Design review: Long paths for Midtown Center’s mixed-use grocery future, Hill dive bar-turned microhousing

Blueprint Howell

Blueprint Howell

Long-anticipated development is the shared theme Wednesday night as the East Design Review Board takes its first look at two projects neighbors have been expecting for years — one will replace the home of a classic Capitol Hill dive bar, the other could redefine the heart of the Central District.

600 E Howell
You know it best as the Redwood. After more than 10 years on E Howell, the much-loved, and long-doomed dive bar is set to be replaced by a seven-story, mixed-use building that will create 73 “Small Efficiency Dwelling Units,” and four studio apartments atop 1,500 square feet of commercial space.

Maybe another bar will someday take its place. But it won’t be the Redwood as owners Lisa and Mat Brooke have long ago moved to Port Angeles and have been operating the Redwood on a series of six-month leases as the development project was delayed.

Capitol Hill’s Redwood bar still stands

The 600 E Howell project’s preferred design from S+H Works emphasizes a “narrow and articulated” form that would focus the mass of the project along Howell and the west of the property while locating the street-level commercial space on the southwest corner of the lot. To make the preferred layout work, developers are asking for a series of zoning departures on the building’s setbacks. To date, no public comment letters have been submitted on the project.

Design review: 600 E Howell

The Blueprint Howell development is planned to utilize zoning incentives for meeting environmental efficiency requirements and planned workforce housing component to rise to seven-stories in the densely-packed neighborhood that somehow still has a handful of single-family homes that will someday neighbor the project. The Blueprint company is “owned by a large and diverse group of individual shareholders made up of our builder customers, management and individuals who value community investing,” according to its marketing materials. “Our shareholders invest in the thriving Seattle real estate market through the leading real estate investment trust.” The developers paid $1.3 million last May for the property currently home to the Redwood and a quick mart, according to county records.

“All existing structures to be demolished,” the design packet notes, sans emotion.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-3-58-13-pmMidtown Center
The development set to transform a block of the Central District at 23rd and Union is likely to elicit plenty of emotion if for no other reason than the project’s sheer scale. The long road to this point of redevelopment and the change it represents is also emotion-worthy.

The developers behind a project planned to bring the seven-story, 400-plus-unit project to the block have announced 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.

Design review: 2301 E Union St

Last spring, CHS reported on the family legal fight holding 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. By the end of summer, a King County Superior Court judge had sided with the family partnership, paving the way for the Bangassers to end 75 years of ownership on the block. Along the way, the area has transitioned through periods of street violence, drug dealing, and intensely focused policing at the corner while also becoming a flashpoint for concerns over gentrification and the loss of black-owned businesses and community in the neighborhood.

California-based multifamily housing developer Lennar and global shopping developer Regency Centers along with the designers at Encore Architects will present their plan Wednesday night for a seven-story apartment development with 440 units, plans for a large grocery store, and a pharmacy, and an underground parking lot with room for 482 cars.

Last week at a community meeting, developers provided a preview off the plan for 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. Around a third of the units in the main building will also be planned as affordable housing, developers tell CHS, under the city’s HALA and MFTE programs.

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 last week.

This week, the design board will assess the architectural approach to the important neighborhood project. The project’s preferred design “shifts density onto the northern portion of the site to provide room for additional housing to the south,” the project architect writes. “By creating two sites, a neighborhood group has the opportunity to develop the southern parcel and retain community ownership within the block.”

The development hinges on Central District zoning changes planned as part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda — or a special rezone will be required. Early designs call for the seven-story building to be 70-feet tall, five feet higher than The Central Apartments across 23rd but below the 85-foot threshold that could be allowed in the area eventually under HALA.

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