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Originally published September 29, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Page modified September 29, 2013 at 8:56 PM

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City looking to condemn waterfront parking lot

The city of Seattle is moving to condemn a parking lot near the central waterfront to provide additional parking while the seawall and the Highway 99 tunnel are under construction. The 103-year-old owner has so far declined to sell.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Myrtle Woldson, 103, owns a long-term parking lot near the Seattle waterfront valued at $7 million. When the city approached the Spokane resident about allowing it to lease space to help ease the parking crunch during construction of the Highway 99 tunnel and the seawall, she declined, city sources say.

Now the City Council is moving to condemn the property to provide more short-term parking for businesses, tourists and shoppers. The city also could eventually build a parking garage on the site once the Alaskan Way Viaduct is removed and the planned waterfront park is completed.

The council will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at its City Hall chambers to discuss the parking-mitigation plan the state has developed in cooperation with waterfront and Pioneer Square leaders, as well as the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

A public hearing is required before the city can act on acquiring the parking lot, known to city staff members as “Myrtle’s Lot.” It can hold about 130 cars.

No city officials would comment on the record because of concerns about potential litigation. A notice of condemnation was sent to Woldson this week.

The city is required to pay “just compensation” under state law, and the intended use must be a public one. The property owner can challenge the condemnation and the sale price in court. Woldson could not be reached for comment.

The state Department of Transportation, which is managing the viaduct-replacement project, allocated $30 million for parking mitigation during the seven years of anticipated construction through 2018, said KaDeena Yerkan, Highway 99 communications manager.

The city has lost more than 100 on-street public parking spaces of about 500 total as preparations were made over the past two years to stage and start the tunnel boring that will drill a two-deck, four-lane highway to replace the viaduct, damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

Now SDOT is planning for a “worst-case scenario” of zero parking while the viaduct is removed in 2016 and Alaskan Way rebuilt, said spokesman Rick Sheridan.

He said the state’s strategies to replace on-street parking during construction include securing leases for short-term parking with existing garages and acquiring new parking.

“The parking is going to continue to be eroded on the central waterfront, especially once demolition [of the viaduct] begins,” Sheridan said.

The city doesn’t often use its power of eminent domain to condemn property, but it’s not unprecedented. The property beneath what is now Benaroya Hall and Westlake Park were both condemned, according to city records.

The parking-lot-acquisition plan calls for the city to own and operate it. The parking revenue would go to offset the purchase price and for ongoing operations and maintenance, according to the condemnation ordinance that will be considered by the City Council.

Waterfront businesses complained loudly last summer when construction work related to the viaduct replacement shut down streets and sidewalks during the typically busy summer months. They noted that public transportation along the waterfront is almost nonexistent and that many people come in multigenerational family groups and don’t take transit.

Theresa Schneider, co-owner of McKinnon Furniture on Western Avenue, said business has improved over the past year, but more disruption is expected as the tunnel work moves north.

She said waterfront stakeholders have identified replacement parking as “an absolute priority.”

Schneider can see Myrtle’s parking lot across the street from her store.

“It’s very central, very visible,” she said and added, “It’s almost always full.”

Lynn Thompson: lthompson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes

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