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PCC will replace New Seasons in 23rd and Union grocery plans — UPDATE

(Image: PCC)

It’s a natural pairing. PCC Community Markets will fill in the large grocery space left empty at 23rd and Union after the long-delayed plans for a New Seasons market at the corner fell through in December.

PCC and developer of the mixed-use East Union project Lake Union Partners are set to announce their agreement Tuesday.

The news will be met with applause by fans of PCC who have been disappointed by another long-delayed area grocery project to create a mixed-use development centered around one of the chain’s markets in Madison Valley. But hold your applause — you may eventually have two PCCs in the area to choose from.

Officials say PCC is still planning to eventually open in Madison Valley once development and design issues are sorted out with neighborhood groups and the city.

“As one of the few remaining locally owned food markets in the Puget Sound, our co-op understands the rich history of the Central District and the historical significance it holds in our city,” Cate Hardy, PCC Community Markets CEO, said in a statement. “We felt it was important that this location become a grocery store, as promised to the community. As we do with any new PCC store, we will work directly with local individuals and organizations to gain a deeper understanding of how we can best support the community, with the goal of opening the store as soon as possible.”

Hardy, along with other PCC officials, attended a community meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the plans for the new store. She tells CHS that questions centered around jobs — about half of the new hires will come from the surrounding neighborhood, Hardy said — and the types of produce and products the store will carry.

“As soon as we learned New Seasons was not going to be opened there, we moved to make sure the community would have access to our fresh produce and groceries,” Hardy said.

Hardy tells CHS the decision to also continue pursuing a store in Madison Valley matches up with PCC’s experience opening a new store in Ballard only a mile from its Fremont store, which, in turn, is only a mile from its Green Lake store.

“Those dense, urban neighborhoods, have their own communities… and own shopping and traffic patterns,” Hardy said.

“We feel pretty strongly that both of the stores are going to thrive.”

PCC is also planning a new downtown Seattle store as the cooperative tries to “respond to the growth patterns of the city,” Hardy said.

At 23rd and Union, the transition should be a smooth one. The huge 18,000-square-foot space has sat empty but ready for a new grocery tenant for more than a year. Despite its large footprint, the space is a little smaller than most PCC stores but Hardy said the co-op will need just a few more months to make some small changes to the layout. PCC is currently planning a spring opening at the corner but has hedged its bets with a “first half” of 2020 commitment.

More importantly after the controversy that swirled around New Seasons over its years of preparation to open in the space, PCC is a union business, a factor Lake Union Partners says was important in its decision to move forward on the deal.

A big grocery industry takeover in December signaled the death knell for the long-delayed New Seasons plans as the company was purchased by the South Korean grocery firm that owns the Metropolitan Market chain. The deal put an end to any New Seasons expansion and also included plans to shutter the existing store in Ballard. It also brought to an end a long effort from labor and community groups opposing the company’s expansion into Seattle and the Central District.

PCC says the new store will bring around 100 “union jobs” to the neighborhood. Currently, PCC has around 1,600 employees across its locations.

“This is a huge win for Seattle workers. For nearly 40 years, PCC has been an excellent partner helping raise the bar for grocery industry standards,” UFCW 21 president Faye Guenther said in PCC’s announcement of the deal. “The Central District PCC will bring quality union jobs with a written contract that provides workers with health care, a pension they can rely on, and a voice at work. UFCW 21 is excited to work with PCC to ensure that this store reflects the neighborhood’s importance as a center of Seattle’s African American community.”

The cooperative also announced it won’t take all of the available commercial space in the development:

As part of its decision to take the Central District location, PCC asked that some of its square footage be made available to another retailer to serve the neighborhood. PCC worked closely with the location developer, Lake Union Partners, to ensure that the square footage could benefit the community.

PCC says the business is “yet-to-be-named” but will be “a food and beverage establishment” and, “as with the other Lake Union Partner projects in the area, will have a connection to the Central District.”

In 2014, the corner was home to a service station and a quick mart when it was snapped up for development

Developments from Lake Union Partners are rapidly transforming 23rd and Union where the developer has created two projects with a third on the way adding a combined 675 apartment units and more than 40,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space. Its largest at the cornerMidtown: Public Square — is under construction on the southeast corner of the intersection and is set to have a Bartell’s drugstore as its commercial anchor. The Midtown block will also include a project from Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing that will create affordable housing and more commercial opportunities. That effort joins the opening of Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building at 24th and Union that opened last March and created 115 new affordable apartment units and street level commercial space.

