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

The *other* lawsuit at 23rd and Union: Activist sues property owners, City Hall for ‘strong racial hostility’

The battle to sell off the Midtown Center property at 23rd and Union is keeping the courts busy. CHS broke the news this week on the family legal fight holding up a $23.5 million deal to sell the property to a California-based apartment developer.

Now we have learned of another legal fight stemming from the issues at Midtown that might have more immediate ramifications for the block while setting up a last stand of sorts for a long time part of the activist community around Africatown.

Omari Tahir-Garrett is suing everyone from the family partnership behind Midtown Center to Kshama Sawant and Seattle City Light in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought after utilities were cut off the property where his UMOJA P.E.A.C.E Center is located at 24th and E Spring.

In his suit, Tahir-Garrett alleges that the long list of defendants acted on “strong racial hostility” and violated his first amendment rights because of “Black community activism” — Continue reading