Midtown design looks too much like SoLU, not enough like the CD — Can new Central Area Design Review Board help?

Public comment and the East Design Review Board aligned Wednesday night in agreement that the latest designs for the proposed redevelopment of the Central District’s Midtown Center did not meet expectations for recognizing the history and the culture of African Americans and Black Seattle at 23rd and Union.

The “portals” that open to the street from Midtown: Public Plaza are still not open enough to foster a strong connection to the surrounding neighborhood and to support the hoped-for Black-owned businesses inside — the building needs to do more than utilize masonry to recognize African American-style architecture from the neighborhood — the design needs more “Afro-centric” colors and patterns and, as currently designed, looks too “South Lake Union” — features like the open plazas and a proposed video screen installation to showcase local arts and history need to have more fleshed out programming plans — a proposal to keep costs down on the three building development with connecting skywalks and fewer elevators and stairs needs more thought — and more.

They also agreed on something else.

The review board covering neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Montlake, and First Hill wasn’t necessarily the best body to make the decision.

“How is the Central Area design team not looking at this?,” one speaker asked during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s night’s review, the final stage for the project in the city’s public design process. She also stated the obvious — each member of the design board Wednesday night was white. Continue reading

At least one person shot as gunfire rattles Central District’s Midtown Center

(Image: @sdottraffic)

At least one person was shot in the leg and bullet casings were found spread across the intersection after a volley of gunfire from a vehicle that quickly sped away from 23rd and Spring Tuesday night.

Police and Seattle Fire rushed to the area just before 6:40 PM after multiple reports of shots fired on a night when most of the booms reported to 911 are fireworks. Continue reading

Community meeting will give early look at final designs for Midtown Center redevelopment

Don’t worry — this is only the massing concept for the four-piece apartment building being shaped for the Midtown block

In July, the long awaited redevelopment of the Central District’s Midtown Center will finally take its last step in the design review process. But first, Wednesday night, neighbors will get a preview of the final plans as the Central Area Land Use Review Committee community group hosts representatives from developer Lake Union Partners and architect Weinstein A+U for an open meeting to discuss the latest designs:

Midtown Center Design Community Meeting

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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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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