The Northgate Mall was once something to behold. It was the first regional shopping mall in the United States. It thrived off its proximity to I-5. A suburban setting allowed space for every person and their cars. Now, it’s slated for redevelopment.
This is a good thing. For one, it will add hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space and several hundred units of housing. For another, it will pave over Northgate’s ghosts.
“It would add density to a property defined by parking lots and single-story shopping since it debuted during the golden age of the automobile,” writes Mike Rosenberg in the Seattle Times.
Those acres of asphalt are an eyesore. They’re also where Ted Bundy stopped a purse snatcher in 1973.
Yeah, it’s easy to forget that Bundy walked these streets and could have slept in your son’s University of Washington McMahon Hall dorm room, but he’s a fixture of this region just like Birkenstocks and socks and now-smoky Augusts.
It was the dead of night and do-gooder Bundy, 26, caught a man who had stolen a woman’s purse at Northgate Mall. He apprehended the suspect in the parking lot, returned the purse and the snatched $36 back to the woman. The police hailed him as a hero. They considered making him director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission.
Only later did people think to question what Bundy was doing in that parking lot so late at night. That's where he approached a lot of his victims.
There are critics on both sides of the redesign plans. On one hand, change-skeptical residents are worried about increased density, about raised building heights, and about, well, change. On the flip side, people think this isn’t enough; building heights are only allowed as high as 95 feet. This could be way higher. There could be double the amount of housing. In the University District, for instance, a recent upzone allows buildings in some areas to be built up to 320 feet near some blocks. This could be a true urban village.
The plans were filed in March. Currently, their status is still a pending “To Be Determined.”
Maybe the Seattle process would move faster if people recalled September 12, 1983.
Tracy Ann Winston, 19, was last seen at the Northgate Mall at 7 p.m. She had been abducted and murdered by the Green River Killer.
Gary Ridgway prowled Washington state during the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was convicted of killing 49 women. Winston’s body was found in 1986 near the Green River in Kent.
Still, Northgate is history and, perhaps, history is Northgate. Some of that history happened a year after Winston’s abduction.
In 1984, The Order, a white supremacist group founded in Metaline, Washington (wherever that is) descended upon Northgate.
Seven members of The Order—Brüder Schweigen (German for Brothers Keep Silent) or Silent Brotherhood for long—staged a diversionary bombing at a movie theater. The plan was to preoccupy police with that while they robbed an armored car at Northgate Mall. They made off with $536,000.
That white supremacist group only stuck around for a year in Washington. Northgate Mall, though admittedly an unwilling participant in these narratives, has been around for 68 years.
I don’t spend much time in malls anymore. My own neighborhood mall functioned as the middle school watering hole back in the day. Gaggles of girls would duck into Victoria’s Secret to go bra shopping independent of mothering tsks, Hot Topic’s gothic signage would loom over me every time I passed, and American Eagle was a safe place, a sanctuary, and the first place I heard “Human” by The Killers. I don’t know what music American Eagles in malls across America are playing. The mall is in decline.