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Future of a 6-story, mixed-use development at 23rd/Union rests in City Council decision

Architect Brian Runberg's speculative  layout plan for a new development at MidTown Center (Photo: CHS)

For the sake of community discussion, architect Brian Runberg speculated how a new development at MidTown Center might look. (Photo: CHS)

With one major development underway and signs that Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop is here to stay, the area around 23rd Ave and E Union is poised for big changes in 2015. But the future of the intersection’s largest property remains somewhat uncertain.

Since the 1940s, Tom Bangasser’s family has owned the sprawling MidTown Center property, which includes a downsized Post Office and a handful of small businesses at 23rd and Union. In order to get the most out of selling the massive 106,000 square-foot property, Bangasser asked the City Council in 2013 to allow a future developer to build up to six stories on the site. The property is currently zoned for four stories.

On Tuesday the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee will discuss Bangasser’s proposal to up-zone his MidTown property. The committee is not expected to vote on the issue Tuesday. The current deadline for a vote is in January.

Council member Mike O’Brien has allowed Bangasser to push back the meeting for months to “allow a reasonable period of additional time to engage in continued dialogue regarding the MidTown property.”

A group of Central District residents, which had opposed the up-zone, is asking the council to tie a set of community priorities to the site not unlike the agreement forged by the Capitol Hill Champion for the the Capitol Hill light rail station site.

If the council grants the up-zone in January, the Central Area Land Use Review Committee (LURC) is asking the council also insert what’s known as a Property Use Development Agreement. PUDA’s can include a broad range of requirements for a future developer, including community aspirations for the site, according to LURC.

The city has also received dozens of letters from Central District residents who support the up-zone.Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.37.01 PM

During a LURC meeting in May, Bangasser said he opposed efforts to attach stipulations on the property before it’s sold.

“If you put enough restrictions on the property, nobody is going to buy it,” he said.

LURC members have said they want to ensure a new development would include things like affordable housing, courtyards, small retail spaces, adequate parking, and preserving the history and culture of the surrounding neighborhood.

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26 thoughts on “Future of a 6-story, mixed-use development at 23rd/Union rests in City Council decision

  1. SMALL RETAIL SPACES ARE SOOOOO IMPORTANT! Please excuse my all-caps moment but they are so important! Small retail business cannot take off when they can’t rent these huge spaces that are popping up all over capitol hill! Some of the best entrepreneurship in the city has been in buildings like the Pine View or the Chester where small (like 600 square foot small) retail shops can open up.

  2. Try having an idea of what to do with the property before asking for a special exception. There are many buildings that have done well with 40′ such as 19th & Mercer. The Bangassers are just trying to get more money without doing anything. The gas station across the street sold recently with 40′ zoning. This rezone wants something for free from the city but doesn’t want any special restrictions to come with it. The neighborhood will likely approve a height extension when a project is proposed, but we shouldn’t just give it away until there is a project.

    • Agree. I look forward to a new development there, but would much rather see upzone negotiated & approved based on the actual developers plan (like with the SW corner of the same intersection). Likewise, that’s much preferred to placing general stipulations on the site in a vacuum before there’s a plan – which might unnecessarily hamstring the ultimate developer while not utilizing the city’s/community’s leverage most effectively. In the meantime, I’m sure the sale can include some kind of contingency whereby the buyer pays more if/when the upzone is granted based on their actual plan

  3. Owner wants added height “In order to get the most out of selling” – why should the City add value to the property without offsetting benefits to the community (e.g., open space, community space, bulk mitigation, advanced sustainability, etc)?. 40′ zoned land still has value. “because we need more height to make it pencil” is an old developer misdirection. Value of the property is in its present development potential, the price should adjust to meet it. BTW, the site plan sketch shows townhouses on 24th where the owner is asking for 65′.

    • That sketch doesn’t seem to be in any way binding… “For the sake of community discussion, architect Brian Runberg speculated how a new development at MidTown Center might look.”

