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Midtown design looks too much like SoLU, not enough like the CD — Can new Central Area Design Review Board help?

Public comment and the East Design Review Board aligned Wednesday night in agreement that the latest designs for the proposed redevelopment of the Central District’s Midtown Center did not meet expectations for recognizing the history and the culture of African Americans and Black Seattle at 23rd and Union.

The “portals” that open to the street from Midtown: Public Plaza are still not open enough to foster a strong connection to the surrounding neighborhood and to support the hoped-for Black-owned businesses inside — the building needs to do more than utilize masonry to recognize African American-style architecture from the neighborhood — the design needs more “Afro-centric” colors and patterns and, as currently designed, looks too “South Lake Union” — features like the open plazas and a proposed video screen installation to showcase local arts and history need to have more fleshed out programming plans — a proposal to keep costs down on the three building development with connecting skywalks and fewer elevators and stairs needs more thought — and more.

They also agreed on something else.

The review board covering neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Montlake, and First Hill wasn’t necessarily the best body to make the decision.

“How is the Central Area design team not looking at this?,” one speaker asked during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s night’s review, the final stage for the project in the city’s public design process. She also stated the obvious — each member of the design board Wednesday night was white.

“What you are hearing today is just a summary of what we’ve been experiencing through this whole process,” another speaker said.

An answer to why the new Central District board is not looking at the project seen as the most significant development in the modern history of the neighborhood?

They are — some members of the newly convened Central Area Design Review Board were in attendance at Wednesday’s review.

And they will be.

Included in their roster of feedback to developer Lake Union Partners and the architects at Weinstein A+U along with suggestions to do more to incorporate feedback from Central District community meetings and “design ciphers” held in conjunction with the Africatown community group was an acknowledgement by the East Design Review Board that the newly formed Central Area group should join the process.

Wednesday night, the East Design Review Board sent the Midtown redevelopment project back for a second review in this final phase of the process. Going forward, we’re likely to see the new Central Area Design Review Board at the fore.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on the creation of the new review board, splitting off the Central District neighborhoods from the East region in an effort to preserve and grow the historically Black culture of the Central District. Timing of the permit process for the redevelopment of the Midtown Center left the project many see as a catalyst for efforts around inclusive development on its original track with the East board.

That may have changed Wednesday night. East Review Board members said at the conclusion of the meeting they were interested in either incorporating the new Central Area members — or handing over the project in its entirety. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will now have to sort out what that will mean.

The new board is ready. Wednesday, just hours before the Midtown design session, a Seattle City Council committee approved the new board’s members: Sharon Khosla, an architect and Central Area resident, Aaron Argyle of LMN Architects, Dennis Comer, a small business owner and member of the Central Area Land Use Committee, Kenny Pleasant, owner of a real estate investment business and resident of Madrona, Jeffrey Floor, an architect and Leschi resident, and Azzura Cox, a landscape architect who has helped run the recent Africatown ciphers.

The proposed development would create a three-piece, seven-story apartment building with 429 apartment units and underground parking for 258 vehicles. Local pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs is in talks to occupy a large retail space on the corner of 23rd and Union. The development will include around 125 affordable housing units allocated for households earning between $40,000 and $65,000 per year or 60% to 85% of area-median income (AMI) built as part of both the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption Program (MFTE).

The Lake Union Partners project will take place on 80% of the Midtown block, while the other 20% of the property was sold by Lake Union Partners to Africatown Community Land Trust and Capitol Hill Housing. The two projects, which have separate design review processes, will share a familial plaza that will be gated from the public.

Once complete, the Midtown developments will create about 250 affordable housing apartments and 280 market rate units. The project will also include 25,000 square feet of retail, “10,000 of which is planned for small scale, locally owned businesses,” the developers say.

