With the transformation of 23rd and Union already underway, redevelopment is marching down 23rd Ave. Before it comes, community groups are seeking to ensure the redevelopment around 23rd and Jackson keeps a “main street” vibe.
Following a letter writing campaign by neighborhood activists, the City Council’s land use committee voted last week to add the “pedestrian zone” designation to Jackson between 23rd Ave and MLK Way as part of legislation that would expand the zones across the city. The full council is set to make a final vote on the legislation.
Here’s how the city describes what a pedestrian zone does:
- Encourage or preserve pedestrian friendly development in commercial cores.
- Requires specific commercial or institutional uses to be located at the ground floor—
- Uses that cater to pedestrians and are not residential uses
- waives some parking requirements to encourage businesses to locate in the area, recognizing that many customers will use means other than driving to get to the business
- limits driveways across sidewalks along principal pedestrian streets
Neighborhood activists have long sought a pedestrian designation for the section of Jackson, though the real concern lies in the two large shopping plazas, with even larger parking lots, that bookend the 23rd Ave side. It’s there that groups like the Central Area Land Use Review Committee fear new development, if done improperly, could kill the opportunity to create a thriving pedestrian corridor.
Weingarten Realty Investors owns both properties, which includes the Starbucks and Auto Zone on the north side of the block and Red Apple Market on the south. Jonathan Konkol, vice chair of the Central Area LURC, said its long been known that Weingarten has wanted to redevelop the property.
Seeing the writing on the wall, last year community members had the zoning change added to the 23rd Ave Urban Design Framework — a community-forged plan that seeks to promote density and development along three commercial “nodes” in the Central District. The designation would’ve applied to all future developments after it was enacted.
But to the surprise of the community group helping to create the plan, the pedestrian designation was dropped by the city in the framework’s most recent draft last month. The change prompted neighborhood activists to petition Council member Mike O’Brien to add the designation into the separate pedestrian zoning legislation.
“It’s going to change one way or another,” Konkol said of the 23rd and Jackson intersection. “It’s going to change in a way thats good for us as neighbors or one that’s hostile.”
A smattering of empty storefronts and independent shops populate the Jackson St. blocks east of 23rd Ave, including Two Big Blondes consignment and Standard Brewing. At MLK, Seattle Fire Station 6 and the Quick Pack Food Mart, an unassuming shop that some say serves up the best fried chicken in the city, mark the end of the corridor.
Construction of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway around 23rd Ave is underway with bike markings, better pedestrian crossings and “speed humps” being installed to create a safer streetscape for multiple transportation modes and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray is working on his Vision Zero plan to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the city by 2030. Part of that plan will include creating more pedestrian friendly corridors.