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Doubling down in the Central District, developer plans another apartment project at 23rd and Union

In 2010, things seemed bleak at 23rd and Union as even the gas station temporarily shuttered (Image: CHS)

In 2010, things seemed bleak at 23rd and Union as even the gas station temporarily shuttered (Image: CHS)

The new project on the northwest corner will join this Lake Union Partners apartment project on the southwest corner of 23rd and Union

The new project on the northwest corner will join this Lake Union Partners apartment project on the southwest corner of 23rd and Union

Last spring, change dug in at 23rd and Union as work finally began on a long-planned, six-story apartment and retail project on the intersection’s southwest corner. Now, change at the corner is rising higher. A developer already busy in the Central District is doubling down on redeveloping the blocks around the intersection with a $4.1 million-plus purchase of land currently home to a gas station and Cappy’s Gym.

Permits detail Lake Union Partners plans to build a 160,000 square-foot,146-unit apartment building with underground parking for 120 vehicles on the site.

“There’s an artistic feeling in the neighborhood,” Lake Union principal Patrick Foley told the Puget Sound Business Journal about the deal. “This feels a lot like what Capitol Hill did 25 years ago. It has been a tough neighborhood and we are excited to be part of the change.” Foley told the PSBJ the developers plan to apply for a rezone to build to 65 feet above where the gas station and gym stand today. He also said some nice things about the community of E Union businesses that have grown around longtimers like CHS advertiser Central Cinema.

Of course, the PSBJ also called 23rd and Union “cursed.” Once part of a notorious criminal drug market, more recent incidents like the 2013 arson fire that destroyed and ended Med Mix’s run in the neighborhood have been often painful reminders of inequity — “Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle now has the ninth lowest income for black households,” the Seattle Times dutifully reports — and bursts along a relentless, sometimes meandering, march of change — “Many of the people who used to live in the Central District have moved to the south towns or the edge of the city where they can get more house more affordably. It’s simple economics,” former Mount Zion Pastor Leslie Braxton tells the Times.

In the near future, you will be less likely to be looking back at the corner and more likely to be looking up. The planned extra height of the latest project will probably fit right in. At the intersection’s southeast corner, CHS has reported on longtime landowner Tom Bangasser’s hopes to rezone and redevelop the block currently home to his Midtown Center and a collection of businesses including the liquor store, a future smaller post office and a newly opened sandwich shop.

Across the street, real estate investor and business owner Ian Eisenberg has created a mini-marijuana retail campus though has his work is cut out in a legal fight with the church that neighbors his pot shop on one side of 23rd and, on the other side of 23rd, will eventually find its teen center existing adjacent to the newly planned 65-foot building replacing the Union 76 gas station. Lake Union Partners is also developing the four-story Stencil apartment project at 24th and Union while Capitol Hill Housing will build affordable apartments above where the old Liberty Bank building — believed to be the region’s first Black-owned bank — now stands.

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46 thoughts on “Doubling down in the Central District, developer plans another apartment project at 23rd and Union

  1. I hope that through all the changes, a couple of gas stations can remain in the neighborhood. Won’t be long until you have to make sure you’ve got a half full tank before returning to your home in D/T Seattle.

      • But while there are still gas cars here — and we can have very low car use per capita and still have a lot of cars — one or two gas stations are needed to prevent useless just-for-the-gas driving, as CD_Dave points out.

      • Yeah but those of us who live in those houses around here want to gas our cars to drive to those stores. Personally, I’ve found this one at 23rd and Union to be less sketchy than the one at 23rd and Cherry, although you can find yourself in the sketch zone anywhere around here, anytime. We can’t get rid of all the gas stations. Our American lifestyles require them.

      • If we get rid of all the gas stations, how will we power all those Cars-2-go and Ubermobiles? They won’t run on hipster coolness alone.

    • Geez no one is getting rid of all gas stations so chill. There’s a concept called “planning ahead”, use it. And there are 2 gas stations on Madison, 1 on cherry, 15th, 12th, broadway….. It’s not like we’re forced to drive to Renton to gas up. I’m just glad that intersection is cleaning up it was ghetto for too long.

    • Hi Jeremy,
      Yes, eventually our community run farm at 22nd + Union will cede way to the development. Our other farms in the neighborhood – at MLK + Cherry and on Beacon Hill – face similar situations as those lands also get sold.

      Lake Union Partners has been very proactive in working with us. They are helping us look at creative ways of addressing BOTH sides of the development paradox – instead of the either/or solutions that usually result. Projects that are more economically viable AND that preserve open community space.

      In the meantime, they are being very gracious in letting us continue farming that space until the last responsible moment. We’ll be sure to have a big community party when it’s finally time to part ways with the land. Feel free to come by and enjoy the space. It’s completely public and we encourage people to harvest what they want/need. I manage that farm and we have weekly work parties on Weds from 4ish – 7ish. Come by if you’re ever around!

      In the spring, we’ll be having a free community farm and flower stand at the corner along the planting strip.

      • Instead of wringing your hands, why not approach City Light about having gardens in the lawn of their substation? They let people do that in their south Seattle transmission corridor. They’re probably happy to have less land to mow.

      • We are in talks with City Light, Seattle Parks, other landowners and neighbors about the possibility of making more productive use of open land… including planting strips (Alley Kittens?!).

        Our model has never been about longterm preservation of the land, so there’s little hand wringing or anxiety about ‘losing’ the space. The farms were all meant to be impermanent.

      • Uhhhh, in an acronym. PCB.

        PCB was common in transforms for year and years and years. And some will have, undoubtably been spilled on the site. But, hey. Enjoy the cancer.

  2. “There’s an artistic feeling in the neighborhood”….which projects like this squash into the ground to be replaced by shiny amenities and the very upwardly mobile.

    I’ll miss Cappy’s and the p-patch.

  3. Wow. This Patrick Foley guy wins honky gentrifying idiot of the month award in Seattle: “There’s an artistic feeling in the neighborhood,” Lake Union principal Patrick Foley told the Puget Sound Business Journal about the deal. “This feels a lot like what Capitol Hill did 25 years ago. It has been a tough neighborhood and we are excited to be part of the change.”
    Capitol Hill is a nightmare of bros, yuppies, frat boys, sorority girls, weekend warriors, tech morons, Californicators, phony “progressive” nightlife entrepreneurs, crap box condos and ugly apartments these days. Completely ruined. Seattle is dead/soon to be dead for the working and artistic classes. Long live ScAmazon, Starfucks, Macrosoft, antitrust, inequlaity, greedy developers and neo-colonialism neo-imperialism!

    • I agree. Seattle is done; fallen to machine culture. And those other two commenters are among the list of types you call out in your comment; they are the predominant readership of this blog.

    • You paint a pretty ugly picture of Capitol Hill. It’s a neighborhood which might have its problems, but it’s getting better year by year. Only far-left socialist types would agree with your description. The rest of us are grateful to be living in a vibrant urban neighborhood where the quality of life is generally excellent.

      • Sure, if by “excellent” you mean hate-crimes, robberies, car prowls, muggings, fights, rampant misogyny, and roaming hoards of drunken, vomit-spewing 20-somethings from the suburbs descending like Biblical plagues of locusts on Pike/Pine three nights a week.

      • Most of the behaviors you mention are confined to Pike-Pine, which is just a small part of Capitol Hill, and can be avoided if one chooses.

    • geez. calm down. yes Seattle is expensive. and yes this guy is an idiot. Central isn’t artistic, it’s just close to downtown. If you want something to mourn, mourn Fremont. No one gives to halves of a fuck about the CD. That’s just the way it is. It’s not right. But that’s how it is.

  4. The statement, “There’s an artistic feeling in the neighborhood” is really dorky. It is silly that everything has to be a “brand.” This is the way that all of the new developments and apartment buildings are marketed.

    • All the cool places are already expensive.(Ballard/Fremont/Uptown/Belltown/ID/CapHill/Eastlake/Udist/etc. So expect this branding push for the central district as the developers try to over come the regional stereotypes about the place AND the basic google results.

    • Hi City Cat, I agree that statement is dorky. For what it’s worth, I told the journalist that I have learned many artists have moved from Capitol Hill to the CD over the past decade. I told him I thought that was good for the neighborhood. Not sure where the “Artistic Feeling in the neighborhood” came from. Anyway, we are only interested in doing a good job with a new building that is well designed, and provides some housing with good retail services for the neighborhood.

    • I’m sure we will. I can’t wait to read how this gas station is the hub of all economic and cultural life in the Central District and that allowing such a “gentrifying, imposing” structure will destroy the very foundation of what makes the CD a home. Possibly with a bit of racial undertones and disdain for such crass concepts as property ownership and new construction thrown in to the mix.

    • All things being equal. Apartments+Restaurants+Shops are better than gas stations. But sure, go ahead. Tell us all how the rezone will ruin the vibrant community around filling cars and shooting at fellow citizens???

      • Andrew, CDreader was being sarcastic. Although I like that gas station much better than the 23rd & Cherry one, which I refuse to use.

  5. Like it or not, change has come to roost her in the C/D. I know of ( 6 ) such residential/retail combo projects that will dramatically change the current look and feel of the C/D as it is right now. All centralized between: 20th Ave and MLK & E. Union. Hundreds of new renters of all types will flock to these mid-city apts, with all it’s potential to become a neo-bohemian, marijuana-indulging, nice little slice of upper crust living with the many conveniences that the ‘new’ C/D has to offer. Surely to become the hottest place to live and socialize in Seattle in the next 10 years, if that long. Home prices will soar, rents will be steep, and those who can not afford to continue to live here will start a slow exodus. I can see it now…

    • Wait till wholefoods opens. Then it won’t just be Seattle people priced out of the North-of-the-Cut Ballard-to-UW zone invading. Once you can google a future apartment and a wholefoods within walking/uber distance. Well, prepare for the new residents too.

      • @ Andrew…

        I took a look at the land owner of the Midtown/Post Office mini-store strip there on the SE corners’ plan design. Somewhere it was mentioned that a grocer like ‘Metropolitan Market’ may suffice as part of that whole blocks’ planned development. Who knows what actually may end up going in there. At any rate, to be sure, the C/D is fast approaching an ‘identity’ change, look and ambiance. MCCC thought that (Uncle Ike’s) was their problem…wait til THEY become ‘un-welcomed’ as everything around them flips and they then find themselves, isolated, overran and relegated to just the stop they precariously currently hold….for now. Ironically, you don’t hear a peep out of the other Churches in this very vicinity. Hunh??

  6. You know the area has been gentrified when people are debating whether we need a gas station or whether Capitol Hill is good or bad.

  7. While I can’t say I’m shocked at the mostly ridiculous comments on this post; I can say I’m most disappointed. Anyone who has been paying attention must’ve known that the change that is starting is completely inevitable. Your beloved Chuck would not have opened a second shop in the CD if 23rd and Union was going to remain a virtual desert of inactivity. If any of you are friends with a commercial real estate broker, buy them a drink and ask about the hot up and coming neighborhoods and then move to the places they don’t mention.

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