Lost in progress at Midtown Center: a 23rd and Union small business and a Central District post office

(Image: CHS)

As much as some neighbors may be looking forward to the demolition of the old Midtown Center shopping strip at 23rd and Union, the end isn’t much to celebrate. You can feel the missing systematic safety net for Seattle’s small businesses as one small shop owner struggles to sort out what comes next. Other changes will be inconvenient and, for some, further evidence that Seattle — and the Central District — is tossing aside community elements as it reaches for continued growth and development.

“Please help me. Please don’t forget about me,” Saad Ali pleads. The owner of the 99 Cents Plus store in the now mostly vacant shopping center is happy to finally hear from a journalist. Attention from Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has helped, he says, but it hasn’t helped him find a new place to move his store or any opportunities for grants or financial assistance to weather the change. More useful, he says, has been recent conversations with a few officials from City Hall who are looking into ways to help Ali move.

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That Brown Girl Cooks chef has ‘Seattle Soul’ plans for new Central District restaurant

Kristi Brown and her son Damon Bomar live and work at their home on Beacon Hill. A few miles away in the Central District, their restaurant planned to open in the summer of 2019 is under construction as part of the new Liberty Bank Building at 24th and Union.

With success building a catering business with That Brown Girl Cooks, Brown’s 30 years of cooking experience will finally find a permanent spot in a neighborhood she considers part of her home turf.

Brown calls her cooking style Seattle Soul.

“I’d say that Seattle Soul is rooted in soul food, innovated upon by the influences here in Seattle,” Bomar said. “We don’t like to call it fusion, because we’re not necessarily melding actual recipes, but it’s more about taking different ingredients and utilizing them in the recipes we have.”

The new restaurant will be on the ground floor of the Liberty Bank Building and while it looks like two separate restaurants are being built, Brown says that the space on the left will be a robust commercial kitchen while the space to the right will seat up to 64 including the bar and chef’s table. Continue reading

Midtown: Public Square kicked back in review process as board says plan for community art not enough

A plan for adding massive installations of art panels to help the project better reflect the culture and the history of the Central District wasn’t enough to convince area design officials Wednesday night as the Midtown: Public Square mixed-use project was kicked back for yet another round of review.

After a four-hour design review meeting, a blended group of the newly created Central Area Design Review Board and the East Review Board decided to ask the developer and its architects at Weinstein A+U to return with plans for art on the building that is more fully fleshed out.

“What we’re going to want to know is where the art is going to be located, and why it is reinforcing the larger design concepts of the building,” East Review Board chair Melissa Alexander said. “Is it art that is speaking to the larger community? Is it drawing people in? How is that art drawing people into the space?” Continue reading

‘Community interest’ — Newly formed Central Area Board will have say on Midtown: Public Square

A key Central District project to create a set of seven-story mixed buildings at 23rd and Union is ready to finish off 2018 Wednesday night with what many hope is the final step in a multi-year design review process spanning two different developers.

An important group will be on hand to see the process through.

The City of Seattle’s Department of Construction & Inspections tells CHS that the members of the newly created Central Area Design Review Board will be part of the December 19th review joining the East Review Board that has been overseeing the process since the first look at a project from a previous developer in early 2017.

Design Review: 2301 E Union

“Based on community interest, the East Board has agreed to incorporate members of the newly created Central Area Board into the recommendation process for this proposal,” a city rep tells CHS. “While the permit application was vested to the previous design review board district boundaries, the property owner has voluntarily agreed to incorporate members of the Central Area Board into the discussion and recommendation process.” Continue reading

Midtown: Public Square shaping up with hopes ranging from My Sweet Lil Cakes to Bartell’s

Midtown: Public Square’s design still needs a few more tweaks

With the nonprofit-developed, affordable housing-focused Liberty Bank Building set to open to start 2019, the other major project planned to reshape 23rd and Union with a mix of market-rate and affordable housing from a for-profit developer is hoped to wrap up its public design process for a start of construction next year.

Lake Union Partners, developers for the Midtown: Public Square, met with neighbors last month for two design conversations to discuss “community opportunities” before the planned three-piece, seven-story apartment development with 429 apartment units and underground parking for 258 vehicles returns for what is hoped to be the final review of the project in December.

December’s review will follow July’s unsuccessful bid for design review signoff amid community complaints that design for the Midtown: Public Square project looked too “South Lake Union” and calls for a more Central District-centered process. Despite the concerns, the project is planned to remain under the purview of the East Design Review Board that covers neighborhoods including Capitol Hill, the Central Area, and Madison Park. It’s not clear what role if any will be played by members of the Central Area Design Review Board created earlier this year by splitting off the Central District neighborhoods from the East region in an effort to preserve and grow the historically Black culture of the Central District. Continue reading

Liberty Bank Building: vision of equitable development, great views of the CD

A ceremony to celebrate a financial boost to its vision of inclusive development also provided en opportunity for an early tour of the nearly completed Liberty Bank Building Monday in the Central District.

“I’m a product of the Bronx, New York. Raised in Baltimore. Used to having a lot of diversity in our lives. Coming to the Pacific Northwest, I was stunned and a little lonely for a while,” Regina Glenn said Monday inside the under construction building. “Coming to this project it reminds me of that pulling together that we had.” Continue reading

Midtown design conversations to look for ‘community opportunities’ at 23rd and Union

The future of 23rd and Union won’t look like this — exactly. The Midtown Center development on the southeast corner is set to return with an updated design from this rendering in December

What is hoped to be the final step in the design review process for the redevelopment of 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center is slated for December but the companies and groups working on the project are holding two community “conversations” this week to meet with neighbors about the planned three-piece, seven-story apartment building with 429 apartment units and underground parking for 258 vehicles.

Developer Lake Union Partners is hosting a set of meetings — one Wednesday night and one Saturday — to “explore community opportunities at the Midtown project site” —

Midtown Block: Community Design Conversation

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Tacos Chukis joins growing family of food and drink around 23rd and Union

That guy up top? That’s Beto Salmeron. He just opened his fourth Tacos Chukis — the largest yet — in the Central District.

CHS told you all about the new 23d and Union taco joint here as it prepared to open last week. Here’s a look inside the Graham Baba-designed restaurant. Continue reading

Tacos Chukis ready to go big in Central District at 23rd and Union

Broadway-born Tacos Chukis has a new headquarters but the neighbors around 23rd and Union are probably more interested in the grilled pineapple and adobada.

The latest expansion of the small Seattle chain including its new central kitchen is set to open Saturday in the Central District.

“This will be our central base and supply our other restaurants,” owner Beto Salmeron tells CHS about the biggest Tacos Chukis yet. Continue reading

Process begins for the end of the Central District’s Midtown Center as we know it

(Image: Forterra)

Change set to split the community around 23rd and Union among those who consider it a central part of the neighborhood’s social fabric and those who will be happy to see it go is finally coming. Preliminary paperwork has been filed for the demolition of Midtown Center.

The six demolition permit applications filed October 4th aren’t anywhere near approval from the City of Seattle but the paperwork is yet another reminder that the corner is set for its latest and biggest transformation yet.

The permits cover the existing and still operating commercial buildings in the center as well as the empty residential structures on the block and the small cafe in the middle of the parking lot. “Commercial bldg. (The small café). I don’t know the address, perhaps 2301 23rd Ave,” the application for that demolition reads. Continue reading