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City People’s announces final growing season as one of Seattle’s longest running land use battles will end with 2024 start on Madison Valley PCC redevelopment

City People’s Garden Store, October 1988 (Image: City People’s)

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.

 

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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.

Flash forward about 15 years, with the E Madison development bogged down, City People’s continued on under new owners with short-term leases. First it was through 2017. Then 2018. And so on.

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.

 

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Charles
Charles
6 months ago

Maybe they could take over the QFC on 15th Ave. E????

Ariel
6 months ago
Reply to  Charles

Omg I love this idea. Probably 100% impossible but I love it anyway.

CH Resident
CH Resident
6 months ago
Reply to  Charles

That would be so awesome! Probably would never happen but I too love the thought.

Capitol Hiller
Capitol Hiller
6 months ago

good

polypodiaceae
polypodiaceae
6 months ago

Do you happen to know how much this will generate in MHA dollars?

Atan
Atan
6 months ago

I also think City People’s should try and get into the old QFC spot on 15th Ave . Then they would be back on Capitol Hill again .

Capitol Hiller Too
Capitol Hiller Too
6 months ago

Great to see new housing being built near rapid transit – good for climate!
Shame on NIMBYs for stalling for years

dave
dave
6 months ago

Finally! I’ll miss City People’s but this project will bring new housing (and a new PCC!) to a place that is very walk- and bike-friendly and well-served by transit.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  dave

My thoughts exactly! This can’t happen soon enough.

Mars Saxman
Mars Saxman
6 months ago

I gave up on Madison Valley a couple years ago and moved further up the hill, but I’m still glad to hear that “Save Madison Valley” has finally lost their stupid fight. You live in the middle of a major city, people! It makes no sense to pretend otherwise. It is cruel to our neighbors to suppress development of the additional housing they need to live in.

Carre
Carre
6 months ago

Let’s raze the Walgreens (which my friends call “the drug store where the shelves are always empty”) and put City People back on 15th Ave E!!!!

Ross
Ross
6 months ago
Reply to  Carre

I hate that useless store.

seaguy
seaguy
6 months ago
Reply to  Carre

Shoplifter’s are the cause of that..

Kevin
Kevin
6 months ago

“The development’s environmental review didn’t adequately address climate change.”

I really really hope people don’t cheapen a serious issue like climate change by adding NIMBYism on top of it

zach
zach
6 months ago

This makes me sad, because City People’s has been a wonderful garden store, with a helpful and knowledgeable staff. They will be missed greatly. And all for yet-another PCC and apartments which very few people can afford. This is truly “density at any cost.”

Here’s hoping that they will find another site to re-locate!

Capitol Hiller
Capitol Hiller
6 months ago
Reply to  zach

“We can make housing cheaper by building less” lol

Noah
Noah
6 months ago
Reply to  Capitol Hiller

You can make housing cheaper by making more *affordable* housing. More ‘market rate’ housing will have no effect on prices for the bottom half for whom rent is an actually-existing problem of poverty or homelessness. Market equilibrium isn’t very effectual when dealing with inelastic demand, and a product which is both limited and necessary, and also minimally affected by aging while doubling as an investment and necessity

KinesthesiaAmnesia
KinesthesiaAmnesia
6 months ago
Reply to  Capitol Hiller

Well building more sure didn’t knock the price down, Sherlock.

CP
CP
6 months ago
Reply to  zach

Ridiculous. If you could afford to shop at an overpriced garden store, then you can afford to shop at a PCC. People on a budget go to Lowe’s – last time I checked mulch was about half the price or less than City, and you’d need a vehicle as it is to move it from either store. You may prefer a garden store, but affordability doesn’t come into it when talking about City People’s.

zach
zach
6 months ago
Reply to  CP

Not ridiculous. My comment about affordability was for the apartments, which will surely be market rate or above.

You are right that City People’s is not inexpensive, but you are paying partly for the very knowledgeable and helpful staff….try getting that at Lowe’s! And City People’s is comparable to prices at other quality garden stores, such as Swanson’s and Sky Nursery.

Nandor
Nandor
6 months ago
Reply to  CP

For some things perhaps, city people’s was more expensive and their selection limited, but not for basic gardening goods – plants and compost they were not. If you wanted big pots, yeah City People’s only carried high end – no inexpensive resin ones like at Lowes, but for veggie starts their selection was way better – many more varieties, many organic and the prices similar. Ditto with bushes. City people’s carried a wider selection and had often actually some that were much less than Lowes, because they were smaller, younger plants.

Nandor
Nandor
6 months ago

Sad.. this project is displacing a service that has no alternative in the area. Next year when it’s time to fill my garden, instead of just getting out my wagon, I’ll be forced to drive to Ballard or Shoreline. Density at any cost indeed.

