Midtown Center

New Seasons Market Planned for 23rd & Union, But is it the Right Choice?

Developer Lake Union Partners recently announced that Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons Market will open a store at the northwest corner of 23rd & Union in 2019. Many local residents are upset that New Seasons was chosen without community input and despite controversy around the company’s labor practices and business ties. 

At a public meeting last October, Monisha Harrell challenged Lake Union Partners, saying that New Seasons is “exactly the opposite of what we said would benefit this community and this is what you’re trying to sell us.” Harrell had previously helped to identify community needs at 23rd and Union as a consultant for the City of Seattle.

In an interview with ARCADE magazine last year, Lake Union Partners’ Patrick Foley more or less admitted that New Seasons is not what the community wanted: “With our East Union project, the community was worried we were going to put in a high-end grocery store that the average citizen cannot afford. That’s challenging for us because we … we can’t be the ones setting the store’s prices.” A recent price comparison revealed that New Seasons is up to twice as expensive as Safeway for many products. 

Some fear that New Seasons will escalate gentrification and displacement. According to the Oregonian, New Season’s former Chief Development Officer, Jerry Chevassus said “(New Seasons) targets neighborhoods in the process of gentrification...Often, the addition of a New Seasons will push rents and home values higher, adding to that process.”

There is also concern about one of New Seasons’ investors, the Murdock Charitable Trust. Murdock has contributed millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ, anti-worker, and anti-choice organizations. New Seasons’ expansion in Seattle could ultimately send profits to the Murdock Trust and help fund extremist organizations that actively undermine our shared values.

Meanwhile, hundreds of workers across Portland have been organizing for living wages, safe staffing, a reasonable sick leave policy, and a voice on the job. Tyhler Williams has worked in New Seasons’ Central Kitchen for over 3 years and still makes the company’s minimum wage. Under the company’s sick leave policy, some workers say they feel pressured to work sick -- or risk being fired. Instead of meeting with workers to discuss their concerns, the company hired Cruz and Associates, a self-proclaimed “union avoidance firm” with a record of contracting with workers’ rights violators like the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Nonetheless, Portland New Seasons workers have continued to organize for improvements in their stores. 

Here in Seattle, over 30 community groups, electeds, and faith-based organizations have come together to form the Good Jobs Coalition. The coalition is demanding that New Seasons respect workers’ rights and work with Lake Union Partners to address the community’s concerns about gentrification and affordable food.

To learn more about the Good Jobs Coalition in the Central District, visit http://GoodJobsCoalition.com.



The City’s Design Review Board has noted an Early Design Guidance meeting for the proposed building at the Southeast corner of 23rd and Union – (The Bangasser family property known as the Midtown Center.)  Lake Union Partners plans to build a seven-story building with 435 apartments.  The developer expects that a major tenant of the ground floor retail will be a drug store. 

Plans for the south portion of the site, along E. Spring Street, a separate building by Capitol Hill Housing and Africatown, will be developed at a later date.

The EDG meeting --- a public meeting where the details of the proposed design will be reviewed and members of the public can give their input into design issues --- is scheduled for January 24, 2018 at 6:30 P.M. on the campus of Seattle University.  For exact location of meeting, and to confirm the meeting will take place on this date (meetings are occasionally postponed after initial scheduling) see: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/aboutus/news/events/DesignReview/Detail/default.aspx?id=6669

This Web site link will also links to pages having the proposed plans and design schemes.

The EDG meeting is the best opportunity for the public to let the developers and the City Design Review Board what you think is important about the design of this important place.


23rd & Union / Midtown Center Updates

The agreement to purchase and develop the 23rd and E. Union (Midtown Center) site described in this newsletter and other sources in December is not currently going forward. 

The Early Design Guidance meeting attracted a standing-room only crowd to hear a presentation for a project comprising a seven-story building to accommodate around 440 housing units and retail space including a 30,000 square-foot grocery store at the corner of 23rd and Union and a large pharmacy fronting Union just east of the grocery store.  A design including space for up to nine additional small scale retail spaces was presented.

Prior to the EDG, meeting the developer indicated in public meetings that they planned to participate in more than the usual two Design Review Board meetings because of the importance of hearing from and responding to the public.

The initial proposal had included the possibility that a portion of the site could be acquired by the community-based organization Africatown, but in mid-February, the developers Lennar Multifamily Communities and Regency Centers announced that the agreement between them and the property owners, the Bangasser family trust, had come to an end without a purchase having been finalized.

On March 3, at a community meeting called by Africatown, their spokesperson, Wyking Garrett told the public that he saw continued opportunity for Africatown to share in the ownership of the development of the site with a different purchaser.  At that meeting, a representative of Forterra, a non-profit corporation with decades of experience in complex land transactions, indicated that Forterra was prepared to “fully back” the effort spearheaded by Africatown to participate as an owner in the development of the site.

On that same day, March 3rd, on its website, Forterra further explained its position: http://Forterra.org/editorial/forterra-africatown-make-offer-23rd-union

In summary, the joint statement is that “Forterra and Africatown Community Land Trust are working together to secure a continued place for the historically-black community in Seattle’s Central District.  We hope to team in the redevelopment of Midtown Center, … and have made a proactive, pragmatic offer to purchase the property after another buyer’s offer was withdrawn.”

The statement goes on to say that redevelopment of the site “one of the last large blocks available for redevelopment in the CD, … if done right can help stem the displacement of current residents and ensure the continuity of the neighborhood’s rich African American history.”

However, The Capitol Hill Blog reported on an ongoing dispute between Africatown’s Black Dot and Bangasser’s Midtown Center Partnership as a result of the partnership’s attempts to block Black Dots continued access to their work space there. More details can be found at   http://CapitolHillSeattle.com/2017/03/black-dot-dispute-clouds-future-of...

In the meantime, the eviction of UMOJA Peace Center from in the Midtown Center block was completed despite protestors on Wednesday, March 15th, the same day that Wyking Garrett reportedly stated that the locks on the Black Dot space have been changed by the property owners.   More on this can also be found at http://CapitolHillSeattle.com/2017/03/standoff-at-24th-and-spring-in-evi....




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