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January 29, 2016

In the Central District, big real estate deals moving forward along 23rd Ave

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Josh Kelety

It has been seven months since the Midtown Center in the Central District was put on the market last summer, and, as of right now, the hot piece of real estate is still for sale - though a deal is looming.

For now, both the realtors and community stakeholders are mostly mum about the status of the bidding and sale process. Jason Rosauer, vice president and partner at Kidder Matthews, the agency working on the sale, declined to comment, while co-realtor and investment sales specialist Rob Anderson told CHS that "one or two" potential buyers have been identified. "We identified a couple of very strong buyers who have a high level of interest," said Anderson. "It's just a matter of working through the process."

Further south at Jackson and 23rd, Vulcan, the Paul Allen-backed real estate investment company, is eyeing property at the intersection for development and is apparently ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. In December, CHS reported that the company had entered in an "evaluation agreement" for 6 acres on both sides of S Jackson. Next month, Vulcan is holding an open house to meet with the community about the deal:

Did you know that Vulcan Inc. purchased the Promenade on 23rd and Jackson? They would like neighbors and community members to provide input on preliminary concepts for the future of the site. Light refreshments and would love to hear from you.
RSVP to Pearl Leung at pearll@vulcan.com if you plan to attend.

OPEN HOUSE DETAILS
Date: Tuesday, February 2
Time: 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Location: Wood Technology Center, 2310 S Lane St, Seattle, WA 98144

The Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA, by the way, might be a little premature in calling the sale a done deal.

The Midtown property - a 106,000-square-foot city block located at the intersection of 23rd avenue and E Union - is also a prized piece of choice real estate as more growth and development comes to the Central District.

"There's no question that this corner, that location, from a retail standpoint, is one of the best untapped locations, maybe in the city," Anderson said. He added that the "bulk of the buying pool" has been leaning towards some sort of mixed-use, high density apartment project. "The fact that you can develop, potentially, maybe 400 units above that [ground floor retail], that's huge. Most developers look at that and say that's outstanding."

The redevelopment of the block is also one flashpoint for community anxiety regarding gentrification in the Central District, Seattle's historically African American neighborhood. The Midtown Center is and has been called home by a number of minority owned businesses, such asEarl's Cuts and Styles and Sam's Moroccan Sandwich Shop, which closed late last year. Across the street, construction on a six-story, mixed-use apartment building on the opposite street corner is currently underway.

Tom Bangasser, whose family owns the Midtown Center property, has reportedly been in regular communication with various community stakeholders such as Africatown and the Union Street Business Association regarding the site's redevelopment, and how the eventual project can help serve the interests of the African American community.

Wyking Garrett of Africatown told CHS that the dialogue is ongoing and frequent, "Almost daily," he said, noting that organizations like Hack the CD, Black Community Impact Alliance, and Catholic Housing Services are participating. Garrett also spoke highly of Bangasser's appreciation for community input on the project. "Tom is very receptive and has been an active member of moving the process forward and bringing other stakeholders to the table." Last summer, CHS reported on a community meeting where Bangasser heard input from such groups, as well as from University of Washington Architecture Students and Faculty who presented "Afrocentric" project models.

"We're still pushing for a vision that the property can be redeveloped as a heritage-rich development, that it's inclusive, and that the legacy and presence of the African-American community in seattle is represented," said Garrett. "I can say that the vision is alive and growing. We're very optimistic about that corner."

Garrett couldn't speak to any specific elements from stakeholders that Bangasser has incorporated into his criteria for a sale, but did say that ideas circulating for the project include affordable commercial space and units (HALA's Inclusionary Zoning recommendation mandating residential developers to set aside rent-restricted units may help facilitate this), employing minority workers in the site's construction, as well as the building's physical design. "It doesn't have to be a box."

Neither Anderson or Rosauer would comment on the discussions.

Development will also likely require upzoning the block. Though a request from Bangasser to push the property's height limit to 65 feet from its current 40 was denied by the City Council in February of last year, the City is pushing for upzoning certain block clusters along 23rd avenue, as per the Office of Planning and Community Development (formerly the Department of Planning and Development)'s 23rd avenue action plan.

Staffers of City Council member Rob Johnson, the current chair of the council's Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Committee told CHS that they believe that legislation for the 23rd avenue upzone will come in the summer or fall of this year. With a pro-density urbanist like Johnson leading the review, the change might face fewer roadblocks than it did last year.

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