Fake FBI agent busted for $130K Central District robbery and string of crimes pleads guilty

A Lake Stevens man charged in a string of fake FBI agent robberies including a $130K rip-off in the Central District pleaded guilty last week to seven federal felonies and now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Investigators say Steven Fisher “used fake credentials in the names of fictional characters or famous fraudsters” to commit his crimes. In a January 2017 robbery reported on by CHS at the time, investigators say Fisher claimed to be a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent investigating a suspicious transaction at 23rd and Jackson’s Red Sea FinanceContinue reading

As Red Apple comes down, Vulcan’s 23rd and Jackson moves forward

The walls of the old Red Apple and the Promenade 23 shopping center have come tumbling down. There is more change underway in the Central District.

Demolition began last week on the south lot of the Jackson and 23rd shopping center being redeveloped by Seattle’s Vulcan Real Estate into a set of two seven-story buildings that will create more than 500 new homes at this key neighborhood intersection.

Vulcan has a way with timing. The demolition comes two years to the month after the Paul Allen-backed firm best known for reshaping South Lake Union told CHS it was acquiring the six acres of Central District commercial property for $30.9 million. The company has said it doesn’t have plans to redevelop its holding on the north side of Jackson where Starbucks and Walgreens are part of a cluster of big-chain commercial businesses. But on the south side of Jackson, it is a different story. Continue reading

Two Central District cafes facing closure point finger at Seattle City Hall

They both have become familiar faces whenever Central District small businesses are being discussed — usually in the context of the next big development or the next big infrastructure project promised to bring change to the neighborhoods their cafes have called home. Neighbors are now saying their goodbyes to Felix Ngoussou’s Jackson St. Lake Chad Cafe and Sara Mae’s 701 Coffee.

The 23rd and Cherry cafe owner Mae said she takes personal responsibility for 701’s closure but said she also lays blame with Seattle City Hall and District 3 representative Kshama Sawant for what she predicts will be a wave of Central District closures:

701 is just one in a line of real small businesses in the Central District that have been forced to close. We aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last. I firmly believe this trend will continue. There’s certainly no elected official—Kshama—that is going to give two shits about the plight of Central District Small Businesses. We have an elected official in the Central District who isn’t willing to devote some of her time and political capital to assuring that there is prosperity on the horizon for Central District small businesses. Instead she has created a movement that is based on resentment, and divisive political rhetoric that serves no purpose but to hold power, and keep people who are struggling trapped in a cycle of spinning their wheels, waiting for her precious cake. Frankly, all we have received in the aggregate from Kshama in all of this is Central District small business circumstances that has worsened under her reign.

Continue reading

After ‘nightmare’ arson fire, Med Mix returns to the Central District

Tuesday, we found out just how many people love tacos and broke some news about the future of food and drink at 23rd and Union. Today, CHS has good news on a sad part of 23rd and Union’s restaurant past. Five years after an arson fire destroyed its 23rd and Union shop, Med Mix is open again in the Central District.

Owner Otmane Bezzaz dropped CHS a note earlier this week to announce that, “after years of trying to come back,” his new location just off 23rd and Jackson is now open. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Punk Rock Flea Market makes Central District Red Apple temporary home

Given the coming changes at 23rd and Jackson, the shuttered Red Apple in the shopping center acquired for Vulcan redevelopment can be a symbol of pretty much anything you want — gentrification, displacement, change. But last week, it was simply a giant shuttered space full of old grocery infrastructure that needed to be cleared out. The Punk Rock Flea Market was in full scramble mode to find its 2017 one-weekend home after previous plans fell through. So those shelves — and much much more — needed to come out.

“It looked like a grocery store,” PRFM organizer Josh Okrent tells CHS. “It had all the infrastructure of a grocery store. We just started tearing it all down.” Continue reading

Central District holiday shopping alert: Punk Rock Flea Market moved to old Red Apple

Central District landlord Vulcan is stepping in as the emergency host for this year’s Punk Rock Flea Market. Here’s the announcement hot off the internets from PRFM’s Josh Okrent:

It wouldn’t be the PUNK ROCK FLEA MARKET if we didn’t keep you on your toes.

Did we say the PRFM was coming to the former Imperial Lanes? Well, we spoke too soon ….

The Bowling Alley space on Beacon Hill has been shut down as a site for PRFM. The place seemed like a dream come true, but the more we learned about the venue the more we realized it just wasn’t safe. Too many structural and safety systems were failing beyond our resources and ability to deal with, and 2 weeks ago we made the tough call to shut it down and move on.

Since then a team of us have been working hard to find a replacement venue that we could occupy within the same range of dates. And praise be to the great Punk Gods burning in eternal hellfire, WE FOUND ONE.

On a NEW DATE – December 9 & 10 – we are moving the whole kit-and-kaboodle into the former Red Apple at 23rd and Jackson in Seattle’s Central District. It’s a better spot in a lot of ways – bigger, much brighter, MUCH closer to major pedestrian and transit traffic, already known as a place to get your shopping freak well satisfied – and of course, it’s SAFE.

In 2016, the market took over the old REI/Kelly Springfield/Value Village building for one last vintage hurrah for the old structure before redevelopment.