      • Exactly. That sketch was done by someone who has no involvement or ownership in the land whatsoever. It’s a neighbor’s imagining, nothing more.

      • Actually the drawing was done at the behest of the property owner to help sell the idea of the rezone, a sort of “see it could be like this, isn’t it pretty?”. I think it was a bait and switch ploy, as in subsequent community meetings they claimed it wasn’t for public consumption.

  4. Seriously curious if the drug dealers will find a nook or cranny to still hang out once the deveopment is complete. Nothing personal, just bad for business in general. Feel sorry for the sandwich man next to the dollar store. His shop is just surrounded by dudes hanging out, smoking weed, dealing drugs and playing craps. Not the most inviting atmosphere for customers. Excellent food by the way.

  5. The “community benefit” is more businesses and more residential units. With upwards of 50,000 people moving to this city every 3 years (based on Cencus estimates) we need as much new housing as possible. The more restrictions you add to the development of housing the more it will cost. So gripe all you want about new buildings, but the more you oppose and add costs to them the less affordable they will become. Just ask San Francisco. Great city, but who can afford it?

      • Hey did you know that there’s this crazy new invention called “The Google” that allows you to ask your computer all sorts of questions? The Google told me that there’s something called the US Census that actually counts the populations in certain areas (who knew??!!) According to the US Census, the population in Seattle grew by 44k people between 2010 and 2013. It only took me about 15 seconds to find out this information.

        Maybe you should check out The Google in the future so that your comments don’t immediately identify you as a dipsh!t.

      • I don’t think we can assume that the growth that occurred from 2010-2013 will continue at that same level. It could be less….or more. I wouldn’t think there is any valid way to predict the future.

    • I like free street parking as much as the next guy, but it shouldn’t be the basis by which we make development decisions on the intersection of two major arterials in the geographical center of the city.

      I support the community’s efforts to ensure that the benefits of any upzone are shared by the community as a whole (through affordable housing, public gathering spaces, transit, parks, etc.) and not just the developer, but 23rd and Union is one of the most logical places to increase density in a city that is in desperate need of more density.

  6. I’m really tired of Bangasser holding our neighborhood hostage. Did you know he won’t turn on the lot lights at night anymore, and won’t let cops issue trespass for the nightly parking lot parties? He’s intentionally encouraging crime and disruption to try to get the neighborhood to pressure the city into giving him what he wants. It’s greedy and disgusting.

  7. I wish we could worry less about 4 vs 6 stories and more about how any development might impact its neighbors. For example, respecting/improving the residential streets of Spring St and 24th Ave would help to alleviate concerns related to how this development might impact parking, traffic, light, etc.. Both 23rd and Union are already commercial corners. More height there might not be such a bad thing. Again, it’s not just about how big the development is, it’s equally about how well the it utilizes the overall space. I’d like to see what the architects have in mind, then judge.

    • P-Patch, your concerns are EXACTLY why a blanket rezone for an unspecified project should not be granted. All sorts of design and land-use considerations can be discussed and “traded” for additional height. Things like the number of parking spots per unit, where the commercial loading and residential parking entrances are, transitions in height along the 2 residential streets (24th and Spring), wider sidewalks, open space that could be incorporated into a mews that break up the block, and I’m just getting started. Basically a rezone w/o this serves a single purpose, it allows owners of the nasty blighted piece of land a few million more $ for allowing criminals to openly sell drugs and stolen goods on their property, while crying to the city council that crime is going up and that’s why they must rezone. What a crock.

      • Yup, what OliveOyl said. Bangasser even tried to appeal the Hearing Examiner decision that blocked his rezone request, arguing that there was ‘new crime data’ that showed how the lack of upzone was creating crime…or something. No, you greedy schmuck, it’s your own inability to take care of your own property (and intentionally allowing it to become a mess, not allowing trespass, etc.) that’s causing the problems. I sincerely hope Council does not do a single action here, but instead waits for DPD’s neighborhood effort.

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