23rd & Union

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.

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MIDTOWN CENTER SITE DESIGN TO BE UNVEILED

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.

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What’s Happening At 23rd And Union?

Hundreds of new homes and neighbors are coming to the 23rd and Union intersection. A partnership known as Lake Union Partners, is currently building 92 apartments and 4,000 SF of retail space at the southwest corner of 23rd and Union, and is in the later stages of the permitting process for a building at the southeast corner of 24th and Union. In November, the partnership announced it has purchased the property at the northwest corner of 23rd and Union (the site of the gas station and Cappy’s) to build approximately 150 new apartments along with new retail space.  At 24th and Union, on the former location of the historically significant African-American owned Liberty Bank, Capitol Hill Housing proposes to build a to-be-determined number of affordable apartments and will also commemorate the history of the site.

The Bangasser family, constituted as a partnership known as MidTown, the owner of the large site at the southeast corner of the intersection (the “post office” block), is seeking to sell its property to a developer.

The City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has been conducting a public process for over a year, intended to produce a renewed plan for the greater 23rd Avenue (Union to Jackson) neighborhood which will include new zoning designations.  Numerous public meetings have been held to get public input to inform the new plan.  It’s expected that the result of that work, the 23rd Avenue Action Plan, will be ready for consideration and adoption by the City Council in the first part of 2015.  (For details on the Action Plan see: http://tinyurl.com/lomv3lq)

Included among the strategies of the Action Plan are proposals for greater height limits of up to 65 feet around 23rd and Union.  The Action Plan includes language which would attempt to mitigate the impact of future taller buildings on  nearby smaller scale residences.  Also, importantly, the Action Plan includes the goals of encouraging the retention and development of small-scale locally owned retail businesses.

Approximately a year ago, MidTown sought approval from the City to rezone its property to allow 65-foot development. The Central Area Land Use Review Committee (LURC) has asked the City to deny the rezone until there is an assurance that the development proposal includes adequate measures to mitigate the transitions to the Single Family zones to the east and south, and until the Action Plan for the entire 23rd Avenue neighborhood is adopted.  It is expected that the Action Plan will include a requirement that rezones must be accompanied by identified measures to ensure the production of affordable housing. The appropriate City Council committee heard arguments by LURC and the attorney for MidTown on December 16. At the time of this writing the results are not known. For more information, see http://SquireParkSeattle.com/23&Union

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