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Originally published Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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$1 deal struck for King Street Station

Seattle's King Street Station is a big step closer to a $29 million renovation now that Mayor Greg Nickels has struck a deal to buy the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle's King Street Station is a big step closer to a $29 million renovation now that Mayor Greg Nickels has struck a deal to buy the historic train station for $1.

If approved by the City Council, the deal would speed restoration of the station from eyesore to polished landmark. The station's renaissance is seen as a boon for Pioneer Square and two proposed developments in the area. City leaders also hope a makeover of the 100-year-old station would encourage more people to take passenger trains.

"We want to create a train station we can be proud of. Now it's pretty embarrassing to have a station in that state of repair," Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said.

City officials say no strings are attached to the tentative agreement the council's transportation committee will take up today. The station's owner, BNSF Railway, wants to unload the property, city and state officials said.

The historic station is a protected landmark, so the company can't sell the property to a developer. And the station needs expensive repairs the company doesn't want to take on. "It's kind of a drag to them. It's not an asset they can convert to cash," said Ron Sheck, urban-rail-program manager for the state Department of Transportation.

BNSF officials couldn't be reached.

The city began negotiating with the railroad company about a year ago to acquire the property near Qwest Field, after talks between the state and BNSF stalled. Nickels and the council included $10 million for the station in Proposition 1, the $365 million property-tax levy voters approved Nov. 7 for street repairs and other transportation improvements. That money would be added to $19 million the state and federal governments have earmarked for King Street Station.

The $29 million would renovate the station's roof, brick exterior, first-floor interior and its 242-foot-tall clock tower. The money also would pay for earthquake safeguards and a plaza leading to the station from Fourth Avenue South and South Jackson Street.

The station already has undergone $2.5 million worth of repairs using the state and federal money, Sheck said.

Ceis estimated it would cost an additional $15 million to renovate the station's second and third floors, money that has not been set aside. Council Budget Committee Chairman Richard McIver has voiced concerns the station could end up costing the city more than projected.

Still, Jan Drago, chairwoman of the council's transportation committee, said the city should "seize the opportunity" to buy and beautify "a historic icon and gateway to the city."

Sheck and Ceis said tests show no major contamination or hazardous waste on the site. "All of our work indicates no major problem. It's been thoroughly vetted," Sheck said.

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Craig Montgomery, executive director of the Pioneer Square Community Association, said he was excited by the pending deal. "King Street Station's importance to Pioneer Square can't be overstated," Montgomery said.

The station would enhance the appeal of two major projects proposed by Nitze-Stagen, a local development firm. Nitze-Stagen plans to build almost 1,000 condos and apartments on the north half of the Qwest Field north parking lot.

The firm also has floated a separate proposal to build a lid over railroad tracks south of King Street Station and develop office, retail and hotel towers on the property between Fourth Avenue and Qwest Field.

"We think King Street Station is the linchpin. It's the hole in the doughnut. It's important for our potential clients and residents that the issue is getting solved," said Kevin Daniels, Nitze-Stagen's president.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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