Lake Union is already the developer on three buildings around the intersection with a combined 275 apartment units and some 25,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space. Included in that is the 18,000-square-foot New Seasons grocery store planned to anchor the under-construction East Union building on the intersection’s northwest corner.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank building is under construction at 24th and Union. There, Africatown joined The Black Community Impact Alliance, and Centerstone in a memorandum of understanding with the nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing. The Liberty partnership has been held up as a template for inclusive development in Seattle with a respect for history and the empowerment of the African American community. The group worked to incorporate the site’s historical significance and create housing that is home to black residents and commercial space with black businesses. The agreement also includes a path to black ownership of the development. The affordable housing project with plans for 115 studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom apartments and four commercial spaces passed through its first design review in late November 2016 and is currently under construction.

The design of Lake Union Partners’ Midtown project, despite the many areas of negative feedback on the night, also isn’t that far from something worthy of approval. Many agreed Wednesday the plan had come a long way and was “light years” ahead of a previous proposal for the site. Community groups including the Central Area Land Use Committee have said they support the design.

Some issues can’t be solved by design review. Some community members who spoke Wednesday night said they were upset the Africatown portion of the redevelopment of the block wasn’t being built first and that the post office which will be displaced by construction should make its home in that new development. Others repeated the criticism that the developer and the architect on the project have no black employees. But the biggest decision by the review board Wednesday night to invite help from a new board made up of experts with connections to the 23rd and Union community will go a long way toward solving the rest and toward getting the long-awaited project off the drawing board and under construction.

“Most of the input from the community was based on the massing — creating the street corners and making sure the businesses on the inside have enough access to the street so that people can go in and they can actually survive,” Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett said Wednesday night. “But there hasn’t been a real opportunity to respond to the architecture and the facade because those designs were just presented not too long ago.”

“You need to have a little more time to get that community input and then it will be more authentic.”

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96 thoughts on “Midtown design looks too much like SoLU, not enough like the CD — Can new Central Area Design Review Board help?

  1. Honest question, what is “African American-style architecture” as referenced in the article. I have never heard of it. When I googled it I got architecture designed by African American architects, but I’m not sure there’s a specific style.

    • Good question! Likely the person making this statement has no idea of what they’re speaking about because there is no “African American” style of architecture.

  2. How much time and money do these design reviews add to this process?
    We are in the middle of a housing crisis, why is incorporating brickwork and gaining comments about that worth not having this building completed sooner and actually housing people?

    Why is making the process of building a building more time consuming and costly when we are in the midst of a housing shortage helping POC? Shouldn’t making housing available be more important than maintaining some kind of “character”? These design review processes if anything come off as classist.

      • Timmy- the problem isn’t the board. It’s the city pandering to fanatics and extortionists that is the problem. This is predictable. I can guarantee you that this won’t end well. Even if it gets built to their whims they will complain about the city not investing enough money in it, not doing this, or that. When is it ever otherwise?

  3. How about they bulldoze/fence off the site while they’re still planning the design.

    That way the constant shootings won’t be such an authentic part of community input.

    • The East Precinct reports that shots fired have trended down in the last 5 years and are at an all-time low.

      • You obviously aren’t familiar with the scene at 23rd and Union.

        There are shootings and drive-bys and assaults in that specific area all the time.

        True, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still terrible.

    • I live 3 blocks away; I’m familiar. I also attend 3 community meetings a month and check the actual stats not just anecdotal evidence since that can color our experiences.

      Otherwise, I’d just complain about how everyone cuts down Pike and the numbered streets in an effort to avoid 23rd, Union, and MLK every day.

      • “anecdotal evidence”

        Nah, if you live three blocks away then you are aware of SPD Swat sweeping through the neighborhood with auto weapons a few weeks ago in response to…you guessed it…shots fired at 23rd an Union.

        To be fair, you might have missed it while you were at work, since this was frickin 3:30 on a weekday. You know, the time when kids are going home.

        How many weekly gunshot incidents are acceptable to you, Jen?

      • Oh gosh, I’m so sorry that I had to go to a job…please don’t make fun of those of us who have to work for a living. It doesn’t make you actually look better. And it’s summer, so the kids are out all times of the days right now.

        There of course is no acceptable number but acting like the number is some HUGE amount like it was say, 15 years ago, is annoying at best. And since we have new folx living here, it scares them. Our city is a whole lot safer than most and the CD is safer than a lot of other neighborhoods in Seattle. I’m sorry that this incident was scary – most of the ones with guns are.

