By: Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News
SEATTLE – There’s a 25-acre site between the Magnolia Bridge and the Interbay strip mall that’s filled with military vehicles.
It’s currently the Seattle Armory for the Washington National Guard, but it could become Seattle’s newest neighborhood.
Safety concerns have the National Guard planning to move out – which would open up 25 acres of land at a time when it’s particularly valuable.
The Armory currently stores more than 100 military vehicles; it has a maintenance shop where those vehicles are fixed, plus offices for about 40 full time employees. On drill weekends, 400-500 people come to the site.
But after nearly 50 years at 1601 W. Armory Way, the location no longer meets its mission.
“It does not meet the strategic needs and goals of the Washington National Guard anymore,” said Joseph Siemandel, the state’s public affairs officer for the Guard.
Siemandel said as the Seattle grows around the Armory, traffic gets worse.
Guard members who mostly do not live in Seattle must get into the city, load up trucks, then drive the equipment out of the city for training.
In traffic, getting to JBLM can take three hours.
“Trying to drive a six wheeled vehicle through narrow roads, tight turns, it’s definitely a challenge,” Siemandel said.
Beyond wasting time — there’s a more serious impact.
“It compromises the mission. Our motto is safeguarding lives and property here in our state. And if we can’t get to the equipment we need to make that mission happen, then we can’t do our job,” Siemandel said.
One example — KIRO reported that you when snowstorms hit North Bend in February, the National Guard was called in to help.
But members had to fight through Seattle first, before getting into trucks at the Armory in Interbay, and then work through Seattle again when heading out.
Plus, the Guard points out that fault lines run through Seattle.
And when the next big earthquake hits, any incoming tsunamis could flood properties close to the water, including the Seattle Armory site.
It would be another compromise to their mission.
“We need to be able to respond when a natural disaster happens, and respond quickly,” Siemandel said.
The Guard is planning to move to a new space, likely in North Bend.
It means the 25-acre parcel in Interbay will be up for sale.
While it doesn’t work for the military, there’s huge demand for the space.
Figuring out what’s next is the job of seven people making up the Interbay Project Advisory Committee.
It’s considering housing, affordable housing, commercial or industrial options, even open space for the site.
One possibility is multi-use, with housing, shops and a park.
The committee is not planning to just sell to the highest bidder. Instead, it’s looking for the option that will be best for both the Seattle Armory and the city.
“Guardsmen, we care about our community,” Siemandel said.
The Interbay Project committee will make its final recommendation to the State Legislature and the governor on what to do with the land on Nov. 15.
However, any groundbreaking is still years away. That’s because the new armory site must be selected, then infrastructure must be built, before WA National Guard can move out of its current space.
The next open house on the future of the land will be 6 p.m., July 30, at the Ballard VFW Hall, 2812 NW Market St.