‘Single family home neighborhood’ — the Madison Valley PCC mixed-use battle

An $85 filing fee — and lots of billable hours — is holding up a Madison Valley mixed-use apartments and PCC grocery project but the long, drawn out Seattle process to develop the property might finally be set to move forward.

Conflict between a community group attempting to use the State Environmental Policy Act as a defensive blanket and developer Velmeir Companies will come to a head by December as the city’s Hearing Examiner is slated to make a decision on an appeal against the project.

Save Madison Valley, a group aimed at maintaining the area as a “single family home neighborhood,” has been working, it says, to ensure that Velmeir commits to mitigating the environmental impacts of its 82-unit, mixed-use six-story development at 2925 E Madison.

The project passed through the first stage of the design review process finally in January 2017 after a relatively rare three sessions in front of the board. The design from Meng Strazzara was fully signed off on last September — but the project isn’t yet close to breaking ground.

Save Madison Valley is asking the Hearing Examiner to reverse the design review decision and the city’s determination on the project’s environmental impact and require the development to undergo new rounds of costly, time consuming review. It’s a strategy cut from similar cloth to the legal fight holding up Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program that has cost the city plenty in legal fees — and maybe 717 affordable apartment units.

But Velmeir may not have to wait for December to move forward. Continue reading

After ‘positive’ talks, New Seasons and community groups opposing new store set for Central District agreement — UPDATE: ‘Disappointed’

UPDATE 11/19/18 12:30 PM: Despite hopes of an agreement from representatives on both sides Friday, Monday, activists and community groups who have been engaged with New Seasons said they are “disappointed” that officials “gave no indication the company is committed to change.”

“We can’t wait around while New Seasons’ corporate leadership thinks a little more about respecting our community’s values, and we’re not going to stop calling on them to respect workers’ rights,” the group writes in a statement sent by the Good Jobs Coalition.

“We’re not going away,” the group writes, “and we call on other community members to join us…”

The full statement has been added at the end of this post.

The grand opening of New Seasons in Ballard included this group of protesters

Original report: Unlike what happened at its May opening in Ballard, you probably won’t see protesters greet New Seasons when it opens at 23rd and Union in 2019.

A company spokesperson said it plans to meet Friday’s deadline for a response after positive talks with community groups aligned to push back on the Portland-based grocery chain’s labor practices and its ownership’s anti-LGBTQ politics as it readies to open in the Central District.

Friday’s deadline is part of a community coalition’s demands for the chain:

During their meeting, organizers gave New Seasons co-president Kristi McFarland and other local reps a list of demands. If the demands are met, they said, their campaign against the company would stop. Among other things, they asked New Seasons to sign a neutrality agreement to let interested workers unionize, disclose workforce demographics, let low-income customers use Fresh Bucks to buy produce, stock affordable staple foods, and donate some of their local profits to affordable housing projects and community land trusts.

Nicole Keenan, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, an advocacy group dedicated to low-income people, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, has been part of talks with New Seasons and also categorized the negotiations as positive in a conversation with CHS Friday afternoon. Keenan joined reps from groups like the Squire Park Community Council in the discussions with New Seasons.

While we don’t yet know the specifics of the New Seasons response, the community campaign against the store which has included a “newseasonstories.com” website and neighborhood yard signs, appears to be approaching a fruitful conclusion.

UPDATE 3:40 PM: A New Seasons representative sent over the company’s response to the community groups. We’ve added the full letter at the end of this post. A company representative also provided the following statement:

At New Seasons, we are proud of our established track record as an active civic partner that is committed to directly engaging in building community in a way that reflects our shared progressive values. We’ve been working with a Central District Advisory Council made up of business leaders, local nonprofit representatives and neighborhood council members to understand the needs of the neighborhood, but when we were contacted by this group we wanted to hear their perspective as well. At the meeting, we shared our commitment to championing higher wages, comprehensive benefits for all kinds of families, an inclusive culture, as well as using our voice to stand up for affordable housing, hunger relief and other important social justice and workplace issues that affect everyone. We also took away some valuable ideas from our conversation that we will be exploring further.

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First look: Whole Foods Madison Broadway

There is a new, upscale neighborhood, of sorts, at the corner of Broadway and Madison. Your new neighbors will celebrate the grand opening of their neighborhood grocery store Tuesday morning.

Whole Foods is continuing to open new stores in great locations,” Pacific Northwest regional president for the grocery chain Angela Lorenzen told CHS during a pre-opening tour of the store Monday as workers put on the finishing touches and stocked the shelves of the two-level, 40,000-square-foot supermarket.

Whole Foods Madison Broadway — diplomatically labelled so as not to play favorites with the First Hill and Capitol Hill neighborhoods it straddles — is set to open at 9 AM 8 AM Tuesday morning with a day of giveaways, and, of course, a DJ. “There will be a line — and lots of excitement,” Lorenzen said. Continue reading

One bag at a time: ‘Zero waste shopper’ part of cooperative of thousands in 40 years at Central Co-op

Savannah Ledgerwood is a poster shopper, of sorts, for low waste commerce at Central Co-op (Image: Nick Turner for CHS)

Most people bring a reusable tote bag to carry their groceries home. Savannah Ledgerwood, however, takes it a little bit further. She comes prepared with a selection of bags and glass jars of varying sizes. She uses them to buy food, produce, and ingredients—mostly in bulk—and avoid plastic and other single-use packaging materials. Ledgerwood does this to reduce her impact on the environment, and her methods follow the tenets of something called a “zero waste” or “low impact” lifestyle. Though she’s a relatively new customer, Ledgerwood is the kind of shopper Central Co-op was born to serve — 40 years ago this month.

