SEATTLE — Entrepreneur Chris Hansen doesn’t seem to be giving up his lengthy drive to bring the Sonics back to Seattle.
Hansen spent $32 million to buy two Sodo parcels that total 4.88 acres just south of his proposed NBA arena, according to King County records made public Thursday.
Bill Vipond, a real-estate consultant for Hansen, said he envisions the site as hosting the main parking garage for an arena and could help alleviate concerns from city officials about the potential lack of parking for the site.
It comes just four months after the Seattle City Council voted against a key street-vacation plan that dealt a huge blow to the arena proposal, raising questions about whether the project might be dead. Meanwhile, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in April that the league has no plans to expand this year or in 2017.
But Vipond said the latest land transaction should signal that the plan to return the NBA to Seattle is anything but over, and that the council’s vote didn’t “thwart our efforts.”
“I’ve never gotten any direction (from Hansen) other than full steam ahead, we’re bringing the Sonics back,” Vipond said. “The general directive is, ‘Let’s go, let’s get the Sonics back, let’s keep working on getting the team.’”
With this week’s purchase, Hansen has spent $97.5 million assembling 12.26 acres of land, Vipond said.
The site currently has warehouses and parking, and it’s going to remain that way for the time being, Vipond said. The buildings there are fully leased, and Hansen plans to honor the contracts with the companies based there, he said.
If the arena doesn’t come together, Hansen could use the parcels for other uses or sell them.
Even so, the $32 million purchase price is nearly three times the assessed value of the properties at 1900 and 2228 Occidental Ave. S.
Previously, Hansen had agreed to a three-year option to purchase the land, and the deal was set to expire in early 2017.
“I think it could cure the parking riddle down there, or at least put a huge dent in it,” Vipond said.
The site had been owned by an LLC linked to real-estate investor Hokwai Woo, which bought the land for $5.775 million in 1996. The price of the property increased more than fivefold in 20 years as investors and developers have begun to focus more and more on the industrial district.
Hansen still has a memorandum of understanding with the city and King County that doesn’t expire until November 2017. The agreement calls for up to $200 million in public-bond funds to help build the 18,000-seat arena if Hansen is able to buy an NBA franchise.