Midtown Center redevelopment moves forward in design review process

A rendering of the planned, mostly public plaza (Image: Weinstein A+U)

The East Design Review Board Wednesday night gave its blessing to the early plans for redevelopment of the Midtown Center at 23rd and Union. The decision moves the project forward to the next phase in the process with hopes for better connections to the Africatown Plaza project that will neighbor it and a better approach to connecting the development’s massive internal plaza to the area’s surrounding community.

In a packed meeting room at Seattle University, community members who spoke during the public comments portion of the night’s proceedings expressed general support for the project but many said they hoped to see more thought given to design that highlighted the corner’s place in African American culture in the city.

The future view from Cal Anderson… will need more work

Broadway Bonney-Watson development kicked forward… barely
Meanwhile on Broadway… Public comments and the board were mostly in agreement Wednesday night — the Modera Broadway project won’t need a third pass in the early phase of the design review process but it will need a lot more work before the project gets by the board. Avoiding a relatively rare third “early design guidance” review, the board required an extra hour of deliberation as it asked developer Mill Creek Residential and Weber Thompson to do even more to activate the street level design along Nagle and connect the project to Cal Anderson, ultimately deciding three votes to two that the plans were close enough at this point to advance… like we said, barely. You can check out more on the “live/work unit”-heavy design proposal signed-off on Wednesday night here.

“Street life is the most important identifying characteristic,” one public speaker said about the corner, saying she was worried the design by Weinstein A+U architects is “taking all the life and energy to the internal courtyard.” “It’s not going to be a space that generates energy itself,” she said. Another described the early massing for the project as “Eurocentric” and “very linear.” Continue reading

First look at new plan for redevelopment of 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center

Monday’s MLK Day 2018 marchers will pass by the site of the next major change for the neighborhood around 23rd and Union. Here are the first designs for the new mixed market-rate and “inclusive development” project planned for the Midtown Center block.

The newly released plans from architects Weinstein A+U and the Berger Partnership include room for somewhere around 429 units in 273,000 square-feet of residential space, new restaurant and commercial space surrounding a large “public plaza,” and room for nearly 300 vehicles to park below ground. Continue reading

Developers collecting ideas for ‘public square’ at 23rd and Union

Later this month, the redevelopment of 23rd and Union will continue with the first design review for the huge “inclusive development”-focused project from Lake Union Partners, Capitol Hill Housing, and Africatown set to rise above the corner currently home to Midtown Center. As the planning comes together for the mixed market-rate and affordable development, there is an opportunity for neighbors to start shaping a key element of the design.

Developers are collecting feedback on plans for a “public square” at the center of the four apartment buildings being planned for the site:

Most prominently, the project includes a public square almost 9,000 sf in size. The square is accessible from East Union Street and both 24th and 23rd Avenues. Surrounded by active retail users, the square is intended as a community gathering space during the daytime and evening hours, with special event programming from local community groups.

You can learn more about the plans and provide your suggestions for the square’s features at courb.co/midtown.

Patrick Foley of Lake Union Partners tells CHS this the first time his firm has used the coUrbanize platform on a project. Continue reading

Central District artist’s sculpture will be part of 23rd/Union redevelopment

James Washington, Jr. (Image courtesy James & Janie Washington Foundation)

A work by an important Central District African American artist will be restored in the midst of coming redevelopment set to reshape the corner of 23rd and Union.

The James and Janie Washington Foundation, a museum and art gallery to commemorate and preserve the work of James Washington Jr, announced the planned restoration of the “Fountain of Triumph” sculpture that has called the MidTown shopping center home since the 1990s.

The sculpture will temporarily move from MidTown to the foundation’s property on 26th Avenue and Denny so the Pratt Fine Arts center can restore it. When the sculpture returns to its original location, it will be part of a major new mixed-use development that will partner a for-profit developer with affordable housing and community nonprofits including Africatown.

James Washington Jr., an African American writer and artist, created “The Fountain of Triumph” in the late 1990s. He passed away in 2000 at 90 years old. Meant to be a community meeting place and focal point for unity in an ever-changing neighborhood, the sculpture will stay true to Washington Jr.’s original intent as it gets restored and placed in Africatown.

“We’re so pleased that LUP is helping to restore and return this meaningful sculpture to its original location,” said Washington Foundation board president Reverend LaVerne Hall in the announcement of the project. “We’re thrilled it will be returning it to its former glory.” Continue reading

23rd and Union development update: Notes on Africatown Plaza, Liberty Bank, and East Union’s New Seasons grocery

As developers snag every available piece of land in the booming real estate market of Central Seattle, African American community members demand a seat at the table when it comes to who fills the future Africatown portion of Midtown development at 23rd and Union. How do you address the concerns of a diverse community while understanding the history of the land the development is being built on? By meeting, bringing those voices together, and giving them a chance to express their concerns and desires for positive change.

Africatown is holding “Central Community Development Update” sessions to create a forum.

”We want to use this as a catalyst to build a database and organize and build capacity, so future projects can have greater participation,” Wyking Garrett said, addressing the Thursday evening crowd at the October update.