        I’ve lived in places (like a mile from Disneyland) where we used to play “count the gunshots” every night. Because there were rounds of shots every single night. And carjackings. And car strippings.

        I’m not saying it’s acceptable. I’m saying let’s be factual instead of exaggerating.

      • Ok Jen, I work too, just not that afternoon.

        I never said 23rd and Union is as bad as it was, but it still sucks.

        All I’d like is for them to bulldoze the impending construction site to get rid of the drug dealers who hang out there every single day and night.


      • Sorry for overreacting about working! :) Are you talking about the drug dealers hanging out in front of the barbershop? Or somewhere else? The East precinct meeting is this Thursday and I’d be happy to bring it up to Brian again. They had increased patrols around there but it sounds like it needs to happen again.

        I hate the idea of razing all those businesses without a plan in place. A lot of us still use the post office and the liquor store and the beauty supply and the dollar store, etc. I realize that it can become an attractive nuisance which is why I’d like to know where they’re hanging out so we can point the cops in the right direction. Thanks.

      • I mean, if I had a bunch of guilt around my privilege that I didn’t want to confront I’d definitely want to remove anything that would remind me of that and possibly force me with it and grow as a human being.

        Sounds like you might be happier in Redmond bro.

    • Compared to 20 yrs ago even 10 yrs 23rd and Union is now much safer. Gentrification and the drop in crimes like shootings seem to corolate, am I wrong?

  4. Who pays the salary of Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett? What was his previous occupation? He seems to have a lot of clout for someone who seems to have done nothing in his life but be the son of violent racist Omari Garrett. His response to the anti-Semitic incidents involving his project were insufficient, to put it mildly. They were offensive and the city needs to stop partnering with individuals and organizations who are not showing the same sensitivity and inclusion they demand of others.

    • Agreed. I’m all for involving the historically-resident community into the design process BUT if I recall correctly this Africatown nonprofit was shown to be, essentially, a big scam in which the ED took a large salary and nothing got done. Why on earth are these people and their scammy “nonprofit” continually taken seriously? Also, isnt the father of this “CEO” the same vile racist and anti-Semite who successfully held up development of this (aging, ugly) block for years?

      • I totally agree about Wyking and his father! I saw his father screaming the most evil racial slurs at an Asian man working in the area and it was heartbreaking. Also, didn’t Wyking/Africa town get the land from this deal for free? Apparently, he’s doing quite well financially because I hear he has a pretty sweet pad in Renton. In my opinion, Wyking and his father are masters at stirring up controversy for their own gain and they are needlessly halting a project that work force and affordbale housing tenants need!!!!

    • Agreed. I’m all for involving the historically-resident community into the design process BUT if I recall correctly this Africatown nonprofit was shown to be, essentially, a big scam in which the ED took a large salary and nothing got done. Why on earth are these people and their scammy “nonprofit” continually taken seriously? Also, isnt the father of this “CEO” the same vile racist and anti-Semite who successfully held up development of this (aging, ugly) block for years?

      • Can we keep the personal attacks off of here and stick to the conversation at hand? Wyking (and his dad in the past) have done a lot for the CDs and especially African Americans.

        If you feel that this “aging, ugly” block development has been held up, it’s possible there are reasons that aren’t obvious to you…like the fact that a lot of the business owners are not white.

      • Personal attacks? LOL I’m pretty sure Garret senior lost that privilege long ago. I attended the meeting and he called Uncle Ike a racist Natzi.

        @Jen, I agree and sympathize a lot of what you said in these posts but that dude has lost my respect (when it comes to his ideas about the way the block should look).

      • Considering the things Ian has also done, I’m not sure that isn’t just a draw…there is a pretty well-known baiting story on the corner that was filmed. But the only part filmed was Omari, not the part where Ian was racially baiting him. Those 2 have had it in for each other for a while.

        And Omari used to have his wits about him. Most folx in the CD know that is no longer the case. You might want to check in with his family but as of at least 5 years ago, I’m pretty sure he was suffering from some type of dementia.

