Lake Union Partners representatives were on hand at Midtown Center on Wednesday to gather additional community feedback about how the superblock redevelopment can feel more inviting and representative of the Central District.
The massing of the seven-story, 437,000-square-foot mixed-use development hasn’t changed since a July 18 East Design Review Board meeting, but LUP is taking direction from the board to better incorporate the desires of the community into an updated design. LUP and lead architecture firm Weinstein A+U will be back before the EDRB for another Early Design Guidance meeting 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19.
“It’s more patterns and colors, for sure,” said LUP principal Patrick Foley of the Oct. 24 community design open house. “We’re trying to get a sense for what people see and what they like in the design.”
Another community open house is being held 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, also at Carpapapa at Midtown Center, 1110 23rd Ave.
Following the EDRB meeting, the DLR Group was brought on to work with LUP and the Africatown Plaza LLLP, a shared entity of Africatown Community Land Trust and Capitol Hill Housing developing 20 percent of the superblock on the south end, to engage the community and provide a vision for the project that reflects its desires.
“What I understand is what the early process, up through the beginning of the year, I think there was a fair back and forth with community engagement,” said Rico Quirindongo, DLR Group lead civic design architect.
The process being carried out now is meant to determine what Midtown Block can offer residents in the community that would make them feel like they belong there and what would make them want to be there, Quirindongo said.
Thirty percent of the 429 housing units at Midtown Block will be affordable housing, while Africatown Plaza will be all affordable housing units. Design work for that part of the megablock is farther behind Midtown Block, and still needs more funding and additional consultants, Quirindongo said.
Poster boards were set up around the open house, showing what corners of the Midtown Block and pedestrian entryways leading to retail and a central square will look like, as well as diagrams on tables where community members could place comments or requests for amenities like wifi, a farmers market, bike parking and additional seating.
Central District residents living around the Midtown Block at 23rd Avenue and East Union told the EDRB they wanted the design to better reflect the neighborhood’s African diaspora. They also said members of the EDRB — mostly white architects from Capitol Hill — didn’t represent them the way a newly formed Central Area Design Review Board does.
Foley confirmed during the open house that the Central Area Design Review Board will join the EDRB in assessing the Midtown Block project during the Dec. 19 meeting.
“I just want to see they’ve responded to concerns about making the interior court open to all, and I think that’s the primary element that’s in their charge,” said Jeff Floor, who serves on the Central Area Design Review Board and Central Area Land Use Review Committee.
The central square is 16,000 square feet, and will be surrounded by retail spaces, as well as seating, landscape and an art mural on one wall, which is expected to double as a space for projecting movies. A program manager will be in charge of activating the central square, which will be open to the public 24/7, Foley said.
The design team found opportunities for additional artwork in the public realm of Midtown Block, and will put out a request for proposals for artists on Nov. 1. Artists will be selected by a panel of jurors comprised of community members, the architect, the developer, other artists and a representative of the James and Janie Washington Foundation. James Washington’s Fountain of Triumph will return to the block after construction; the James and Janie Washington Plaza will be at the corner of 24th and Union. Interested artists wanting to know more, or residents wanting to be jurors, can send an email to MidtownArtProjects@gmail.com.
A 12,000-square-foot drug store on the corner of 23rd and Union is expected to allow LUP to offer lower rates to smaller, black-owned businesses in the Midtown Block. Residents asked LUP to bring back the post office after the Midtown Center site is redeveloped, which is now happening, Foley said.
“I’m trying to help find them a temporary location, because they’re going to need to leave at the end of the year here,” he said.
Earl’s Cuts and Styles in Midtown Center is relocating to the Liberty Bank building, the first CHH/Africatown partner development, which broke ground at 24th and Union in June 2017.
Quirindongo said the feedback from the two October open houses will be assessed, and Lake Union Partners will share an update on how it was incorporated into its latest plans for Midtown Block during a community design conversation 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17. People who didn’t make the open houses can still weigh in on the project by taking a new survey here.