In a letter to the developer of the four-site retail and housing project that will one day surround the Capitol Hill Station, the District 6 rep expressed his support for Central Co-op to become the development’s anchor tenant over Portland-based New Seasons Market. Both grocers are vying to occupy the future prominent retail space on Broadway, poised to be an extremely high-trafficked site given the thousands of light rail riders who are already moving through the block daily.
Members of the 16th and E Madison co-op announced in April to pursue a second location in the “transit oriented development” following reports that developer Gerding Edlen was in talks with New Seasons.
A group of labor organizations and Council District 3 rep Kshama Sawant previously voiced concerns about an “anti-union climate” at New Seasons stores. Citing Central Co-op’s early implementation of a $15 minimum wage and “spirit of sustainability,” O’Brien said the Capitol Hill-born grocer would be a better fit for the neighborhood.
“I was in the room when they announced their desire to pursue the TOD space,” O’Brien said in his letter. “I was inspired by the energy and excitement of hundreds of people, all of whom are owners of the business, turning their energy towards a common goal and vision.”
Positioning itself as a more appropriate reflection of Capitol Hill, a statement released by the Central Co-op in April said that “the space should be occupied by a truly locally-rooted business that has demonstrated its commitment to the community.”
Representatives for Gerding Edlen previously said they wanted to select an anchor tenant by this summer. The original construction timeline had the entire project opening in 2018.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, as PCC Natural Markets makes plans to open in the mixed-use project that will rise in the Madison Valley site currently home to City People’s, some neighbors are urging the grocer to back their fight to scale back the project. Members of the group Save Madison Valley recently wrote a letter to PCC asking that the grocery chain “exercise your voice and considerable power to help make this project one that PCC can be proud of.”
Here is the letter O’Brien wrote to Gerding Edlen project manager Jill Sherman:
Dear Jill Sherman,
I’m writing to express my support for Central Co-op to be the anchor tenant at the new Capitol Hill Station Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). As our city undergoes rapid change, our challenge as residents, business and policy leaders is to help ensure that growth is sustainable – for workers, for communities, and for our environment.
Central Co-op embodies this spirit of sustainability. They implemented a $15 per hour minimum wage, the highest in the nation, years before it was required. Almost 80% of their workers are represented by three local unions. They contribute thousands to local community groups while thriving financially as a not-for-profit business. Their commitment to local producers, sustainable sourcing and fair labor practices is embedded in the DNA of their business.
But Central Co-op also brings something intangible to this space – the cooperative spirit. I was in the room when they announced their desire to pursue the TOD space. I was inspired by the energy and excitement of hundreds of people, all of whom are owners of the business, turning their energy towards a common goal and vision. Since then, thousands of owners and neighbors have added their names to the campaign.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien