A plan to create a “town center” in the area adjacent to the Mount Baker Light Rail Station near the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South McClellan Street just got a major boost from a Seattle City Council committee that voted to change zoning in the area. The new zoning would allow more mixed-use development near the transit hub that now includes the adjacent Artspace Mt. Baker Lofts, and would allow buildings of up to 125 feet tall at the site where Lowe’s currently sits, and up to 85 feet on other nearby sections of Rainier. The proposal will go to the full council for a vote on June 23.
According to information on the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan’s project website, components of the plan include creating an engaging, walkable streetscape, establishing better pedestrian and bicycle connections, and creating a sense of community and place on a stretch of Rainier that has historically had minimal pedestrian traffic. The area has long been home to extremely busy intersections at McClellan and Martin Luther King Jr Way, and businesses are similarly car-centric, comprising an auto parts store, gas stations, grocery and drug stores sitting on properties with large parking lots, and the much-used Lowe’s hardware store.
An article in the Puget Sound Business Journal stated that opponents of the planned rezoning who attended the council hearing cited negatives such as a possible increase in car traffic in the area and they said community members did not receive enough notice about the plans. Councilmember Bruce Harrell submitted an amendment that would have limited building height at the Lowe’s site to 85 feet, but it was rejected. Proponents argue that it makes sense to cluster the densest, tallest development around the light rail station and create a safer, more walkable environment near the transit hub.