Rails, Redevelopments and Rinks, oh my! How City Light powered the latest updates to Northgate

North Seattle and Northgate have experienced a redevelopment renaissance over the past few years, with more development on the horizon. From taking the Light Rail to Sound Transit’s newest stations or lacing up your skates for a bit of ice time at the practice facility of the National Hockey League’s latest team, there are new and fun things to explore near Northgate. This new growth required an engineered, reimagined and innovative approach to the electric infrastructure that powered this new Northgate and was made possible in part thanks to Seattle City Light.   

Northgate Station and Kraken Community Iceplex  

The Northgate Mall facility is often touted as the first modern shopping mall in the United States, dating back to its opening in 1950. The mall’s (now named Northgate Station) redevelopment project began in 2018 when officials announced plans to tear down a portion of the mall facility and build residential, industrial, retail and restaurant buildings and spaces. City Light officials understood that this would be a large body of work, but the utility was ready to take on the task.   

The Northgate Mall area is powered through an underground utility corridor that houses electrical, water and sewer lines. This system was built during the same timeframe as the mall’s construction and required new equipment upgrades to support these redevelopment and transit-oriented projects.  

“The scope of the project was a complete teardown and redevelopment,” Solomon Gebregiorgis, distribution engineer for City Light, explained. “Most of the electrical system needed to be upgraded and modernized to meet the needs of this expanding development.   

The Kraken Community Iceplex 
The Kraken Community Iceplex 
(Photo credit: Seattle Kraken) 

And then came the Kraken.   

Later that year, city leaders unveiled proposals for a new professional hockey training facility and team headquarters on the Northgate property by 2021. The plans added to the bustling construction of a neighborhood already occupied by the construction of the Northgate Link Light Rail Station. With the tight timeline and revised scope, City Light went to work to develop the electrical infrastructure for the Kraken Community Iceplex, the practice facility for the Seattle Kraken. The facility opened to the public in early September 2021.  

For Kristi De Winter, electrical service engineer for City Light, the chance to work on a landmark like Northgate was something extraordinary.  

“There are few projects that are as visual and well known as Northgate. It’s really cool to think that our team will get to drive past it for years and get to think, ‘wow! We were the ones to work on the project!'”  

 Northgate Station during testing prior to opening. 
Northgate Station during testing prior to opening. 
(Courtesy of Sound Transit) 

Northgate Link Light Rail Extension   

Another important addition to the neighborhood is the Northgate Light Rail Station that connects the area to downtown and beyond. City Light was also instrumental in developing and implementing the electrical infrastructure of the Northgate Link Extension, which includes the Northgate, Roosevelt and U District stations, all of which opened on Oct. 2.   

A relocated transmission tower near I-5.  
A relocated transmission tower near I-5.  
(Photo courtesy of Steve Byers) 

The transportation project required coordination with local, state and federal officials to ensure that the light rail station was operational by 2021. City Light’s system planning group coordinated a load study to analyze whether the system’s current configuration could withstand large electrical loads and usage from the light rail trains, the newly opened stations and the continued development of the area. City Light also upgraded existing electrical equipment and relocated transmission lines to provide the necessary power for the new light rail station and mall property. Anticipating the electrical demands of tomorrow today helps ensure that the utility remains ahead of the curve as the region continues to grow. 

“We are committed to creating these vital connections to electrify the communities we serve,” City Light General Manager and CEO Debra Smith said. “Whether it’s connecting North Seattle with downtown by Light Rail or electrifying an NHL practice facility, we will continue to seek new and innovative solutions to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. I want to thank all City Light employees who worked tirelessly on these projects that will provide benefits to so many in our community.”  
 
City Light Special Capital Programs Manager Steve Byers has worked with Sound Transit on developing their Light Rail infrastructure for more than 20 years, dating back to the Central Link project, which connects downtown and Sea-Tac International Airport by rail. For him, the Light Rail will be a part of his legacy at City Light.   
 
“I am so proud that I can say that I helped make this become a reality,” Steve said. “When I retire, that train is always going to be there. That’s something special. ”