        If you look at articles from when he was running for office, starting Africatown, doing work in the CD, talking about buying a house here when he was 19, none of that came out…

      • Jen,

        You omitted from Omari’s resume assaulting the then mayor of our city with a bullhorn, fracturing his cheek. Yeah, he really had it together in the old days.

      • Jen,

        Most of us on here know Omari for assaulting a Seattle Mayor and for spending several years on this site posting NONSENSICAL RANTS IN ALL CAPS!!!!!!!!!! <— kinda like that

      • Yeah, let’s not make someone take responsibility for his actions. Also lets support his (garret sr’s) agenda and when he make’s racist remarks cover him under the guise of dementia. Should I just pick and choose what he says so it fits my viewpoint?

      • I asked to leave the personal attacks off, partially because you lumped Wyking in with his father. I know that I don’t want to be lumped in with my Trump loving conservative family. In addition, the board is not made up of the two of them. It’s made up of another 7 to 9 people who all live and or work in the community.

        I read the article a couple of times and I don’t understand why Wyking’s one comment at the end is causing this much friction. Omari is not even in the article and has no control over this process. So where did all of this come from? Can we not focus on how the process is actually going?

        If I was Omari, I wouldn’t necessarily be racist as you’ve described, but certainly after reading his life story, yeah, I’d be an angry black man. And I don’t know when his mental issues started but his incident with the mayor wasn’t necessarily the action of a well man. Shrug.

      • I feel like a broken record at this point but someone ALWAYS mentions it,
        “BUT if I recall correctly this Africatown nonprofit was shown to be, essentially, a big scam in which the ED took a large salary and nothing got done.”

        I can’t find this anywhere and I’m good at searching. Did it not happen? Did it happen somewhere else? Is it being exaggerated? Seriously, the next time brings this up specifically in regard to Wyking, I hope they will kind enough as to provide some type of evidence.

  5. How about plaques to commemorate special locations in the African American history of the CD with a site/app that would take you on a walking tour. Have a site containing high quality curated content as well as have the community add their personal history, memories, photos, memorabilia. Can even have a walking tours for specific subjects like jazz/music, civil rights/activism, businesses, community leaders, famous food, and things that just ooze CD. I bet tens of thousands could raise for such a project in just weeks and have talent lined up to complete.

    …nah, let’s go for endless moaning, finger pointing, and magical moonshots.

    • But a plaque and walking tour doesn’t do anything to enrich these loudmouths who profess to speak for a community (that doesn’t have anyone else credentialed speaking for them). I have no dog in the hunt but I too think this bunch is a scam. They’ve cut themselves in on the action they see going on, with no more authority to speak for a community except that they’re black; and are preying on the tendency of the City of Seattle to be WAY too overly-sensitive to all matters race-related, and way too eager to be all PC. Al to the point of unqualified bigmouths having way more say in things than they should. They’re capitalizing on the vacuum of respected and respectable spokespeople in this somewhat marginalized and somewhat disenfranchised community, and its really kind of gross. But maybe what do I know, I’m just a random white guy and I don’t speak for them either. (Does that mean just anybody should?).

      • So if y’all read the article, the new-ish board is almost all POCs who live in the neighborhood, some who are business owners and a couple who are either architects, real estate folx, or things like that.

        “The new board is ready. Wednesday, just hours before the Midtown design session, a Seattle City Council committee approved the new board’s members: Sharon Khosla, an architect and Central Area resident, Aaron Argyle of LMN Architects, Dennis Comer, a small business owner and member of the Central Area Land Use Committee, Kenny Pleasant, owner of a real estate investment business and resident of Madrona, Jeffrey Floor, an architect and Leschi resident, and Azzura Cox, a landscape architect who has helped run the recent Africatown ciphers.”

        Unclear why everyone wants to put the whole thing on Wyking.

      • “the new-ish board is almost all POCs” Great, so now we have a board that doesn’t accurately represent the neighborhood’s demographic.

      • Well, their needs and architecture is reflected in pretty much every new building and corner. So I guess someone thought it’d be okay to leave this one project this way. :)

    • Who all live in the neighborhood. Would you rather it was all tech bros from Amazon who have been here 6 months? Or are you just upset that you are not on the board?

