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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Parking lot to become park for Northgate

Seattle Times business reporter

Seattle is buying a 3.75-acre parking lot north of Northgate Mall for a new park, the latest move in a development boom transforming the long-stagnant neighborhood.

The property, just north of the Target store on Third Avenue Northeast, is a King County park-and-ride lot.

City officials said yesterday they're still negotiating the final price with the county, which won't need the lot in two years because it is expanding park-and-ride capacity south of the mall.

The King County assessor's office values the property at $5.7 million, but the current market value could be higher.

The purchase is the latest in a string of city investments in the Northgate neighborhood, including a new community center, library and a major effort by city officials to break a nearly 20-year deadlock over proposed expansion of Northgate Mall.

The mall's owner, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, is finally about to break ground for 100,000 square feet of additional retail space, Northgate's biggest expansion since the mall was built in 1950.

The mall's huge south lot, mostly unused, is about to be transformed into a mixed-use development.

Lorig Associates is planning a 16-screen theater, 255 apartments, 108 condos, 50,000 square feet of retail and commercial space and a senior living center on the property.

The city is contributing $7 million to build an outdoor "water channel" across the property to carry water from an underground drainage pipe toward Thornton Creek.

With the mall expansion finally going ahead, longtime landowners and developers in the neighborhood are starting to talk about redeveloping their property.

Wallace Properties is moving ahead with plans to build apartments and retail space at the corner of Northgate Way and Fifth Avenue Northeast, just east of the mall.

John Mullally, who owns an aging apartment complex north of the mall, has long wanted to redevelop his property.

"This is the area of the city that's going to change most dramatically in the next three years," said Marianne Bichsel, spokeswoman for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

"It's been a long time in coming but it's happening," she said.

City officials said buying the parking lot would start a neighborhood planning process about how the park should be designed.

Tom Boyer: 206-464-2923 or tboyer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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