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Central Co-op drops Capitol Hill Station bid over cost concerns

When the development opens in 2019, Central Co-op won’t be the retail anchor at the middle of thousands of square feet of new restaurants, shops, services and community space surrounding Capitol Hill Station. Interim CEO Garland McQueen announced the decision to drop its bid for the project Sunday night at the co-op’s annual owner meeting.

In a statement sent to CHS, McQueen said cost was the big factor:

Over the past year there have been many changes as the developer’s plans took shape, with the most recent Request for Proposals outlining a cost-per-square-foot that was much higher than anticipated. After hard consideration, we have come to the decision that we cannot pursue this opportunity further as long as the rates that they are asking remain so high. It was a very difficult decision as we know that we could bring Capitol Hill character to that spot better than any other grocer, but we must also be responsible stewards of the resources that our members have built up over the years.

Last April, the Capitol Hill-born co-op stood toe to toe with Portland-based grocer New Seasons, vying to be the retail tenant anchor in the project slated to begin construction next year surrounding the light rail station on Broadway between John and Denny. But a troubled takeover in Tacoma and the resignation of CEO Dan Arnett have left the more than 40-year-old co-op focused on shoring itself up and finding other opportunities for growth. In his statement, McQueen said Central Co-op “remains committed to growing in our region.”

“We continue our laser-sharp focus on reopening a location to serve our Tacoma members, and when that is underway we will be refreshing our store on Madison with some long-needed updates,” he said.

CHS reported earlier this month on the planned facelift for Central’s E Madison store.

In spring 2018, developer Gerding Edlen is expected to break ground on its Capitol Hill Station commercial, housing, and community space project including 400 affordable and market-rate apartment units and 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space.  Gerding Edlen signed a $17 million+ land lease with Sound Transit for the property last year.

A representative for the developer declined to comment on the status of nailing down a potential grocery tenant for the station development in a conversation with CHS prior to the Central Co-op announcement. While the community guidelines shaping Gerding Edlen’s project don’t specify that a grocery store must be part of the mix, a new market is the kind of street facing retail the framework describes. Gerding Edlen has also been working with a large daycare provider to be part of the project.

New Season has also reportedly considering a new store at 23rd and Union.

Meanwhile, CHS reported that the grocery business around Capitol Hill is still ready for a new injection of corporate power as Whole Foods said its Broadway/Madison store is still on track for a 2018 opening despite rocky economic times for the nationwide chain.

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6 thoughts on “Central Co-op drops Capitol Hill Station bid over cost concerns

  1. jseattle – you don’t seem to be taking a proper sabbatical. Thank goodness, though, we really miss having this source of news!!!

  2. I wonder if the developer is trying to compensate for the affordable housing by jacking the commercial rates on the ground-floor retail?

  3. I hope this will pave the way for New Seasons becoming the tenant…..they would be a great alternative for the mediocre QFC.

    • If you’ve been to a New Seasons down in Portland, it’s not that great of a store. They’re trying hard to be a Whole Foods, but fall quite short and end up being an overpriced generic grocery store.

      That coupled with their anti-union ideals and controversies of bad employment practices, ever since being sold to a private equity firm in 2009, makes them not a company I would want to support. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the City responds to this tainted newcomer.

      I’d much rather see a new Town and Country move in (Ballard Market, Bainbridge Market and the old Greenwood Market, plus the three Central Markets). They have great selection, good prices and treat their employees very well. Plus, they are locally owned and operated and actually gives back to the communities they serve.

  4. Town and Country would be a great choice! I would love to have an alternative to QFC and Whole Foods for this part of the Capitol Hill and First Hill.

    Also, jseattle — Thanks for breaking your sabbatical now and again. CHS is a great source of local news and we appreciate your efforts