Big bust raises tensions at Midtown Center

As neighbors living around 23rd and Union concerned about gun violence met at Seattle University for a community crime meeting to discuss recent shootings, a major law enforcement operation including reports of flash bang explosives went down in a tension-filled Midtown Center Thursday night.

Multiple people were taken into custody during the incident first reported to CHS around 7:30 PM Thursday after the operation was well underway.

A Seattle Police spokesperson said Friday morning he was looking into the situation and could not provide details of the arrests and SPD’s possible involvement. UPDATE 3:40 PM: SPD has posted a report on the arrest of a 27-year-old man wanted in connection with a shooting incident Monday night: Continue reading

Protest against displacement at 23rd and Union targets landowner’s Madrona home, sparks scuffle at Uncle Ike’s

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

A protest against gentrification and displacement in the Central District that followed the eviction of a longtime neighborhood activist from his 24th and Spring home showed just how personal the tumult around change can be as the Madrona home of a 23rd and Union property owner was targeted — and the owner of a controversial marijuana store momentarily lost his cool Saturday night.

Protesters Saturday night gathered at 23rd and Union outside the office space where the Black business incubator Black Dot is being booted from the teed-up-for-redevelopment Midtown Center. The protest was a planned response after the eviction of Omari Tahir-Garret from the block earlier in the week. The rally and march eventually traveled all the way to Madrona where protesters said they were targeting the home of Hugh Bangasser, head of the family partnership that owns the Midtown Center and is planning to sell the property for redevelopment.

But the sparks flew late in the night after the march returned to 23rd and Union and organizer Cliff Cawthon brought the group to the parking lot of “gentrifier” Uncle Ike’s where the I-502 pot shop was once again surrounded by a mix of protesters, Seattle Police, and Ike’s security employees. Continue reading

Standoff at 24th and Spring in eviction of longtime Central District activist

A longtime Central District resident whose activism for Black rights has often put him at odds with law enforcement and the legal system sparked a protest and a standoff Wednesday morning at 24th and Spring as the King County Sheriff, Seattle Police, and a work crew arrived to evict him and his UMOJA Peace Center from the Midtown Center block.

Omari Tahir-Garrett, who is in his 70s, was reportedly barricaded inside the house where he has lived for around a decade while working as a caretaker for the property owned by the Bangasser family who is now trying to sell the land for long-awaited redevelopment. UPDATE 2:15 PM: Authorities have determined that Tahir-Garrett is not inside the house. A protest organizer says Tahir-Garrett is “safe” and not in custody.

UPDATE 3/16/2017 8:53 AM: Police say they responded to the corner Thursday morning to help “a man trapped inside a boarded house.” We’re checking to find out more. According to police radio dispatches, SPD officers entered the house around 8 AM after being called to the scene to a report of somebody trapped inside. The person was “removed from the property” around 15 minutes later.

DSC01265UPDATE 3/16/17 2:15 PM: In an appearance outside his boarded house and flanked by City Council member Kshama SawantOmari Tahir-Garrett and organizers of the two days of protests against his eviction at 24th and Spring said they will rally again on Saturday for inclusive development with a march starting at 23rd and Union. Continue reading

Protest march covers Black Lives Matter hot spots from Capitol Hill to youth jail to Midtown Center


Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday night at Seattle Central for a Black Lives Matter protest that ended up covering a lot of mileage — and a lot of issues — with stops at a multitude of sites around Capitol Hill and the Central District including the East Precinct, the county’s youth jail facility, a troubled property on the backside of 23rd Ave’s Midtown Center, and, yes, Uncle Ike’s.

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 3.38.43 PMAfter a stop at the locked-down East Precinct at 12th and Pine, the huge three-block crowd of marchers made its way down 12th toward the King County Youth Services Center — also known as juvenile hall. Last week, activists learned that the the Hearing Examiner had dismissed an appeal blocking construction of a new youth jail and justice center at the site. In a decision issued last week, the examiner dismissed the appeal brought by Ending the Prison Industrial Complex’s asking for exceptions made in permits issued by the city to be overturned. Continue reading

Africatown, sustainability nonprofit Forterra make offer to buy 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center

There is a new deal in the works to purchase the Central District’s Midtown Center that would put Africatown at the center of redeveloping the 2.4-acre property while giving a nonprofit dedicated to sustainability an even greater new focus beyond the region’s forests on the streets around 23rd and Union.

“Whether proving a home for old growth forest, or preservation of the African American legacy in Seattle,” Forterra’s Michelle Connor tells CHS a deal with Africatown to purchase the property would be about “preserving places for people to have thriving assets.”

The organizations have submitted a letter of intent to purchase the property, Connor said Monday.

Acceptance of the offer would mean “a greater chance for inclusive development at 23rd and Union that provides sanctuary for a valuable part of the community that is being pushed out,” Africatown head K. Wyking Garrett tells CHS.

Continue reading

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