Formed in 1953 as Puget Consumers Co-op, PCC currently operates 13 markets around the Seattle area but none — yet — in the central city between 520 and I-90. Like the Central Co-op, PCC is also a cooperative, billing itself as “the nation’s largest community-owned food market.” The two co-ops share some lifeblood. When the Central Co-op opened in 1976 it was buoyed by financial support from PCC. PCC currently boasts more than 58,000 members.

The coming new PCC location boasts around 150 underground parking spaces. The larger development across the street, meanwhile, will add another 220 or so spots in its underground garage.

There are more community meetings coming up for neighbors and those interested in talking with company officials to attend:

PCC Community Meetings

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62 thoughts on “PCC will replace New Seasons in 23rd and Union grocery plans — UPDATE

  1. I hate this development so much…..destroyed the culture of the post office and midtown center to make this neighborhood look like every dull boring Ballard/Wallingford one. Sucks.

      • You’d think a CD resident of 19 years would know which corner is which.

        And the “culture” of Midtown Center was drug dealing and shooting people.

    • This is going to be so great. It’s a union shop that hires people from the community. @CD resident, maybe you could elaborate on what sort culture was at the gas station prior to the development there. I can’t wait to shop here.

      • I want to know how they’re going to assure that they hire 50% of their staff from the community. Heard that sort of thing before.

        Also, “As we do with any new PCC store, we will work directly with local individuals and organizations to gain a deeper understanding of how we can best support the community”?? That has not happened with the Madison Valley site. PCC is radio silent to nearly all communications from neighbors for years now.

      • Not just a gas station really. We called it “Kickin’ Chicken” (for the chicken sold inside the mini-mart) and it was owned for many years by Jack Richlen, who was an amazing person and presence in the neighborhood for a very long time. In it’s own way it WAS a cultural loss for the neighborhood, Brian.

      • Please Sara, I’ve lived in the CD for the last decade and in the greater Seattle area for all my life.

        I love our neighborhood and am excited to see a PCC coming to it – what exactly am I trying to “bait” here? 🧐

      • There are no black people being “pushed out” by the Midtown development. Actually, there will be a significant increase in black people living at that corner.

    • As a CD resident for 29 years much of the “culture” needed to go. Prostitution, drug dealing etc. I’m glad the Earls was able to find a way to stick around and that the Post office will also re-emerge on the SW corner. Shiny and new is only a temporary situation. Shedding ourselves of a crumbling Coleman building and a poorly developed Mid-Town center will serve this neighborhood well for decades to come.

    • You gotta be kidding. 23rd and Union was a victim of discredited early attempts at gentrification/urban renewal through razing historic buildings, eliminating housing, and suburbanizing the inner city to accommodate a car-centric lifestyle. What we see now is the restoration of the historic neighborhood function and aesthetic. That is, a public transportation centered neighborhood with walkable services. Think about why Mr Renton laid out the blocks and housing lots long E-W and short N-S? This layout minimized walking distance to the trolleys on the arterials and maximized number of lots between.

      The Midtown development returns the neighborhood to its historic functioning state, which collapsed in the 1990s. Midtown center has long been a vacant husk contributing to lack of housing and crime.

      The Coleman building fell down in 2004, and the current is a modern drop-in replacement fulfilling the exact historic form and function.

      Likewise East Union replaces an empty lot dating to a bygone era when fueling cars was essential to inner-city life.

    • The culture? All I ever saw in that parking lot was People up to no good dealing drugs, and doing stuff having nothing to do with the Post Office or other businesses at that location. Female co-workers would always have stories of harassment when they had to use the post office, many felt unsafe.

    • I love this attitude that you always see here.

      Okay, so as the above photo clearly illustrates, the corner of 23rd and Union was pure garbage…a gas station and, kitty corner, the Midtown block which was some ugly, aging strip mall with a bunch of garbage businesses, a post office (that only old people seem to think is a necessity), and acres of parking…oh, and a liquor store with people constantly loitering outside.


      If that’s the “culture” that the Central District is losing/has lost well…good riddance.

      What a garbage neighborhood the area was before redevelopment.

      Now that the scammy “church” next to Uncle Ike’s is leaving maybe we can get rid of the car wash as well.