      The whole reason the board was created was to create some type of corner to honor the fact that African Americans were FORCED to live here because of redlining. Whether they are ALL still here or not or have been driven out due to prices isn’t really the point.

      Your comment is insensitive.

      • What’s wrong with having a qualified tech bro who’s living in the neighborhood on the board – are they not apart of our community too?

      • Uh, speaking as a “tech bro” I actually do live in this city as well.

        And have as much right to have a voice as anyone else.

        And Brian’s comment is valid: a board made up entirely of POCs is not representative of the neighborhood as a whole, as it exists today.

        Yes, this area was ghettoized thanks to redlining, but we NEED to put up some sort of plaque or other endorsement of the neighborhood’s history and GET MOVING ON WITH THIS PROCESS.

        It’s simply moronic that this is taking so long! For what in the end, I ask you?

        And let me be clear Jen: I understand you want to “preserve the neighborhood’s character.” Now I personally feel that the “character” was of marginal quality in terms of physical infrastructure as the entire area consisted of low-rise and poorly built structures until recently, and was very, very ugly (see: the current state of the Midtown block). But keeping things as-is not happening, is it? Seattle is changing and the 23rd and Union area is changing and that–whatever either of us may think–will be taking place.

        What we need is housing. And current plans, while too “South Lake Union” for you, are very much in keeping with the vernacular architecture that typifies the current prevailing architectural style here in Seattle. In 2018. I mean, what would you prefer? The typical architecture of the last building boom during the Bush years when the prevailing style was “poorly built fake craftsman”?

      • Listen, tech bro PD, technically I’m a tech bro too; I just happen to have been here longer and have actually read the article. They want to recognize the history and culture of African-Americans. If you want to have more input, go to the meeting. Sometimes, just because you live in the neighborhood doesn’t mean you get to have a say in everything. And it’s a little odd that you’re so convinced that the neighborhood has so little character. If you’re basing it on 23rd and union alone, you obviously haven’t gone very far.

        And there are plenty of ways to build character that are not buildings that are falling apart but that also are not the high-tech SLU version either. It turns out architects go to school for degrees for a reason.

        You’re also making a ton of friends
        by telling us that all of our houses are ugly and poorly built. The character of the neighborhoods involves the houses as well. Just because 23rd and union isn’t stellar right now doesn’t mean it can’t be. But it doesn’t have to be all sleek and tech-y either. There can be something in the middle.

        One of the things about being a “better” gentrifier is to try not to overrun the folx you’re displacing; this is an example where they are trying to preserve one tiny corner but you’re upset that your voice isn’t represented. I totally trust the newly approved board will not only get housing in there but find a happy medium for the aesthetics.

      • From “How to be less of a gentrifier”: “And for crying out loud, don’t try to change the name of the neighborhood.”

        We should all note that the long-term residents call it the “Central Area” and do not appreciate the name being changed to the “Central District” or CD.
        Note that the title of this article uses “CD” but the new Design Board is the “Central Area Design Review Board”.
        One rationale for the dislike of the term CD is that it was a contraction of “Colored District”, as the area was (I have heard, not verified) historically referred to by outsiders.

      • Our 1998 Urban Village Plan was the “Central Area Action Plan”. I’ve heard/read of the African American communities strong preference for Central Area both in person and on comments on the (now deceased) companion blog to CHS which was entitled “CD News”.
        I fear that the term CD is so entrenched now that it is a lost battle, but I did find it ironic.

        BTW see my very first post on this loooong thread: I suggested honoring the musical legacy of the 22nd/Madison area.

      • Brian, are you an architect specializing in Urban design?!?!?! That would be a really useful skillset to have and would definitely make you highly qualified to speak from a place of authority on this issue.

        You should totally go to the next meeting and let everyone know that you’re ready and eager to help!!

  6. What happens when the Design Review Board makes it so complicated that the developer no longer wants to develop the property?

    Oh yeah…we lose 400 market-rate and affordable housing units, and get to keep a blighted parking lot where shootings regularly happen.

    • The longer this project is delayed, the more residents are forced out of the CD, making it even less African-American.

