Published on July 8th, 2008 | by Kristin Dispenza


Seattle Shopping Mall Evolves into a Mixed-Use Village

Northgate Mall in Seattle in the 1950sThe Pacific Northwest has always been progressive.

For Seattle in the spring of 1950, that meant the opening of the country’s first mall. According to HistoryLink, Northgate Mall, located on 62 acres outside the city limits, was built to accommodate a total of 80 stores clustered around a “wide shopping walkway,” although it was not fully enclosed and climate-controlled until 1974. (Confused shoppers reportedly parked in the mall space itself when the center first opened.) By 1968, 50,000 cars a day were using Northgate.

In the face of global warming and climate change, however, planners and designers are redefining ‘progressive’. The Northgate neighborhood is currently at the center of a major revitalization effort which was set in motion in 2003 by Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council. A major portion of the project, Thornton Place, is scheduled for completion next spring (with condominium sales beginning as early as September of this year). Created by real estate development and management company Lorig, this will be a sustainable, mixed-use village which will combine retail and residential zones with parks and green space.

Rendering of Thornton Place at Northgate in SeattleA major component of the revitalization effort is the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel project. The watershed, which has been diverted underground for 40 years, will be restored using natural drainage system technology (for details on the channel project, see the Seattle Public Utilities website). Landscaping that features native plants and pedestrian walkways will surround the water channel, creating a total of almost three acres of green space along the south and east sides of the site. The layout of the village corresponds to the layout of the park, with building facades facing the line of the trees.

Thornton Place will be a walkable community, with 52,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space (including the remodeled mall), and a new library and community center nearby. The city has also invested in public transportation and commuter parking spaces which serve the area.

The finished village should offer a great deal of diversity: in addition to its 109 condos and 278 apartments, Thornton Place will include 143 private residences for retirement living. Furthermore, Thornton Place is targeting LEED Silver Certification, using water efficient fixtures and Energy Star appliances. Unit interiors will also have low-emitting paints, adhesives, and carpets.

Photo Credits:

  1. Northgate Mall: Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Northgate Shopping Mall (Seattle) opens on April 21, 1950,” Essay 3186,
  2. Thornton Place: Parsons Public Relations


To read more about mixed-use buildings see:


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