While we’re having some fun with the on the fly changes for this year’s flea market, the communities around 23rd and Jackson were left with a big gap when the Red Apple closed earlier this year to make way for coming redevelopment. CHS wrote here about one small effort to try to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the area in the wake of Red Apple’s exit.

As for the PRFM, admission remains $1. And, if nothing else, it will put the big empty grocery store back into motion for a weekend. Continue reading

23rd and Jackson’s MHA-ready Community House project set for final review phase

(Image: Environmental Works)

The first Central District development project planned to align with the city’s coming Mandatory Housing Affordability program will move to the second and final phase of the city’s design review process Wednesday night.

CHS first wrote about the Community House project at 22nd and Jackson in November 2016 but the development was expanded to add a second adjacent building the following spring and arrives now in front of the East Design Review Board with a plan for a combined 128 units of low income and affordable housing above a new Community House Mental Health Agency facility and street level retail:

Design review: 2212 S Jackson

The project from Community House, Ally Community Development, and the architects at Capitol Hill-based Environmental Works is being designed under the framework of an expected upzoning of the area to allow 75-foot buildings under the MHA program. Under MHA, the 75 units planned for the seven-story building in the project will be available to tenants making 60% or less of the area median income. The 53 units planned to rise above the new upgraded Community House facility in the six-story building will be used to house Community House clients. Continue reading

Man charged in string of fake FBI agent robberies including $130K rip-off in Central District

The man the FBI says impersonated one of their agents and robbed a Central District business of nearly $130,000 has been arrested and charged, officials announced Friday.

Steven W. Fisher, 43, has been charged with attempted robbery, robbery, and five counts of impersonating a federal officer, according to the announcement from the Western District of Washington’s U.S. Attorney.

In a January robbery reported on by CHS at the time, investigators say Fisher claimed to be a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent investigating a suspicious transaction at 23rd and Jackson’s Red Sea Finance.

According to the SPD report on the incident, a worker at the “bank/savings and loan” was closing up for the night around 7 PM when the suspect knocked on a metal security gate, showed a badge, and said he was FBI. Once he was let in past the security gate, the phony agent told the worker he had conducted a “bad transaction” and asked to see the records for the day. “(The victim) pulled up his transaction record on the computer as S1 looked on,” the report reads. Continue reading

Community market stand small part of patching big hole with 23rd and Jackson Red Apple closure

(Image: Clean Greens)

When the Central District Red Apple closed this month as Vulcan readies plans to redevelop the store’s corner of 23rd and Jackson, residents of the CD lost a community resource and one of the only big grocery markets in the area. Lottie Cross, the director of Clean Greens, a nonprofit market stand and CSA, and 55-year resident of the Central District, came to the rescue. Providing no-pesticide, herbicide-free collard greens, potatoes, tomatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkins, sweet corn, and many other vegetables, Clean Greens is filling a small part of the big hole left by Red Apple’s closure.

“They (Vulcan) came to me,” Cross tells CHS. “Last Saturday was our first day in the new location — we sold way more than usual. At least 50 people stopped by and almost bought us out.”

Formerly located at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Saturdays, the Clean Green market stand now pops up across the parking lot from the old Red Apple, near the Walgreens. According to Cross, Vulcan partnered with Clean Greens to provide access to healthy food “for as long as possible.” It’s up to the weather to decide how long the stand is there, but Cross expects to have a presence through December, and maybe after.

Cross tells CHS that any leftover vegetables go to Operation Sack Lunch, a nonprofit that provides free vegetarian meals throughout Seattle. Vulcan supplies a tent, and funding for one person to run the market stand, but other than that, it’s a purely volunteer organization. The purchase of seeds, the lease, and payment for their farm manager, Tommie Willis, comes from money raised through the CSA program, which runs from July to October. Continue reading

Open house: Shelf Life project tells stories of those who live and love the Central District

A group of artists — “photographers, artists, librarians, historians, filmmakers, youth media educators, and youth media makers” — has turned a former sandwich shop next to the Red Apple at 23rd and Jackson into a “community story booth.”

Shelf Life: Open House

Sunday, Shelf Life will hold an open house to show some of the stories collected and share some new ones in an ongoing project to record the lives of the people who call the Central District home:

Shelf Life is a community story project motivated by the rapid change taking place in Seattle’s Central Area neighborhood. We are gathering and sharing the stories of the people who live and work in the Central Area; stories about the neighborhood, its history, its struggles, its innovation, the change it is now experiencing, and how residents are impacted by that change.

In 2016, Vulcan paid $30.9 million for the shopping center land around 23rd and Jackson with plans for a mixed-use, multi-family 570-unit development. A wave of development along the 23rd Ave corridor makes the Shelf Life project even more poignant. At 23rd and Union, efforts at moving forward with projects focused on “inclusive development” are stalled at Midtown Center but moving full speed ahead at the Liberty Bank building project.

The 23rd and Jackson Shelf Life project continues through June with more events and presentations planned through the duration. Eventually, the project powered by King County’s 4 Culture and partners including developer Vulcan and the neighboring Red Apple grocery store will be archived by the Seattle Public Library. To learn more and see some of the stories collected by the project, check out shelflifestories.com.