Echoing a framework for “inclusive development” forged across the street where Capitol Hill Housing’s affordable Liberty Bank Building is slated to rise, the developers behind a project planned to bring a seven-story, 400-plus-unit project to 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center say they are working on a deal with Central District community nonprofit Africatown that will give the organization an ownership stake in the project.
The planned deal “articulates a path forward and shared goals for inclusive redevelopment of the property” the companies say.
According to the announcement, California-based multifamily housing developer Lennar is working with Regency Centers to develop the 2.4-acre block and Regency is currently under contract with the property owners to purchase the site. Lennar and the “developer, owner and operator of “quality retail property leasing in shopping centers nationwide” have worked out a plan for Africatown to develop around a half-acre of the site, or around 20% of the land.
“For the past two months, Lennar Multifamily Communities, Regency Centers and the Africatown Community Land Trust (Africatown) have been exploring ways for private developers and the neighborhood to work together in the development of the Midtown Center at 23rd & Union in the Central District,” the announcement reads.
The developers say Forterra, “a local sustainability non-profit with deep experience helping facilitate complex land transactions,” will work with Africatown to finance the deal.
According to the statement, the development plan hinges on Central District zoning changes planned as part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. “The concepts being discussed are predicated on Regency and Lennar moving forward under the contract and the City of Seattle completing zoning changes associated with the Central Area Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation in early 2017,” the statement reads.
CHS wrote about the path to redevelopment for Midtown Center earlier this week as Lennar and architects from Encore prepared to present at the project’s first design review in January. The project will be the focus of a community meeting Wednesday night:
Africatown has been pressing its vision for the future of 23rd and Union for years. “We’re striving to acquire that property to be developed in a way that includes our (community),” Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett said about Midtown in a discussion of his organization’s efforts to reshape gentrification and development in the Central District earlier this fall. In spring of 2015, CHS reported on its community design process and visions of a “Black Wall Street” with aspirational prototypes for development from students at the University of Washington School of Architecture.
The announcement marks the second major partnership entered into by Africatown around the redevelopment of the 23rd and Union neighborhood. In the Liberty Bank Building project, Africatown joined The Black Community Impact Alliance, and Centerstone in a memorandum of understanding with nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing. The Liberty partnership has been held up as a template for inclusive development in Seattle with a respect for history and the empowerment of the African American community. The group is working to incorporate the site’s historical significance and create housing that is home to black residents and commercial space with black businesses. The agreement also includes a path to black ownership of the development. The affordable housing project with plans for 115 studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom apartments and four commercial spaces passed through its first design review in late November.
Midtown Center’s redevelopment will come after a turbulent period of change for the property that has grown to represent the challenges of including the neighborhood’s existing communities in its redevelopment. Long held by the Bangasser family, CHS reported earlier this year on the family legal fight that had help up agreement on a $23.5 million deal to sell the land to developers over a plan to transfer ownership of the property to a land trust that would come under community control. “There is a difference of opinion in what the exit strategy should be,” Tom Bangasser told CHS of the disagreement at the time. “I’m a believer that the neighborhood should own the property.” The first Midtown property parcels were purchased by the Bangassers’ father 75 years ago. Paul Bangasser was active in the neighborhood’s fight for racial equality and fair housing, according to his 1992 obituary. With that sometimes nasty court battle mostly resolved, the Bangasser family partnership that owns the property says it is doing more to address safety and use of the shopping center with improvements to the property and an effort to bring in new tenants.
The Midtown Center’s first design review proposal was scheduled to be made available Wednesday. The developers say the proposal “reflects a conceptual plan” from the negotiations with Africatown.
UPDATE 12/22/2016: We’ll have more on the meeting soon but a preview of the designs to be shown on January 4th from Wednesday night’s meeting showed a plan for a a horseshoe-shaped, block-long building that Lennar and Regency would fund and a smaller building on the south end of the block financed by the Africatown partnership with around 60% of the units created as affordable housing. Neighbors also heard about plans for a 30,000-square-foot grocery store included in the plan to be anchored by what was described as a local grocer. A representative said the project partners are not yet disclosing who the grocer is and are also not yet identifying the pharmacy chain lined up to move into 10,000 square feet of retail space in the project. There will also be some commercial spaces designed for smaller businesses, representatives said Wednesday night.
Preferred massing – "horseshoe" design for Midtown center development. pic.twitter.com/mO4plSmksG
— Ashwin Warrior (@ashwinwarrior) December 22, 2016