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.”
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 corner — Midtown: 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:
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