  7. I was at the meeting last night and I’ll admit, I was pretty intimidated to speak up — for fear of supporting the project somehow would label me in a negative way.

    I’ll be honest, I think we need to go to these meetings and speak up on our support for moving the project forward at any and all possible speed.

      • Are you both serious or just being accidentally insensitive? The parking lot of Midtown right now actually looks nicer than it has in years.

        Maybe be careful what you type.

      • Yes Jen, it does look better than it has in years. Know what will make that parking lot look even better? Tearing it up and building that amazing looking thing in those pictures up above.

      • Jen, if this project looks like SLU projects then great, I hope all of them turn out this nice. I think that the relocation of the corner fountain along with the interior court yard “Central District” wall pay nice homage to the neighborhood and the townhouses on 24th provide a nice residential transition.

      • Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. If I wanted to live in/near a cookie cutter type place, I wouldn’t be living here. Paying one corner of homage with a bit of character doesn’t seem that big of a deal.

      • Jen, guess so. I’ve seen a lot words written on here by you talking about the lack of POC inclusion and about the neighborhood’s redlining that happened 50, 60, 70 years ago but little about what actual aesthetic changes you want to be made to the building. So I ask you this:

        What specific changes would like to see made to this building that will well serve the current and future residents of our neighborhood while still honoring the past?

      • I’m not a POC so won’t speak to their input and this is why there’s a well chosen board. However, I’d be happy to lob that question out at the next African American Advisory Council though they focus on the whole city and not just the CD, and also improving police relations with the community. However, that issue has come up once already here so perhaps that meeting would be another good forum.

      • Jen, you response personifies the frustrations that myself, many of my neighbors, and many of these posters have with this project. This is prime piece of land that will fully activate the block with shops and relatively affordable housing. Yet development has been tied up for several years and continues to be tied up by additional process proponents like yourself who don’t have clearly defined changes they’d like to see be made.

      • I didn’t say I didn’t have ideas; I said that’s what the board was for (you know, you too can attend a meeting). But, and I’m assuming you’ve lived here under 10 years and are white, I check myself. My neighbor has lived on the corner over 50 years, my friend owns Cortona Cafe, other friends attend the council I mentioned – it takes so little effort for me to first ask their opinions. I know we want some of the same things; some open space, easy access to at least some black, locally owned businesses, a feeling of community, perhaps leaving some of the artifacts. But in the long run, Mrs. Petersen and Lolly, and Rev. HarrietWalden, and Patricia Valentine…well, I’m going to just defer for a minute.

        I believe your mild frustration at me “not knowing what I want” can hold for just a little bit.

      • “Because you don’t have clearly defined changes in mind” – I ALWAYS have an opinion but unlike some, I feel there’s real growth to be had by not having all decisions made by a homogenous group.

      • Jen, lived in the neighborhood for 11 years and have been a homeowner here going on 4 years. I live on a wonderfully diverse street filled with Black, Latino, Asian, and White neighbors and we’re all lock step in wanting to see that crime ridden corner developed. I attended the town hall that was held about a month ago, was not impressed. My frustration is not JUST with you but with most of the people who attended that thing who seemed to voice trivial concern after trivial concern without ever agreeing to a path forward. Let’s add a few plaques commemorating the history of the CD, ensure that the current small businesses/post office have the opportunity to put storefronts in the new building, and then develop the thing already. But I’m sure what’s going to happen is this process is going to drag out for several more months and we won’t have stores/apartments opening until 2021/22.

      • I think all of us, including your neighbors and the committees I’m on, all share wanting it to be developed. However, I really don’t want it to look like Southlake union. This neighborhood is awesome and I’d like it to not turn into every other gentrified neighborhood in Seattle. What were the trivial concerns that people kept bringing up? Did any of them have any merit? Were they because people felt insecure/unheard or left out of the process or do you think there was something else behind them? I’d be interested to hear what some of them were.

    • Like we’ve said, I think that’s where we’d have to agree to disagree – I like the look of this building and feel it fits in with the character of the new buildings that have popped up around it. You think it looks too SLU-ish.

