Shopping center developer’s big deal for 23rd and Union is off the table

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-3-59-53-pmThe development plans for 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center are on hold. The Puget Sound Business Journal reported Wednesday that a member of the family that has owned the property for more than 75 years said the planned development’s financial driver Regency Centers had “fallen out of contract” — biz talk for saying the $20+ million deal likely lined up for the property has blown up.

Representatives for the Bangasser family have not responded to our inquiries about the report but a representative for the project from Lennar Multifamily Communities and Regency tells CHS the buyers are no longer under contract for the the 2.4-acre property at 23rd and Union. Continue reading

With 23rd and Union redevelopment in the works, Midtown Center looking for more businesses

The rapid change underway around 23rd and Union is shaping up to include a partnership for “inclusive development” between massive developers Lennar Multifamily Communities and Regency Centers with community group Africatown to create a full-block shopping center and housing project in the heart of the Central District. But what happens in the meantime?

The Bangasser family, longtime owner of the Midtown Center, say they have been working on improvements to make the property safer over the last couple years and soon hope to bring new tenants to the block. Margaret Delaney tells CHS they plan to post lease listings soon. The center’s kiosk is already on Craigslist. The 500-square-foot space is listed at $1,500 a month and is available for a “short term lease (1-2 years) or possible month-to-month if prefer.”

K. Wyking Garrett, CEO of Africatown, tells CHS that this is the time to invest in the present and the future at 23rd and Union.

“We need more positive development, more investment,” Garrett said. “There is a need to support and grow black-owned businesses.” Continue reading

CHS Pics | A Central District ‘Resist Trump’ work party

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Resistance can be fun — and creative. Wednesday night, CHS stopped by 23rd and Union’s Squirrel Chops to check out one of the last work parties before a series of protests, rallies, and marches begin across the city to mark the inauguration of Donald Trump.

The first planned event you’re likely to see play out on the Hill will come Friday afternoon as participants in an announced student walkout rally at Seattle Central before marching downtown to join what is expected to be a large protest downtown at Westlake. The updated CHS roster of planned events including Saturday’s 30,000 to 50,000-strong march from Judkins Park to the Seattle Center is here:

The plan for the Womxn’s March on Seattle and Capitol Hill Inauguration Week protests, rallies, and parties

There will also, of course, be un-planned, un-announced protests. We’ll do our best to keep you abreast of any actions on or around Capitol Hill.

Wednesday night’s sign making party was open to marchers planning to attend any of the weekend’s actions. District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was there enjoying the work party and preparing for her part in the the Socialist Alternative-backed Resist Trump: Occupy Inauguration rally at Westlake before she jets to Washington D.C. in time to be part of the Women’s March on Washington.

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Street Treats adding ice cream sandwiches, sweets to busy scene around 23rd and Union

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(Images: Street Treats)

(Images: Street Treats)

It’s been a big week for change around 23rd and Union. How about some more ice cream?

“We’re going to do what we do everywhere,” Seattle food truck entrepreneur Diane Skwiercz tells CHS about her new Central District headquarters for Street Treats, one of the grandmamas of Seattle’s on-the-move food and drink scene.

The business moved into its new kitchen over the holidays at 24th and Union in The Stencil building. Come spring, the Street Treats counter will open offering scoops, ice cream sandwiches, and the cookies and baked goods that Street Treats has been featuring around the city for years. With the space inside dedicated to Street Treats’s kitchen needs, the new E Union sweets provider will be walk-up only. You can drop by the nearby parklet in front of Cortona if you’re looking for a place to sit.

Skwiercz tells CHS the search for a permanent home for Street Treats included more affordable neighborhoods like Beacon Hill and the Central District and Capitol Hill, “no offense,” wasn’t even an option. Still Skwiercz will be part of a growing business community in her new neighborhood. Neighbor Union Coffee — yes, from the Molly Moon’s ice cream family — opened in September and Feed Co. Burgers joined the building with a late October debut, and the Ponder pot shop opened just down the hill in 2015. Add the Midtown Center development and new buildings coming across the street at 24th and Union and another on the northwest corner at 23rd and Union. Continue reading

Board and developers agree, Midtown Center project needs further review

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-3-58-13-pmIt’s not often that the backers behind a big time project in Seattle ask to be slowed by another review. But the project to redevelop Midtown Center and a city fully city block at 23rd and Union is complicated.

The East Design Review Board agreed Wednesday night that the project planned for 2301 E Union should, indeed, return for a second Early Design Guidance meeting.

Brad Reisinger with Lennar Multifamily Communities, one of the site developers along with Regency Centers, requested a second EDG because the project is complicated due to the block-sized site and the pending agreement with the Africatown nonprofit.

An agreement between developers to sell Africatown about 20% of the 2.4-acre property at 23rd and Union to give the nonprofit an ownership stake is still being finalized. Regency is currently under contract to purchase the block.

CHS looked at the history of the block, its importance in the Black community, and the long road to redevelopment for Midtown here. Capitol Hill Housing, meanwhile, is developing the Liberty Bank Building across the street from Midtown Center under a community agreement with partners including Africatown that will be fully affordable and  is hoped to become a template for inclusive development in Seattle.

