Boom The Future of 23rd and Union
posted by March 5 at 14:00 PMon
This could be a pivotal evening for the intersection of 23rd Ave and E Union St. At Seattle Central Community College, a design-review board will consider the merits of a six-story development proposed at the site of the long-gone Coleman Building.
A few years ago, the brick retail front and neighborhood anchor was demolished due to irreparable damage from the Niqually earthquake. The lot has stood vacant since, fenced and overgrown. In recent months, the pharmacy closed on the adjacent corner, and a fatal shooting on the kitty corner has left Philly Cheese Steak with shut doors and a pointed memorial.
It is urban decay in an otherwise-vibrant neighborhood. A former historic-preservation architect named Jim Mueller bought the Coleman Building parcel in 2006, and he plans to redevelop the site (no word on the future of Philly’s). JC Mueller, LLC has proposed a 65’, 91-unit apartment building with two retail spaces at the ground floor.
It looks like a good design—unlike the reprehensible housing slab at 23rd and Madison—the varying shapes of the building and approachable ground floor promote the sort of pedestrian activity that the corner desperately needs. And the upper floors provide the rental units that the housing market demands. “I believe when we’re done, the intersection won’t be sketchy,” says Mueller. “My job is to make change with as much sensitivity as possible to people already in the community.” If it comes to be, and the units are rented at reasonable rates, the development would bring hundreds of eyes to the street from the types of community members who love the Central District, help direct money to nearby businesses, and give the neighborhood hub another chance.
But there’s one catch.
Zoning on this corner only allows construction up to 40’, and some neighbors at the design-guidance meeting last summer voiced opposition to building any taller. One commenter is reported saying, “A six story building on this site is disproportionate to the neighborhood, especially the single family development.”
Mueller says, “I don’t know how I would do this at 40 feet.” In order to make back the costs of development, he says, the building requires two additional stories. That calls for the city council to rezone the land. “It’s pretty much a deal breaker.”
Mueller says members of the neighborhood, ultimately, are the ones who can convince the design-review board to recommend an upzone to the council. If that doesn’t happen, Mueller thinks he will sell the land. “In the city you will find many areas, blocks, and commercial intersections that never look healthy. There are many reasons,” he says, “one is that it’s not economical to put another use on the property the way it’s zoned.”
The design-review meeting is at 8 p.m. tonight at Seattle Central Community College, room 3211.