Featured Image: Lowe's sign. Photo by Lauren Siegert via Flickr under a Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

Amazon Eyes Site of Rainier Valley Lowe’s for New Distribution Center

by Luke Schaefer

Where there once stood a historic Seattle ballpark, land that’s now home to the Rainier Valley Lowe’s hardware store may soon be leveled once again to make way for an Amazon distribution facility.

Despite being re-zoned to accommodate dense, affordable housing and small businesses, concept documents filed with the City this week suggest that the Lowe’s property on Rainier Avenue South could soon host a 68,000 square-foot distribution center and a small ocean of parking spaces. The Pepsi plant north of Lowe’s is also part of the proposed reconstruction and it appears as though a deal with Amazon would involve the use of both properties. 

Though Amazon has made no official announcement about interest in the properties, acronyms used in both plans submitted to the City reference Amazon. The site of the potential facility is poised just one block from the Mount Baker light rail station.

Development of a distribution center and a parking lot full of vans in lieu of the high rise housing the area was zoned for would have major repercussions for the Mount Baker neighborhood and constitute an enormous setback towards efforts to make it more accessible and affordable. As Doug Trumm of The Urbanist reports, if developed with density in mind, the Pepsi and Lowe’s properties could provide upwards of 6,000 new housing units, many of which could accommodate entire families. 

The City rezoned the Lowe’s property to a height of 145 feet for the express purpose of encouraging highrise development, which would not only make for ample housing but also pump upwards of $100 million into the City’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) trust fund. Conversely, development of a distribution center would grant the fund a net $0 since the distribution center would likely be classed an industrial property exempt from MHA, according to Trumm’s article. This means that while Amazon would avoid MHA payments on these properties, smaller commercial businesses in the area would still be required to pay.

A third property is also in play: a 7-acre parcel in Interbay which formerly housed a Northwestern Industries glass manufacturing plant. If located here, a distribution center would clock in at over 100,000 square-feet and feature similar amenities to the proposed Rainier Avenue facility. None of the three properties, however, are publicly listed for sale.

The Lowe’s site is also a cultural landmark for the city. From 1938 to 1977 the Rainier Avenue property was the home of Sicks’ Stadium, a former Seattle sports venue which famously hosted Rainiers baseball games and numerous concerts. Jimi Hendrix’s final Seattle show was performed at Sicks’ in 1970 and by 1979 the park was demolished. A two-story building was erected in its place shortly afterward, and Lowe’s has occupied the space since 1991.

Amazon is also currently a tenant in the Lowe’s building as they utilize an upstairs office for promotional operations.

Luke Schaefer is a reporter for the UW Daily. 

Featured image: Amazon is considering a proposal to replace the Lowe’s on Rainier Avenue South with a distribution center. Photo is attributed to Lauren Siegert under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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