Seattle Courant

Mayor Nickels Holds Out Hope Feds Will Help Pay to Fix Mercer Mess

Mayor Greg Nickels takes questions from members of the press in South Lake Union. He led a walking tour of the neighborhood to emphasize his support of the Mercer Street project.
By Celeste Gracey
April 8, 2009 08:04PM

The lack of money caused City Council members put a yellow light on the Mercer Street project, halting any serious spending but still allowing the Dept. of Transportation to start taking bids from contractors as early as June.

"It's a smart and prudent decision," Nickels said, adding that Seattle can't spend money it doesn't have.

In hopes of winning support for the increasingly unpopular beautification project, Nickels introduced members of the press to the South Lake Union business community it would support, such as UW Medicine and several bio-tech and medical research groups.

"I think the neighborhood has changed dramatically over the past few years," said David Sherman, director of the tuberculosis department at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. "This is becoming a real center for bio-tech and research."

And if you look at the 10 new office buildings Amazon is building for its new headquarters along Mercer and Republican, it's not just bio-tech and medical research firms making their homes in South Lake Union. When finished, Amazon's new headquarters could accommodate as many as 5,000 employees.

Because of this economic growth, about $2.8 million in density fees helped pay for the development of The Denny Park Apartments, new low-income housing, Nickels said. "We want to show you in tough times we get a repayment on those investments."

The problem is that Mercer Street's current design hinders the development of the South Lake Union community because it's both unappealing and somewhat dangerous for pedestrians to navigate, Nickels said. "Right now it's a mile-long, horrible freeway ramp."

Mayor Greg Nickels (left) examines a petri dish with David Sherman (right), the director of the tuberculosis program at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute on Westlake Avenue.
Mayor Greg Nickels takes questions in front of an Amazon construction site. The 10 new buildings along Mercer and Republican will be Amazon's new headquarters and could accommodate as many as 5,000 employees.