      And what is with the insane desire to “preserve” a neighborhood? I mean I get (and agree with) the idea that every current resident should not be pushed out…that’s a given…but this area is immensely improved over just a few years ago and there’s no arguing that.

      23rd and Union was a garbage area just a decade ago…and “pushing out” the gas station (!!!!!) and the scammy church next to Ike’s…well, the gas can go, and the good Pastor Reginald T. Moneygrubber can take his “flock” somewhere else.

      The idea that the CD has “lost” something in all this is, well, nuts.

      • Hey. As an “old” person that post office was used a lot – and I wasn’t that old 20-30 years ago when I used it more than I do now.

      • It must be nice to be wealthy enough that you don’t find a post office necessary. Plenty of the rest of us do.

      • Your use of “garbage” to describe minority-owned businesses that were owned with pride and frequented by plenty of local residents over the years is telling us more about you than you probably wanted us to know.

        @CD Resident – I’m white. I hope my comment sounds white too…sane white.

      • Au contraire. PCC stores are excellent, with high-quality produce, a fine deli department, and other offerings. You must not have shopped there much.

  2. Central Co-op was reorganized in 1978 not 1976. PCC donated $7000 or $8000 to the reorganization, grudgingly, but it may have been crucial. 20 years after Central Co-op moved to 16th & Madison, PCC is setting up 2 stores within a mile of the Madison market.

  3. Especially with Central Coop a ten-minute walk from the new PCC location, it is an unnecessary addition to the neighborhood. I appreciate the standards PCC has set over the years and enjoy shopping there from time to time, but Union and 23rd would be better served by a different sort of business, especially if the Madison PCC is eventually built.

    • @Paul. Uphill, then back track across Madison is a 15 minute walk. That’s 30 minutes both directions. Carrying groceries in Seattle weather, I’d do that on average once every 6 years when it snows.I do, however, drive to the coop and trader joes 3 times a week. That trip may now be essentially eliminated. Maybe you could list some other businesses that would be better served there? There is currently vacant retail space and soon to be more with the new development.

    • Central Coop is not even close to walkable from where I live. A grocery store at 23rd & Union will change my non-driving life. A drug store there will as well.

  4. People concerned about the affordability of New Seasons are not going to be better served by PCC in that regard – PCC is comparatively expensive, even when you match brand to brand: Nancy’s 4lb yogurt: $6 at Fred Meyer, $10+ at PCC less than a mile away. If you are matching “apples” to “apples” it’s worse.

    PCC’s deli and prepared foods are pretty great though.

    • Justin – Please report on this fact! How can so many people say PCC is going to be some sort of wonderful option for shopping when it’s so very much more expensive than buying the same products elsewhere?

  5. I predicted this as soon as I heard new seasons was a no-go. This will be great for the neighborhood, even if it does hurt the central co-op a bit. I’m also happy that it’s a local co-op with ethical business practices. Really looking forward to a short walk to a great store!

  6. Try the one in Ballard then try to figure out who the customer is. It’s more expensive than almost any other store in Seattle. I don’t see the Madison crowd heading up hill to that location, and the rest of us are doing grocery outlet.

      • @huh elaborate, please. Conventional wisdom would say its fairly obvious with the lot size and the amount they have to pay in property taxes that they may decide to sell that property. But that’s true for any location, given enough time. Is there something you know the rest of the public doesn’t?

      • SoDo location is closing because of crime, according to KOMO.

        Typical anti-Seattle fluff piece from KOMO/Sinclair. Even from their own article:

        While corporate officials downplay crime and homelessness as factors in the decision to close, police stats paint a different picture.

        The article then goes on to talk about how there is crime in SODO (duh), but then refutes it’s own sensationalist headline by quoting different people saying that crime was NOT the reason for it closing.

        It’s just a false equivalence fallacy to say (1) crime exists in SODO and (2) Grocery Outlet is closing, therefore, crime is causing Grocery Outlet to close, which is typical from right wing outlets, like Sinclair.

        I wouldn’t expect anything else from Sinclair owned KOMO. Don’t fall for their false narrative traps.

  7. Happy for the CD; bummed for Madison Valley. It’s hard for me to believe that they will follow through with opening the Madison Valley location after going in at 23rd and Union. Thanks a lot, “Save Madison Valley.” Your obstruction and delays over the last 5 years have ultimately screwed us all.

    • Agreed. I wonder if PCC will slow-roll the pull out now of the Valley. Probably didn’t want announce at the same time because of the ill-will it might cause.

