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Demolition of the Midtown Center superblock in the Central District started earlier this month. Excavation work for a new seven-story, three-building apartment and retail development expected to begin in early September.

Lake Union Partners is developing the southeast corner of 23rd and Union to include 432 apartments, with 130 units at affordable rates between 30-80 percent of area median income.

“The whole project, it’s a 25-month construction project,” said LUP principal Pat Foley.

The developer plans to make ground-floor retail spaces available to black-owned businesses at below market rate, which a 12,000-square-foot drug store anchor tenant is expected to supplement. It has been speculated for more than a year now that a Bartell Drugs will take that space.

“I think we’ll have a more definitive answer on the tenant for that space in the next month or two,” Foley said.

He said the hope is to bring in as many black-owned businesses as possible.

“We’re out working with various businesses, helping them underwrite their business plans,” Foley said.

A shortlist of potential tenants could be identified sometime this fall, according to an update on the project website (23andunion.com).

Earl’s Cuts and Styles owner Earl Lancaster was displaced by the redevelopment, and had been temporarily set up at LUP’s The Central development across the street, Foley said. Lancaster has since moved into the Liberty Bank Building at 24th and Union.

The East Union Post Office closed at Midtown Center in January, and USPS announced in June it would relocate to the former Electric Lady Bicycles space in The Central. Foley said he signed a lease with USPS for the space a few weeks ago.

It will be at least two years before leasing starts at the Midtown redevelopment, which had for a time been known as Midtown Commons.

Foley said a survey was launched and people have been sending in ideas for what to name the new development.

“So far, it seems like people are wanting it to stay Midtown something,” he said. “We’re thinking maybe Midtown Square [or] Midtown Public Square.”

The three mixed-use apartment buildings will be built around a 16,000-square-foot public plaza.

Responding to critiques by both the East and Central Area design review boards to design Midtown to reflect the neighborhood’s African-American roots, architects found eight opportunities for artistic expression, including along facades and its three pedestrian portals to the central square.

Lake Union Partners brought on Vivian Phillips to lead the development’s art program, which is being informed by a Midtown Arts Advisory Panel that began meeting in mid-July.

Phillips is a former member of the Historic Central Area Arts & Cultural District, which will be engaged in the outreach and artist selection process from start to finish.

A call to artists was issued in August, and an update on that process is expected sometime in September.