SR 520 and Montlake neighborhoodOn Monday, October 7, the Council approved legislation creating a new Bryant Park to replace the land that will be taken for the construction of the new SR520 approaches in the Montlake area. The Council unanimously approved three pieces of legislation that exchanged Arboretum property for the new property, accepted funds from WSDOT to develop the new park, and established City easements for utilities and the Arboretum waterfront trail.

Bryant Park will be located next to the UW campus on the Lake Union side of the campus adjacent to Brooklyn Avenue. It is currently occupied by an obsolete building, which will be demolished in order to clear the area for park purposes. The property was owned by the UW, so this transfer is actually a three-way transaction involving WSDOT, the University, and the City.

This exchange of property is part of meeting federal law requirements for converting park property to use in the SR 520 project. The area of the Arboretum that will be exchanged was acquired using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Technically, this is known as a 6(f) transaction, from the section of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act that requires that property developed with Section 6(f) grant funds and converted from its approved recreational use be replaced by property of equivalent value and utility. The parties have agreed that the Bryant property meets the standards for this exchange.

As part of the agreement the City will receive $11,389,500 to develop Bryant Park, which includes demolition of the building, cleaning up any hazardous materials on site, and landscaping and developing the park for recreational and park purposes.

Some of the property that WSDOT will use for the SR 520 Project will only be needed during construction, and will be restored to the City following completion of the project. In addition, one of the companion pieces of legislation provides security for the trail that extends over the water on the north side of the Arboretum. The City will receive easements and agreements to use this land, including the walking path on the islands, as well as the bridges and overwater path.

Complex projects require complicated arrangements to meet the requirements of federal law and the interests of all of the governmental and public parties that are affected by the project. This exchange agreement took many months to negotiate, but the outcome is a new park for the City, security for the Arboretum trail, and the necessary property rights for WSDOT to proceed with the next stage of construction. The City of Seattle has a particularly strong interest in the Arboretum, which is one of the jewels of our Park system, and we act with great care in order to protect and preserve this wonderful place. When the SR 520 Project is completed, it will have a wider footprint adjacent to the Arboretum, but there will be many environmental improvements that will compensate for that, including much better access under SR 520, water quality improvements from the new stormwater system, and a series of improvements to the Arboretum that include traffic calming, new paths, and the transfer of some current land owned by WSDOT to the Arboretum.

In the end the SR 520 Project will not only improve transportation across the Lake, including a new pedestrian/bicycle path and dedicated transit/HOV lanes, but will also leave the people of Seattle with new parks facilities on a Montlake lid and at Bryant Park, in addition to the improvements to the Arboretum. This transaction is one of the many steps in that direction that we must take in order to realize those benefits.