Midtown redevelopment designs ready for vetting

East, Central Area review boards to determine fate of superblock project

Midtown redevelopment designs ready for vetting

Midtown redevelopment designs ready for vetting

The Midtown Center redevelopment will have its second recommendation meeting 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, in the Admissions and Alumni Comm Building-Stuart T Rolfe Room at Seattle University, 824 12th Ave.

The design team behind the massive Midtown Center redevelopment in the Central District will submit its latest plans for review and possible approval by the East Design Review Board on Dec. 19, following an extended community outreach campaign.

Lake Union Partners, which has developed The Central and East Union buildings on two other corners of 23rd and Union, plans to construct a seven-story mixed-use development that would spread about 430 residential units across three buildings on the Midtown superblock. About half of those are proposed at affordable housing levels for incomes between $28,000 and $60,000.

The East Design Review Board told LUP and architecture firm Weinstein A+U to come back for a second recommendation meeting after Central District residents voiced their disapproval in July, saying they didn’t see the project as reflecting the neighborhood — the African diaspora and black history — despite a number of design ciphers held in the community.

Central District residents also took issue with the site’s future being dictated by a design review board comprised of white architects and developers from Capitol Hill.

The newly formed Central Area Design Review Board, which has not had much to review since its creation, will join the EDRB in weighing in on the project during the Dec. 19 recommendation meeting.

LUP held two community open houses to gather input about making entry points into the new development more welcoming and representative of the neighborhood in late October.

The development will be anchored by a 12,000-square-foot drug store at 23rd and Union, which is expected to provide enough revenue to subsidize rents for local minority-owned businesses.

The Design Recommendation 2 packet submitted to the city states community members asked for more activation around the 23rd and Union and 24th and Union plazas, and businesses requested included bookstores, salons, a flower shop, shoe repair, a small bank, coworking spaces and a cafe. The community’s ask that the small post office return is being granted, and LUP principal Patrick Foley says a temporary space is being sought for during construction.

Significantly widening the portals into the development and its central square was deemed impossible without cutting into retail, which LUP argues would make the spaces hard to lease.

Plans are to push the building at 23rd and Union back an additional 20 feet — to 42 feet — in order to create a “Living Room” space that would also support a farmers market venue. An art installation there will replace original plans for a video wall that also wasn’t well received by the review board.

The design team found additional opportunities for art in the public realm of the Midtown development. That includes the facades along 23rd Avenue and Union Street, the entire project now proposing eight art locations over a previous three, which will replace much of the textured paneling proposed for the facades.

The corner of 24th and Union, where James Washington’s Fountain of Triumph will be relocated, will also be activated with art pieces inspired by his works, according to the design packet. The fountain will be surrounded by seating and plantings. While a number of residents wanted the fountain to be featured in the 16,000-square-foot central square, the design packet states the James & Janie Washington Foundation prefers the corner of 24th and Union.

A jury that includes community members will judge the art proposals, and selections are due to be announced in July.

For the central square, the design team added curved wooden decks with platforms and planters that are meant to provide circulation and gathering places, moveable furniture, increased plantings, kept a large mural location on the west side and made retail spaces around it more flexible in size and below-market rent.

The 24th and Washington side of the development will remain the location for an entry to about 260 below-grade commercial and residential parking spaces; this would be right next to a loading dock. The more residential side of the development is still planned to include 10 townhouses.

Africatown Plaza LLLP, a partnership between Capitol Hill Housing and the Africatown Community Land Trust, is developing the southern portion of the site to be completely affordable housing and commercial space for local small-business owners. The project remains well behind Lake Union Partners’.

Midtown Center REC 2 Packet by branax2000 on Scribd