Lake Union Partners principal Patrick Foley and Africatown president K. Wyking Garrett talk about the project during a Central Area Land Use Review Committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
Lake Union Partners principal Patrick Foley and Africatown president K. Wyking Garrett talk about the project during a Central Area Land Use Review Committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

The latest plans for MidTown Center received a warmer reception than the last prospective redevelopment did, but residents on Wednesday still don’t care for some of the changes on the way in the Central District.

At 2.4 acres, the superblock is the last site at 23rd Avenue and East Union to be redeveloped in this ongoing Seattle construction cycle.

Lake Union Partners is developing the site to include three buildings that total 420 housing units, with another mixed-use development on the south side of the site being constructed by Capitol Hill Housing and the Africatown Community Land Trust. Africatown would eventually be able to assume complete ownership.

Africatown Plaza LLLP, a partnership with Africatown and CHH, closed on the purchase of 20 percent of MidTown Center on Oct. 6. Africatown had been working with Forterra to acquire the property, and then brought in CHH for its development experience.

Africatown president K. Wyking Garrrett said during Wednesday’s Central Area Land Use Review Committee (CALURC) meeting that the organization had been trying to acquire MidTown for the past five years.

“A lot of people thought there was no chance for anything to happen,” he said.

The Capitol Hill Housing Board of Directors on Oct. 4 unanimously approved accepting a $4.5 million loan from Seattle’s Office of Housing toward purchase of the site.

Africatown is also leading the community discussion about how it can reflect and preserve the African-American heritage being pushed out of the neighborhood. Currently trailing LUP’s design, Africatown Plaza is planned to include 120-130 affordable housing units. Garrett said Wednesday there is also discussion about adding townhouses on East Spring Street for homeownership, and that is an ongoing conversation involving the Homestead Land Trust. There will be about 3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail for Africatown Plaza.

Of the 420 apartments Lake Union Partners is developing, 125 units will be at 60-80 percent of area median income. LUP principal Patrick Foley said that means about 50 percent of the development’s housing units will be affordable.

Weinstein A+U principal Ed Weinstein shared with residents on Oct. 25 how the site’s early designs are an improvement over what Lennar Multifamily Communities and retail-focused partner Regency Centers had planned earlier this year before dropping out.

“I think you are all aware that that was a full-block project that was predicated around a 30,000-square-foot grocer,” Weinstein said.

But some residents at the Oct. 25 meeting did not support plans for a 12,000-square-foot drug store at the corner of 23rd and Union, one resident saying it would add to the “blight” that is Uncle Ike’s pot shop across the street. Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg attended the meeting, but did not respond.

Foley called the inclusion of the drug store space in the project is so it can be the “economic engine” that allows for below-market rates for other tenants, which are planned to be local, mostly minority-owned businesses.

“In many ways it’s a subsidy,” Foley said.

The redevelopment will include 20,000 square feet of retail space, which will wrap around the site from 23rd Avenue to East Union, and then a small portion of 24th Avenue, with the remainder of that stretch expected to include 10 townhomes.

“They’re almost like rowhouses that are integrated into the building,” Foley said.

Weinstein said a restaurant is anticipated on East Union Street, with most retail frontage on 23rd, to complement The Central across the street.

“We’re really trying to find community-based retailers,” he said.

What developers wanted to highlight during the meeting was the Midtown Plaza (name not set in stone), which would be surrounded by retail and open to the public 24/7. It would be at the center of the development, and separate from a residential courtyard planned between Africatown Plaza and MidTown.

Some residents pushed back on a proposal for a fitness facility, which, like a drug store retailer, isn’t set in stone. Another resident wondered whether a brewpub connected to the Midtown Plaza would be a right fit for the community.

Todd Bronk with Berger Partnership asked residents to consider what kind of programming they’d like to see in the 10,000-square-foot plaza. Due to the many different uses being considered, Bronk said the space should remain flexible.

A wall to the courtyard is planned to be enhanced by a local artist and used as public backdrop that could show movies or be used for concerts, he said.

In response to concerns about 24-hour access to Midtown Plaza, Foley confirmed LUP will provide security for the property and programming for the plaza.

“We’re not going to build this site and put tenants in there, and then walk away,” he said.

The corner of 24th and East Union is planned to include additional plaza space, and be used to relocate the Fountain of Triumph that was sculpted by African-American artist James Washington, Jr.

Bronk said the sculpture — currently on 23rd Avenue — will stay, but the rocky base is a retrofit that will go away. An interactive fountain is also proposed for children to play in, but would be underground.

There are plans for about 250-260 residential parking spaces on the site, and about 30 stalls for retail.

A number of residents requested that the post office be brought back once redevelopment occurs, citing its high usage in the neighborhood.

Foley said there are no plans currently to bring the post office back. Earl Lancaster’s Earl’s Cuts & Style will return to the neighborhood, either at the Liberty Bank building that Capitol Hill Housing is developing, also in partnership with Africatown, or back at MidTown.

“He’ll have a home one way or another,” Foley said.

The designs for MidTown are still conceptual at this point, with feedback received from the Oct. 25 meeting being incorporated into a more fleshed out design that will go before the East Design Review Board either in late 2018 or early 2019.

More details about Africatown Plaza and an overall Central District community development update will be provided during a meeting 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Casey Family Program, 1123 23rd Ave.