Simon Properties to redevelop the site. Simon owns the mall and much of the surrounding property.

Nickels wants the city to take over 3 acres that include the creek, possibly as part of a deal Simon is trying to negotiate to sell 5 neighboring acres to another developer.

The city would use the property as a park and a retention pond for water runoff from the mall. It might decide to partly uncover the creek later on.

That doesn't please members of the Thornton Creek Legal Defense Fund, which is suing the city and Simon over previous plans to develop the property. Bob Vreeland, the group's treasurer, said a retention pond would do more harm than good to the creek.

Ceis said the city needs to start moving forward now or it could miss out on opportunities to revitalize the entire Northgate neighborhood.

Nickels also proposed building a new library and community center on the Bon Tire site along Fifth Avenue Northeast near Northgate. He is also asking the council to change some land-use regulations to clear the way for expansion of the mall.

J. Martin McOmber can be reached at 206-464-2022 or jmcomber@seattletimes.com.

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