John Whittier Treat
John Whittier Treat
6 months ago

We need another overpriced grocery store in the neighborhood like a hole in the head.

madval neighbor
madval neighbor
6 months ago

Dude, what other grocery store are you talking about? There’s nothing else walkable from the proposed site. And where do you buy your food that’s so much less expensive than PCC? Just nonsense, my guy.

seaguy
seaguy
6 months ago

Grocery Outlet isn’t that far and it’s much cheaper than pricey PCC. Just about any other chain grocery store is cheaper than PCC.

Will
6 months ago

Bummed about City People but Yay for new housing, particularly next to a future rapid ride!

Grum
Grum
6 months ago

I’m all for this. Wealthy areas hate density, “protecting neighborhoods” is code for protecting low income individuals from living there. Folks who work at City People’s, Pagliacci, All the Best, etc can’t afford to live in Madison Valley given the current housing availability there.

Unzone Seattle, build 3/4 stories all over the city, and allow for people to live in the area they work. Work to build a working , walkable urban environment focused on public transit.

Brian N.
Brian N.
6 months ago
Reply to  Grum

Highly doubt that the teenagers working at Pagliacci’s, or any other low income folks, will be able to afford the market rate apartments being built at this site. I’m all for this development but let’s not fool ourselves it’s going to lead to some urbanist utopia.

zach
zach
6 months ago
Reply to  Grum

You’re living in a dream world if you think the new apartments will be affordable for those who work at the businesses you mention, or for any lower-income people for that matter.

A.J.
A.J.
6 months ago

I’ll miss City People’s and hope they find a new spot nearby. However these same people who are upset about this are also the same people that are resisting all zoning changes that would allow more housing & business outside of extremely limited commercial corridors.

Complaining about development in one of the few areas where density is allowed because of your other anti-density politics is just completely lacking self-awareness and hypocritical. You brought this on yourselves.

While I’ll miss City People’s, I’m happy that more people will be living in a walkable neighborhood with good transit, parks, restaurants, shops, and soon a grocery store.

If you’ve ever been near the arboretum or on Madison during rush hour, it’s pretty obvious that everyone in the area drives everywhere; having a walkable grocery will hopefully cut down on that need some and make the area better for everyone.

Brad Augustine
Brad Augustine
6 months ago

I still don’t understand how E Madison St is going to work for PCC food delivery trucks, PCC customers and apartment tenants coming and going by car as well as apartment tenant move-in and move-outs. E Madison is already a terrible bottleneck at Lake Washington Blvd with Pagliacci Pizza delivery drivers coming and going and this new development will clearly exacerbate an already huge traffic problem.

The City and Design Review are at fault here as this all should have been figured out and mitigated pursuant to SEPA.

CHR
CHR
6 months ago
Reply to  Brad Augustine

Build cities for people and not cars. If you choose to have a car that’s fine, but don’t make the rest of us bend over backwards for you.

Mark Hodges
Mark Hodges
6 months ago
Reply to  CHR

Sure. But grocery stores aren’t getting their many, many goods you walk to buy by hand cart or drone. Nor will all their trash fly away on broomstick.

The questions about truck accomodation are real, whether you acknowledge them or not. Just wait and see.

seaguy
seaguy
6 months ago
Reply to  CHR

People are not going to give up their cars. That’s a utopian fantasy we will not see for many lifetimes if ever.

CHR
CHR
6 months ago
Reply to  seaguy

They don’t have to give them up, but we just won’t arrange the city to constantly accommodate them.

MadVal Neighbor
MadVal Neighbor
6 months ago
Reply to  Brad Augustine

“Tell me you’re out of touch and live in Madison Park without telling me you live in Madison Park”

madval neighbor
madval neighbor
6 months ago
Reply to  Brad Augustine

My brother in Christ, you are the traffic problem at LWB and E Madison St.

Leslie M
Leslie M
6 months ago

The land that City Peoples is built on is an interesting ridge of 100 year-old landfill that went in when they built up Madison Street between the Arboretum and the valley to the south. The south end of the property is a steep embankment down to Dewey Pl. E. it has been considered too steep to build on and there are no houses for a good section of that street because of the terrain. It will be interesting to see how the builders deal with that feature.

CentralDistrictPerson
CentralDistrictPerson
6 months ago

One of the many things needed for walkable and complete neighborhoods (in addition to density) is having the things you need within a reasonable distance; the loss of city peoples will mean much more driving to far flung nurseries that either require further clogging up I-5 or heading to Ballard. I’m sure it’s just a small dent in the scheme of things but all these little things add up to create major traffic and emissions and make central Seattle slightly less desirable and livable for those of us who love to garden. Considering how busy city peoples typically is there are thousands of us. I live in a townhouse with a very small garden and am supportive of added density via townhouses, apartments condos etc. right next to where I live. I do believe NIMBYism is a huge contributor to sprawl and the housing shortage/affordability crisis that plagues our country. But there are some functions that serve high density neighborhoods that aren’t high density housing.

seaguy
seaguy
6 months ago

Kroger would have to sublet the space unless their lease ends this year. But City Peoples isn’t a competitor so they would not be loosing as much money if they sublet it.