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.

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

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

No injuries reported as van, cars burn in 24/Spring fire

Thanks to a reader for this picture from the scene

Thanks to a reader for this picture from the scene

Three vehicles engulfed in flame in front of a residence at 24th and Spring drew a large Seattle Fire response Monday just after noon.

Seattle Fire was called to the area just before 12:30 PM to a report of vehicles on fire. Arriving units battled the blaze which burned hot enough to crack windows on the home but did not spread to the structure.

It took crews around 20 minutes to snuff the flames. No injuries were reported and searches of the vehicles including a van that neighbors said was being used to camp in fortunately turned up no victims.

The property where the fire occurred has been part of a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by longtime neighborhood activist Omari Tahir-Garrett against a large roster including the the family partnership behind the Midtown Center propertyKshama Sawant, and Seattle City Light after utilities were cut off. The property is home to his UMOJA P.E.A.C.E Center.

Sunday night, CHS reported on a community meeting this week to discuss plans for a seven-story development to fill the Midtown block including the 24th and Spring property. In September, CHS found campers from 24th and Spring lined up to sign agreements to move off the land and never return. Some of the homeless residents told CHS they had been paid $400 to leave the camp and sign the agreement.

Seattle Fire did not immediately dispatch the Seattle Fire Marshal to investigate Monday’s blaze. A Seattle City Light crew was called to the scene to secure the site following the fire. Red Cross was called to help provide assistance for an adult male victim of the fire.

UPDATE: A Seattle Fire spokesperson reports the cause is believed to have been “misuse of electrical equipment (hotplate) inside of a car.”

As plan for seven-story development takes shape, community looks to future of 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center

Decades of change at 23rd and Union is about to accelerate. The first week of 2017 will bring a much anticipated first public review of the development plans for the Midtown Center, a flashpoint block in the wave of new investments reshaping the Central District and a corner with a deep history of pride and tragedy.

Just four days into the new year, developer Lennar and the architects at Encore are scheduled to present what have so far been closely guarded plans for the project after months of work banging out a plan for the 2.4 acres of shopping center land. What you see above aren’t design renderings — those aren’t available yet — but community design concepts for the block created by UW architecture students in 2015.

The Central Area Land Use Review Committee community group is preparing for the crucial review with a meeting for neighbors and those interested in the project Wednesday night. “The project will transform one of the most significant sites in the Central Area,” organizers write.

Central Area Land Use Review Committee: Community Meeting with the design team for the re-development of MidTown Center

The California-based developer Lennar’s framework includes a rezoning of the block that would allow 85-foot heights and construction of seven-story mixed-use apartment buildings on the land pitched as “one of the last remaining large developable sites” in the city as the real estate market around it heated into overdrive this summer. To achieve the rezone, the project will need community buy-in — and approval from the Seattle City Council.

It may have a partner in that pursuit. Continue reading

Agreements clear Central District homeless encampment

In a city twisted with conflicts about how to best deal with homeless encampments, a Central District camp on land part of a $20 million-plus development deal was cleared with pen and paper Monday afternoon.

Members of the Bangasser family and a uniformed SPD officer were inside an empty storefront in 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center to process the paperwork as a line of people who had been camping on the backside of the block-long property filed in to sign agreements, one by one, and pledge never to return to 24th and Spring.

Margaret Delaney, a member of the Bangasser family that has owned the Midtown land for 75 years, confirmed the nature of the agreements but declined to comment further. “It’s been a long day,” she said. Continue reading