There is more change coming to 23rd and Union with another Black church a step closer to its exit from the neighborhood so its land can be developed. A developer “dedicated to partnership and community growth” is making early plans for a new mixed-use project on 23rd Ave on Mount Calvary Christian Center’s properties across the street from its house of worship.
Early filings with the city for
The Calvary Apartments 23Calvary project from Seattle-based developer Gardner Global show a six-story building rising across the church’s three parcels at 23rd and E Pike. The church’s teen center structure would be demolished.
The new plans come after Mount Calvary last spring put its third of an acre property home to its house of worship and a surface parking lot on the market for $4.5 million in a listing boasting a “rare opportunity for land in the Central District commercial corridor.”
“Zoned NC2P-75, this site allows for mixed use opportunities not easily found in this high demand neighborhood with vast amounts of pedestrian access,” the pitch read.
That land apparently remains on the market and there is currently no early development activity related to the property.
That move followed a first step in the congregation’s plans to exit the neighborhood when it put its teen center property across the street on the market for $2.8 million in the winter of
2018 2019. The current listing with a price tag of $2.4 million is listed as “pending.” UPDATE: We’ve updated the timing of the $2.8M listing to the correct period — the winter of 2019. Sorry for the editing error.
A deal to sell Mount Calvary’s land on the west side of 23rd would add to the trend of Black churches — “property rich and cash poor” — selling off their holdings and exiting the Central District even as efforts rise to try to help them stand stronger against the steady tide of redevelopment and change.
Mount Calvary also has faced other pressures to give up on 23rd Ave as the Christian center has tangled with neighboring pot shop Uncle Ike’s. In 2014, Pastor Reggie Witherspoon led a “Shut It Down” prayer rally against Ian Eisenberg’s first shop. The church eventually took Eisenberg to court but ultimately failed in its argument that the Ike’s shop should not have been allowed to open at the intersection in such close proximity to the church. Having made peace outside the courts, Mount Calvary decided to take some of Uncle Ike’s cash and has hosted billboard signs for the pot shop on its teen center property. UPDATE: A representative for the church says it received no payment for Ike’s messaging and that the advertising was removed quickly after the church saw it posted by the billboard’s managing company.
The area around 23rd and Union, meanwhile, is transforming at a rapid pace and continues to add new growth. Developments from Lake Union Partners include two projects with a third on the way that have added a combined 675 apartment units and more than 40,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space. Tuesday, CHS reported that PCC Community Markets is now lined up to add a new grocery in the developer’s East Union building. Its largest project— 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.
It is still extremely early in The Calvary Apartments project with important milestones like design review meetings not even on the calendar yet. But the plans show that even with the burst of redevelopment already underway around 23rd and Union, there is still more change to come.
Last year, CHS spoke with Nicole Bascomb of Bascomb Real Estate Group and a member of Mount Calvary, about the property and the church’s future in the Central District. Bascomb said her church planned to remain part of the community as the sales process played out but acknowledged the future of a congregation hoping for growth under an ambitious pastor lay beyond the neighborhood. “From a mission perspective of doing the work of god, we just don’t have the space,” Bascomb said.
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