This is really it. The final growing season at E Madison’s City People’s. The popular Madison Valley garden and supply store announced it will permanently close at the end of 2022 to make way for a long-planned redevelopment of its acre of Central Seattle land. The Madison Valley PCC and a new six-story, 82-unit apartment building above a 140-vehicle parking lot is coming.
“With a heavy, heavy heart we announce that we will close our doors on Madison at the end of the year,” Wednesday’s announcement sent to the plant and gardening store’s customers reads. “We have reached the end of our lease extensions on this property, and City People’s Garden Store will lose its home of 34 years.”
F. Geza de Gall of developer Velmeir Companies confirmed demolition planning is underway and said construction work could begin late in the first quarter of 2024.
de Gall was diplomatic about the long path the project has traveled through the Seattle development process to arrive at this busy time of planning for a groundbreaking.
“I found the process to be very challenging, but from my perspective, at least when it came to finally defending the project, the city was a good partner,” de Gall said.
CHS reported last June on the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s denial of an appeal against permitting the project from Save Madison Valley, a move that overturned its previous decision siding with the neighborhood group that the development’s environmental review didn’t adequately address climate change.
In 2016, CHS first reported plans for the development that faced stiff opposition from the Save Madison Valley group as it brought in support from Seattle slow growth advocate Peter Steinbrueck and neighborhood celebrity business owners like “Chef in the Hat” Thierry Rautureau along the way and preceded the hearing examiner fight with a seemingly never ending design review process.
City People’s, meanwhile, found a way to continue as the development tussle went on. The founders of the store and owners of its unusually large tract of E Madison land said the decision to sell came with much more caution about picking a developer to work with after watching with surprise and disappointment when the garden store partners previously sold their 15th Ave E home only to see a Walgreens rise on the property.
The property has been owned by a company associated with Harley Broe, one of the original partners behind City People’s. According to the company, City People’s Mercantile, “the first women-owned hardware/mercantile store in Seattle,” was founded in 1979 by Judith Gille, Dorrie Wayenberg and Barbara Bower. Broe later joined the partnership. It first opened at 19th and Republican before stretching out in a larger space on 15th Ave E where it operated for 17 years:
Dorrie and Barbara moved on after a few years and new partners—Dianne Casper, Steve Magley, and Sarah Brazeau—took their places. After ten years of operation, the Fremont store was closed in December of 2000. The original Capitol Hill store was closed the following year. Our two remaining stores, City People’s Garden Store and Landscape Design in Madison Valley and City People’s Mercantile and Garden at 5440 Sand Point Way N.E. in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, are still both locally-owned and operated.
The Capitol Hill store shuttered to end 2001 as “the chain’s owners to scale back operations to two stores and sell the building,” the Puget Sound Business Journal reported. Today, a controversial at the time Walgreens stands at the corner.
Now, the closure will be permanent. Permit work for demolition has been filed and construction paperwork is in place for the work to start.
Somehow, though the intervening years, the project remains intact. PCC is still lined up to be part of the building. It will still rise six stories. New factors like the Madison RapidRide G line construction have emerged but aren’t expected to impact the project.
Save Madison Valley’s efforts beyond the city’s regular community design review processes slowed down but did not reshape the development.
“The project is the same today as when it initially came out of design review,” de Gall said.
The new building is expected to open in late 2024 or early 2025.