Plans from Encore Architects for the Midtown Center project propose two seven-story buildings with 355 units in one and 120 in the other. In the larger building, 10% of the units and a to be determined portion of the units in the second would be affordable. Plans also include a large local grocery store, pharmacy, smaller retail spaces and 482 parking spaces. CHS looked at the design here earlier this week.

“The overall mass and scale seem kind of grotesque in my mind,” one neighbor on 24th Ave said. Many commenters raised similar concerns and the board referred to the proposed development as “massive.” Continue reading

No injuries reported as police investigate more gunfire at Midtown Center

Police were investigating another incident of gunfire Wednesday night in the Midtown Center shopping center. There were no reported injuries or arrests.

Witnesses and 911 callers near 23rd and Union reported multiple shots fired just before 10:45 PM. Police searched the area but found no victims. According to East Precinct radio reports, a shell casing was found near the center’s 99 Cents store and bullet damage was reported in at least one nearby building.

Witnesses told police a vehicle believed to have been involved in the shooting was seen speeding away from the scene. Continue reading

Neighbors get first look at Midtown Center plans: big grocery, pharmacy, 120 affordable units

While the details of an agreement between developer Lennar Multifamily Communities, Regency Centers and Africatown Community Land Trust for the Midtown Center project are still being finalized, neighbors got their first looks at early designs for the development as it moves toward its first design review just a few days into 2017.

The developers showed off 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.

In all, the project will bring hundreds of units of new housing to the block:

Working in conjunction with neighborhood leaders, the preferred design includes a separate development on the southern portion of the lot which will provide neighborhood oriented retail, community office space and approximately 120 affordable housing above. The northern portion provides approximately 355 units over a variety of retails uses at ground level. The main corner at 23rd and Union is raised above the storefront, which is setback to allow for wider sidewalks, with the corner recessed even further to provide spill-out space and increased pedestrian activity at the corner. The two developments are linked by a pedestrian through block connection that provides interest along the longer blocks.

Brad Reisinger with Lennar told CHS at the Central Area Land Use Review Committee community meeting held to discuss the project before the Christmas holiday that the company plans to have the agreement with Africatown finalized after its first Early Design Guidance meeting, scheduled for January 4th. Continue reading

Shopping center developer in deal to buy 23/Union block with Africatown as partner — UPDATE

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. Continue reading

As plan for seven-story development takes shape, community looks to future of 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center

Decades of change at 23rd and Union is about to accelerate. The first week of 2017 will bring a much anticipated first public review of the development plans for the Midtown Center, a flashpoint block in the wave of new investments reshaping the Central District and a corner with a deep history of pride and tragedy.

Just four days into the new year, developer Lennar and the architects at Encore are scheduled to present what have so far been closely guarded plans for the project after months of work banging out a plan for the 2.4 acres of shopping center land. What you see above aren’t design renderings — those aren’t available yet — but community design concepts for the block created by UW architecture students in 2015.

The Central Area Land Use Review Committee community group is preparing for the crucial review with a meeting for neighbors and those interested in the project Wednesday night. “The project will transform one of the most significant sites in the Central Area,” organizers write.

Central Area Land Use Review Committee: Community Meeting with the design team for the re-development of MidTown Center

The California-based developer Lennar’s framework includes a rezoning of the block that would allow 85-foot heights and construction of seven-story mixed-use apartment buildings on the land pitched as “one of the last remaining large developable sites” in the city as the real estate market around it heated into overdrive this summer. To achieve the rezone, the project will need community buy-in — and approval from the Seattle City Council.

It may have a partner in that pursuit. Continue reading

Blotter | 10th Ave E gunpoint robbery, shootout at 23rd/Union

See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959. You can view recent CHS Crime coverage here.

  • 10th Ave E hold-up: A group of possibly three suspects reportedly held up a female victim at gunpoint as she walked along 10th Ave E waiting for a bus early Monday morning. According to East Precinct radio dispatches on the incident, the victim was robbed by a suspect armed with a silver pistol just after 2 AM along 10th Ave E near Galer where the victim was walking when she was approached by the group. The victim then walked to a nearby residence to call police but by then nearly 20 minutes had passed and the suspects were nowhere to be found. SPD is investigating the hold-up as an armed robbery.
  • Thanks to neighbor Alex Crick for the picture from the police response Friday night

    Thanks to neighbor Alex Crick for the picture from the police response Friday night

    23rd/Union gunfire: A scary scene unfolded around the busy corner of 23rd and Union Saturday night around 5 PM as multiple witnesses reported seeing a gunfight break out between a male shooter on foot and at least one other vehicle speeding away from the area around the Midtown Center parking lot. A large contingent of police arrived in the area and teamed up before approaching the scene where some witnesses reported more than 20 shots were fired. Nobody was reported hit by the gunfire and no suspects could be located when police arrived. Shell casings from at least two guns were found at the scene and multiple businesses in the are sustained damage from flying bullets, a SPD spokesperson tells CHS. The spokesperson said the department’s gang unit is investigating.