      • Agreed.

        There’s no way they’re moving forward, and the lack of an anchor tenant means the developer will reconsider too.

        So…that means City People’s will eventually close as the business is not really viable given the lot size and property taxes that need to be paid. Then the lot will likely stay vacant for ages as the buildings rot into the ground…

        Thanks, Save Madison Valley…you’ve done the neighborhood a great favor with your selfish insistence on stopping development.

    • Hi all – I head up marketing for PCC and wanted to jump in to allay any fears that we may not open Madison Valley.

      We are fully committed to opening both the Central District and Madison Valley store. We find that, as the city densifies and urbanizes, each community has their own shopping and traffic patterns and are able to support multiple stores.

      We have other stores in similar proximity — Ballard/Fremont and Green Lake Village/Green Lake. These stores are incredibly successful, and we believe the same will be true of our Central District and Madison Valley locations.


      • Some of us don’t want multiple over priced groceries on top of each other, and find some shopping diversity enjoyable.

        City People’s provides a useful addition which would indeed sit well maybe in a mixed use with PCC in Madison.

      • Thanks Heather! That’s very encouraging! Many of us do recognize that, although we all love and will miss City Peoples, it is leaving Madison Valley with or without PCC. Can’t wait to welcome you to the neighborhood!

      • Great news for another sustainable responsible grocer in the neighborhood !

        Well done. Thank you!
        A Sustainable Madison Valley (SMV) will be all the better.

      • How can you say that you listen to neighborhood input when PCC doesn’t respond to emails from numerous citizens about concerns? When the Madison Valley site was first announced dozens of neighbors emailed PCC with no response.

    • Totally agree. Just brutal and makes me despise the SMV cult even more than I already did. They’ve done so much damage to our neighborhood with their crusading. Happy for the CD though.

      • Wow!! That’s such great news Heather. Thank you so much for letting us know. Can’t wait to welcome you to the neighborhood!!

      • The problem with the Save Madison Valley cult is the shortsightedness.

        There is no way that City People’s is a viable business: property taxes are too high for such a low margin business.

        How is it that people can’t see that a huge lot like that, on a major arterial would have very high taxes?

        And a nursery supporting that level of property tax? Not going to happen.

        This is, of course, aside from the argument that preventing the build out of housing in a city with a massive housing shortage is, to be frank, morally repugnant.

        The cult members of SVM should be ashamed of themselves, but of course they aren’t….

    • The development’s own traffic study said a traffic cop would be needed in front of the store from 5am to 11pm. Not exactly a win for Madison Valley. I’m sure you can bike a little further to buy your $10 yogurt.

  8. Although I do like PCC I will continue to frequent Central Co-op. I really hope that having a PCC at 23rd & Union and another down on Madison doesn’t drive Central Co-Op out. I’ve been a member since they were located on 12th Avenue and would really, really hate to see them destroyed by the PCC “chain”. :(

  9. Why doesn’t Seattle have more neighborhood cooperative grocery stores? There is the Central Co-op, and that is about it? In Portland and Minneapolis, for example, each neighborhood seems to have an independent, local co-op grocer. Does PCC run the town?

    • “Does PCC run the town”? You have to be kidding me!
      Co-ops are not an easy business to be in, you have to have a loyal stable member base as one of your priorities, and at the same time welcome any grocery shopper to your store. PCC ran in the red for majority of its early years, and it was not until the early 90’s, when they made themselves very open to all of the public, and did not place an emphasis on membership, that they went into the black. Grocery is all about volume and the profit margin is so low.

      Some people just want to buy groceries!

      The greater Seattle area is one of the most competitive in the grocery industry.
      Besides the standards Frey Meyer (QFC), Safeway (Albertsons), Costco, Walmart, Winco, lots of neighborhood stores (Ballard Market, etc) various grocery outlets ect.
      We also have a higher grade of grocery stores:
      Whole Foods, Met Market, Central Market, Sprouts, Town & Country & Thriftway.
      PCC welcomes other grocery co-ops, in fact they helped start Central co-op, with some financial backing.
      The PNW residents want good quality food, and that is what PCC sells, it is growing because it needs to, to survive. I applaud their opening all these stores and wish them good fortune, since the majority of their profit, goes back into our communities in the form of dividends to its members, donations and grants to community non-profits and supporting numerous food banks.

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