“I try my best to eliminate plastic from my day to day life, especially from my shopping routine, as much as possible,” Ledgerwood said. “It’s just a really small step towards creating a bigger environmental impact.” Continue reading

Broadway Whole Foods sets October 30th grand opening

Plan your monthly grocery budget now. The under-construction Whole Foods at the edge of Capitol Hill and First Hill has announced it will be open by the end of October.

The opening will come four years and a week after CHS broke the news on the project, planned, at the time, to be the company’s ninth store in Seattle. “We have been interested in the Capitol Hill and First Hill communities or a long long time,” a company spokesperson told CHS back in November of 2014. “We couldn’t be more pleased about the location of the new store.” Continue reading

Waiting for its light rail station plaza future, Capitol Hill Farmers Market still thriving on Broadway

Leah Litwak, Capitol Hill’s market manager (Images: CHS)

Someday, Capitol Hill’s farmers market will stretch out inside the plaza in the middle of the under construction development projects around Capitol Hill Station. The expansion will also likely mean added days of market shopping. For now, you can find the market every Sunday along Broadway just north of Pine.

“For 25 years we’ve been running markets with the core of providing a direct, sustainable marketplace for farmers,” said Leah Litwak, Capitol Hill’s market manager for nearly two years following her tenure at the parent organization. Continue reading

CHS Pics | A New Seasons opening in Ballard ripples into the Central District

Here is a preview of 23rd and Union sometime in 2019 when the neighborhood’s newest grocery store, New Seasons, is slated to open in The East Union mixed-use development.

Protesters targeted the grand opening of the Portland-based chain’s new Ballard store Wednesday with a list of anti-labor, union-unfriendly grievances:

Employees say corporate managers retaliated against Portland workers who spoke up about working conditions, even hiring a notorious Trump Hotel union-buster to intimidate and silence them.

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Facing Pioneer Square rent and construction challenges, neighborhood butcher Rain Shadow Meats to focus on Capitol Hill

(Image: Rain Shadow Meats)

Capitol Hill’s neighborhood butcher is now even more focused on its Melrose Market shop. Rain Shadow Meats announced that a big jump in its Pioneer Square rent and sagging business due to construction in that neighborhood has forced the company to pare back:

After five years of operation, Rain Shadow Meats Squared is closing its popular restaurant location in Pioneer Square. The closure is due in part to a significant rent increase, coupled with a recent drop in sales as a result of debilitating construction surrounding the immediate area. Business owner Russell Flint has decided to get back to his original mission statement by focusing solely on his Melrose Market butchery program, while expanding his newly launched Home Delivery Service. The Capitol Hill full- service butcher shop will continue to remain open with regular business hours 10am-7pm every day.

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Asian flavored H Mart in talks to fill key retail space at Capitol Hill Station

With PCC announcing its plans to open a new downtown Seattle store in 2020, another potential player appears to be off the board to fill the key anchor tenant space in the Capitol Hill Station “transit oriented development” project slated to finally break ground this spring after a decade of planning. After a series of names attached to the project have either backed out or moved on, CHS has learned that talks have centered on a new, growing part of the region’s grocery and retail economy.

Capitol Hill Station master developer Gerding Edlen is finalizing talks with Han Ah Reum Mart, Inc. to fill the key retail space in the massively important housing, commercial, and community development set to fill a block of Broadway surrounding the light rail station, a person familiar with negotiations tells CHS.

The company’s H Mart stores are known for their Asian foods and home goods. The U.S.-based chain featuring fresh produce, meats, seafood, snacks and more opened in the University District last summer even as a long anticipated downtown Seattle project has remained on hold. Continue reading

40 years at Central Co-op: People? Yes. Self-checkout? Probably not.

You have plenty of time to select a gift. Capitol Hill’s Central Co-op turns 40 this October — but the party planning is underway. You might want to think about a practical present, something useful on both offense and defense as the cooperative looks to thrive for another four decades against a growing array of competitors.

“We have grown and continued to thrive over the decades thanks to the participation of thousands and thousands of people who have joined in our collective-efforts,” CEO Garland McQueen said in a statement on the anniversary. “They have become owners, running for and serving on our board of trustees, working to keep our shelves stocked, and investing to keep our community effort strong for future generations. We truly are a community-grown grocery store.”

In the process of expanding to Tacoma — a new store for its southern partnership has faced construction delays but is now on track for a late summer opening — and having pulled back from ambitions that would have placed a second store on Broadway, Central Co-op remains a unique and robust force in local groceries with some 14,000 members and around 12,000 shoppers visiting its E Madison store every week. As it faces renewed competition and marks the four decade milestone, Central Co-op is also touting its local economic connections and a study that found 20% of revenue spent at the store went to goods purchased in Washington vs. 4% at grocery chains like QFC, Safeway, and Amazon’s Whole Foods.

It will have to do more to mark another 40 years. “Unfortunately we’ve become victims of what we do,” McQueen tells CHS about the high bar Central Co-op has set and mimicry from the big chains. “We’re going to have to be better.” Continue reading