      Most Trival: heated 5 min conversation about the location of a tree on the corner of Union and 24th.

      Most Unreasonable: all units be “affordable” and that 60-85% AMI doesn’t count as affordable. No clear agreement on what affordable was.

      Most Merit: Include a mural from a local artist. Ensure that the current small businesses have access to storefronts in the new building.

      • It’s likely because I think of the CD as having character and the SLU building, eh. It says,”new” and “trendy” and “hip” but that isn’t what I hear people describing them wanting the new corner to look like. What says “new”,”classic”,”community”?

      • Jen, the Central District has historically consisted of ugly, poorly built and poorly maintained structures.

        We are not, and let’s be very, very clear here, talking about an area of the city where there is/was significant architecture and other infrastructure deserving of preservation. This is not the case. Period.

        You may feel this is “character” and to be quite frank I feel you are entirely misguided in this view. It’s not “character”: it’s ugly, aging, poorly constructed infrastructure in a city in need of density and modernization. It is ugly, poorly-constructed infrastructure in need of wholesale replacement.

        So, what I am saying is that I hear your concerns, and reject them as poorly thought out and misguided.

        And I’m also saying that your views should not guide policy, or hold up development. You’re part of the problem here, not the solution.

        Can we please just get this project underway?

      • excuse me… PD, the street that I live on, here in the Central Area is largely composed of, for the most part, absolutely wonderfully built and mostly quite well preserved homes from the turn of the century. They are far better designed, absolutely more aesthetically pleasing and *much* better built than any of the new buildings around here (which seem to have a shelf life of less than 10 years before they start falling to pieces and looking derelict). People like you who call for the wholesale destruction of my neighborhood disturb me.

      • Jen, let’s not to try and romanticize the buildings that are currently on that block, none of them are classic or worthy of historical preservation. I’ll echo PD here, these were poorly constructed, lowly density commercial buildings.

        As far as “new”, “trendy”, “hip” and “community”: The new building’s proposed design aesthetic is not radically different from any of the new buildings popping up around it yet dramatically improves on the community space provided when compared to its new neighbors.

    • Please refer to the comment of CD Neighbor above yours; that corner may have some rundown buildings but that doesn’t mean the rest of the Central Area is lacking in character.

      A new, wonderful building could be built that still has character; I don’t know you’re afraid of that.

      Also, if you and PD really think the Central Area is full of ugly, broken down buildings, I might assume you haven’t left that corner.

      • Jen, our neighborhood and the CD as whole (sorry there Andrew) are filled with amazing residential homes. What our area is sorely lacking are pre-2000’s Era commercial buildings with lots of character; most of the older commercial buildings are poorly built/maintained. Midtown Center is a great example of this. As I highlighted above, it’s not that I’m afraid of “character”, I’m all for it and happen to think that this building as currently designed will bring some wonderful character and community space to the corner. What I’m frustrated by, and many others are too, is the drawn out process that continues to prevent this underutilized/relatively high crime plot of land from being developed.

      • I understand your frustration with the speed of the process but, and sorry to lump you in with PD, neither of you seem to see the character of the Central Area outside that corner; the lovely houses in neighborhoods like CD neighbor mentions, the hidden parks, the wooded S curves down to Leschi, the sweet small town feel of 34th and Union, the stretch of Madison where DeCharlene (Williams) salon and boutique reign on, the Langston Hughes theatre, Central Cinema, the home and family feel of the churches *and* eateries (and food trucks), the NW African American museum, Ezell’s, Grocery Outlet (yes, I’m serious), and every time Cherry between 23rd and MLK closes down for a festival…but especially Juneteenth.

        I suppose I should be happy that all of that will last even if we get an ugly, non-character building on that site. :-)

      • Jen, I’d throw the Madison YMCA and the quite lively Jackson St Starbucks on the list of little community gems. Either way, this conversation is focused on Union/23rd because this is an article written about it.

        It’s obvious that we and many others (see: 90+ comments!) are very passionate about the neighborhood we live in. We all want the for best it, we just disagree on the aesthetics/drawn out approval of one particular development. And yes, we can all be happy that once construction is complete we’ll still have all the little treasures that make the CD the CD (sorry again Andrew!) but with more apartments for folks to live in and enjoy our neighborhood from and sans a high crime corner – it’s a win-win-win In my opinion! Hopefully this becomes a reality sooner rather than later!