Garrett brought together a wide variety of voices at a meeting hosted by Africatown and held at the Casey Family Program near 23rd and Union. Garrett, a community organizer and head of the nonprofit Africatown, brought together developers and community members to give updates and discuss issues regarding continuing development of the Liberty Bank property, Midtown Center, and East Union. It was a packed meeting room, with over 75 people representing the community and unions.

Here are some of the night’s topics of discussion:

Liberty Bank Building
Crews planned to begin pouring concrete footings last week. Jill Fleming spoke on behalf of Capitol Hill Housing. She talked about possible outcomes of the Memorandum Of Understanding focusing on securing long term African American ownership in the community. The investors have a 15-year term, when that is up the nonprofit owner has the opportunity to purchase the building. In 15 years, Africatown will be able to step into that role. Part of the MOU is that they will prioritize minority and local subcontractors. CHH is working with Walsh construction out of Oregon. They currently have 30% women and minority subcontractors with 17% being African American subcontractors. The ground floor along Union will be retail with the corner space being a negotiated with a restaurant. The retail space will be affordable and marketed so CHH can maintain and preserve CD business or open space for emerging businesses. Continue reading

Plans for Africatown Plaza rise at 23rd and Union

Garrett, center, with Forterra’s Michelle Connor and Chris Persons of Capitol Hill Housing (Image: Africatown Plaza)

The newly formed Africatown Community Land Trust entered an agreement with Capitol Hill Housing and Lake Union Partners, the Seattle development company that bought the Midtown Center block in May. The announcement cements the project surrounding Lake Union’s $23.25 million deal to purchase the Central District shopping center land.

UPDATEWe have updated this information to correct an error regarding ownership of the site.

“We’re working to maintain fertile ground where a Black community that has been here for over 130 years can grow and thrive in place, K. Wyking Garrett, president of the land trust, said in an announcement of the agreements. Continue reading

Finally, a $23.25M deal — and plans for inclusive development — at 23rd and Union

It is a riskier bet than most $23.25 million land deals in Seattle. But new neighbors and longtime community members are probably happy to see real progress. Africatown, again in partnership with sustainability nonprofit turned in-city housing developer Forterra, will still be part of inclusive development component in the deal. And the buyers seem to know what they are doing.

Lake Union Partners announced Tuesday that it is surging ahead with a plan to redevelop 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center block and has already closed on a purchase of the land — a riskier approach than national shopping center developer Regency Centers and its partner Lennar were apparently willing to take in their failed deal to acquire the property and build a grocery-focused project.

“Given our other investments at 23rd and Union, we’ve worked hard to connect well with the neighborhood and as always, we simply try to do good work with our design, be respectful of the community, and create projects with neighborhood retail that residents of the area need and want,” Patrick Foley of Lake Union Partners said in the announcement. Continue reading

Another ugly incident at 23rd and Union

A protest against displacement and in support of Africatown’s efforts at 23rd and Union devolved into a fight between activists and security at an area business Saturday — and a video from an ugly exchange in the midst of the confrontation has drawn sharp rebuke.

Police were called to the intersection Saturday afternoon after activists who had been part of an anti-displacement “Mini Block Party” at Midtown Center crossed the street and challenged security seeking to keep protesters off the frequently targeted property at Uncle Ike’s, the legal pot shop that has been a regular target of those opposed to both what they say is the I-502 cannabis industry’s non-inclusive system and concerns about gentrification in the rapidly developing neighborhood.

One protester was reportedly treated for facial injuries by Seattle Fire after the fight. Police said that the groups were separated around 4 PM.

But an exchange in the aftermath of the fight recorded by Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg in which activist and recently evicted block resident Omari Garrett tells the Jewish business owner to “go back to Germany” and “let those Nazis get on you again” has outraged many and forced developers working in the neighborhood and partnering with Africatown — run by Garrett’s son K. Wyking Garrett — to try to distance themselves from the situation. 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

Black Dot dispute clouds future of Africatown ‘inclusive development’ at 23rd and Union

14570556_563197213867977_1386588592077165332_o (1)With a multimillion land deal looming in the background that could make the community group part of what it calls “inclusive development” in the Central District, Africatown says it is taking on “Trump-style real estate discrimination” over the effort to evict work space and business incubator Black Dot from the 23rd and Union shopping center.

The community organization run by K. Wyking Garrett has called for a press conference Monday afternoon at the site of Black Dot’s space inside Midtown Center complex:

Today, at 4 p.m., community leaders in support of Black Dot – a business incubator and economic development center providing technical assistance to African American-owned and operated businesses and microenterprises – will host a press conference and rally protesting the recent illegal attempts made to evict the business advocacy group from its current headquarters.

The dispute follows efforts last week for the Midtown Center Partnership, the Bangasser family company, to clear out Black Dot including changing the locks on the commercial berth being used for the work space following the end of the contract with the leaseholder in the partnership of community groups that helped start the location last year.

Police were called to help sort things out Friday but left the property owners to deal with starting a formal eviction process: Continue reading