Capitol Hill’s homegrown food cooperative wants to return to its roots by doubling down in the the neighborhood with a new store in Capitol Hill’s future gateway development on Broadway.
Central Co-op announced Sunday night it is pursuing the anchor tenant space in the Capitol Hill Station “transit oriented development” — the four-site, mixed-use project that will surround the recently opened subway station. The yet-to-be-built building it could call home along Broadway between John and Denny is just two blocks from where the grocer got its start on 12th Ave in 1978.
“We are the only grocer that was born and raised in this neighborhood, and that means something,” said Central Co-op chief Dan Arnett.
Arnett tells CHS he has already pitched the idea to developer Gerding Edlen. The co-op says it has no plans to close its 16th and E Madison location, where it recently signed a longterm lease.
Central Co-op’s expansion aspirations were announced after it came out that Portland-based New Seasons Market was an early frontrunner to take over the anchor space. A Gerding representative told CHS they were in talks with New Seasons, but the company has not made any final decisions on a tenant.
New Seasons’ interest in the project prompted a group of unions and advocacy organizations to send a letter to the Sound Transit Board saying they were concerned with “an anti-union climate” at the stores and cited Seattle’s Metropolitan Markets or PCC Markets as better choices. PCC recently told CHS it has no plans to expand into Capitol Hill as the co-op focuses on opening in Madison Valley in 2018.
Central Co-op is a CHS advertiser.
Positioning itself as a more appropriate reflection of the neighborhood, a statement released by the Central Co-op said that “the space should be occupied by a truly locally-rooted business that has demonstrated its commitment to the community.” The Co-op says its workers are represented by four unions, entry level wage is $15.65/hour, and benefits include 100% coverage of medical and dental for employees who work 28 hours or more.
“I think we can bring a much greater value to this community than others,” Arnett tells CHS. “The train station could really be a beacon to invoke the flavor and history of this community.”
While PCC is making plans in Madison Valley, Arnett said the two cooperatives did discuss which of them would be a better fit for the Capitol Hill Station space. “Both organizations recognize that Central has its roots here and is in the best position to serve this neighborhood,” Arnett said.
The Broadway TOD retail spaces are poised to be extremely high-trafficked sites given the thousands of light rail riders who are already moving through the block daily. The opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station has boosted light rail’s popularity to new highs as average weekday ridership estimates near 60,000 daily riders. The light rail station and the 3.1-mile U-Link subway line between downtown and the University of Washington via Broadway opened in March. For now, the TOD sites remain paved over and fenced-off empty space.
Once construction is complete, a supermarket won’t be the development’s only retail tenant. Plans for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Gerding says it plans to work closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to select a retail broker and future tenants. The Capitol Hill farmers market has also long sought to be part of the development.
According to Gerding’s original timeline, construction for Site A is slated to start this summer and last through August 2017. Gerding expects the entire project will be open sometime in 2018.
Central Co-op members voted overwhelmingly last year to merge with the Tacoma Food Co-op and to shift the ownership model to give workers a greater stake in the company. Arnett said the Tacoma branch would stay open as well.
Central Co-op has been in operation on Capitol Hill since 1978 and recently signed a 20-year lease with another 20-year option on E Madison. In 1999, Central Co-op moved into the newly constructed building at 16th and Madison as the first and only commercial tenant in the space.
Last year Gerding Edlen was selected as the master developer of 100,000 square feet of TOD housing, commercial, and community spaces. Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites. Capitol Hill Housing was tabbed to develop, own, and operate a fourth site — a seven story, 86-unit affordable housing building.
Grocery stores continue to be a thriving industry and a popular element for large developments in the area. In addition to the Capitol Hill Station development, a Whole Foods is set to anchor a 16-story mixed-use building at Broadway and Madison.