      • Ah, good choices; based on those, my apologies for lumping you in with PD who seemed to state that most or all the Centrsl Area had no discernible character and our buildings were ugly and poorly put together. But…a lot of them aren’t.

        I’m not against a newer building with somehow accents or a mural and a courtyard as they’d mentioned previously though I’d prefer it open rather than gated off. I think if the group can compromise, we will have more happy folx in the long run.

  8. Sounds like the project is moving along. Not sure that I agree with the sentiment of most posts here. The reviewed proposal is much improved and certainly superior to the behemoth rectangular solid that was originally proposed back under Bangasser’s ownership.

    I can’t imagine the new housing project not actually coming to fruition- it’s too good an opportunity- new business/residential housing is going to happen at MidTown. Why not advocate to make it the best community environment possible. Big deal if it slows things down a few months.

    My only concern is with the Africatown/Capitol Hill Housing development that is slated to come along later. I got lost following who is funding this project- is it still Fortera or has Capitol Hill Housing taken on the costs? Wherever the funding is from, this looks like the piece of the larger project that will bring in the greatest concentration of affordable housing. This is the part that I’m worried might not happen.

    • Two different things. I believe most want buildings to be configured in the best possible way.

      What people are objecting to is this made up design scheme that is being forced upon the developer.

  9. Missing in the report are just a few details. First is the continuing concern regarding the lack of entrances along 23rd to be the site of the new drug store. No one wants it to be the dead space that the Safeway at Madison and 23rd represents. Also desired is more definition and detailing of the stoops along 24th where the townhouse design is suppose to interact with and represent the transition to single family homes. Also they wanted see some representation of the how the design of Africatown will interact with the this one and suggested that both work together to bring that to the next design review. Otherwise, this is pretty accurate summary. I agree with Ryan A, that the most of the comments seem very one-sided.

    • The new apartments kitty-corner from the Madison Safeway were presented at Design Review as having stoops along the residential (Denny) side, but the actual building does not. I suspect that lots of neighborhood-friendly features get lost between design and construction (and there’s no long-standing neighborhood presence to notice).

    • No, but since African Americans were relegated to the CD part of Seattle due to redlining, it doesn’t hurt anyone to aim the design that direction.

      • Yeah but 1st Nation people were displaced from this area even before that.

        Why no calls for “Native American” architecture?

    • The tiles on the bus shelters outside the Douglass-Truth Library at 23rd/Yesler memorialize the various groups that have been in the Central Area: Jewish, Italian, African-American. Obviously First Nations people were here first, but I’ve never heard of them having residences in the area: the Central Area is on a hilltop without easy access to fresh water to drink or to the saltwater that provided much of the First Nations’ people’s food.

  10. Re; Seattle Process (again from Wikipedia entry): Proponents of the Seattle process, such as former city councilman Richard Conlin, praised it as a thoughtful method of generating the best results at the expense of time. In return, opponents referred to Conlin in 2005 as the “Duke of Dither” for his devotion to process.

    You’ll all be aware of the Bull in a China Shop approach of the Councilmember who replaced Richard Conlin.

  11. “How about plaques to commemorate special locations in the African American history of the CD with a site/app that would take you on a walking tour. ”

    An existing example of that approach is Homer Harris Park, dedicated maybe a decade ago.

    “Dr. Homer Harris (1916-2007), for whom the park is named, was one of Seattle’s most beloved and respected athletes and physicians. Artwork at the park notes highlights and achievements in the life of Dr. Harris.”

    The above mentioned artwork is peeling, fading, delaminating and becoming impossible to read. Nobody seems to be responsible for the care and upkeep of this very sad little park.

  12. A brief history of the Central Area from Historylink.

    “A potpourri of colors and cultures flowed in and out of this four-square-mile area during its more-than-a-century-old history. There were the European Americans, the Japanese, the Jews, and the African Americans. All left a distinct imprint.”