Jackson neighbors kick off renewed effort to support local busineses and culture

Neighbors of 23rd and Jackson packed the meeting room at Douglass-Truth Library Wednesday to open a renewed discussion about the future of the corner and its aging, never-fully-realized shopping center.

For the most part, the meeting—organized by the Colman Neighborhood Association and the new Jackson Commons group—centered around the points most neighbors can agree on. We love our locally-owned businesses and need to support them, we want more activity on Jackson Street, and we love the music they play at Red Apple. Chief among those points of agreement: No Wal-Mart, no way.

It’s not clear how the Wal-Mart rumors started. Weingarten, the Houston-based company that purchased Promenade 23 in 2011, says they have no plans to build a Wal-Mart on the property. Lance Sherwood, Weingarten’s Senior Development Manager for the Western Region, cancelled some other appointments to attend Wednesday’s meeting and briefed the crowd on the company’s history, which got its start as a grocery store. “Grocery anchor centers” are their typical developments, he said. He also reiterated that they have no plans yet.

“We want to engage with our community when we have a design,” he said. “When we have a design, you will be the first to know.”

But just the utterance of the W-word was enough to kick people into action. UFCW21, the union representing the workers at Red Apple, showed up with a strong anti-Wal-Mart message. Elene Perez, the union rep, laid out three points that she said the union and neighbors of the project should stand behind:

1: No Wal-Mart.
2: A diverse representation of community leaders in the CD should have an ongoing role in the development decisions.
3: Workers and small local businesses already working or operating at Promenade 23 need some guarantee that they will have an opportunity in the new development.

Jimmy Sumler’s Promenade 23 vision from 1970 that was never realized.

George Staggers of CADA added another point to the list: A long-term lease for the Red Apple.

Lenny Rose, owner of Red Apple, said they want to stay.

“I’ve been here all my life, and I consider it my neighborhood,” said Rose. “We are committed to being here.”

Carl de Simas of the Jackson Street Corridor Association presented about his organization’s work to create a Business Improvement Area on Jackson. Basically, the BIA would assess funds from property owners and put it into a pool that would be used to make investments in the corridor, like clean-ups, banners and community events.

One meeting attendee pointed out that the BIA funds in other neighborhoods have also been used to hire extra police, which would likely be controversial. The BIA members would decide what to do with the funding if it goes through, but there are still some significant hurdles. Currently, 40 percent of property owners in the area have signed onto the plan, but that is not enough to put the proposal in front of the City Council. Weingarten has not yet signed on, de Simas said.

The big question of the meeting was: What power do neighbors have to influence the future of Jackson?

Lyle Bicknell from DPD gave a presentation about the Design Review Board’s process. When a project is proposed, it will go to the Board for approval. While the Board’s purview is primarily architectural (they can’t do much about concerns of gentrification several meeting attendees voiced), he said the more unified the community can be in their desires, the more effective it will be in influencing the process.

“If the community can speak with, maybe not one voice, but with one direction, that can have a powerful impact,” he said. “This neighborhood has a leg up because you’re and you’re talking already.”

Obviously, the meeting did not solve the problem of gentrification.

“Sometimes, the things that make an area attractive and vibrant are the first things to get priced out,” said Bicknell. This concern was supported by several current business owners at Promenade 23 who feared they would not be able to afford a spot in a new development.

But unlike so many conversations about gentrification that happen in the neighborhood, the prospect of an out-of-state developer making decisions at the corner seemed to be a uniting force among neighbors. And Jackson Commons leader Knox Gardner insisted on focusing energy toward things we can do to have a positive and proactive community effect. 

Wyking Garrett suggested that the annual Umojafest parade and festival in Judkins Park, of which he is a key organizer, is a great opportunity to support and celebrate community culture and engage more neighbors. This year’s festival is August 3-5 with the parade on the 4th.

Gardner said Jackson Commons has plans for some upcoming community events to support and highlight existing businesses. They are planning an upcoming dinner in the Promenade 23 parking lot featuring food by East Africa Imports, a Promenade 23 business. He said there will also be another “pop-up cafe” Thursday afternoon at an undisclosed location (to be announced on the Jackson Commons Facebook page).

One man talked about a trip he took to Montreal recently and how impressed he was with the success of activists there to leverage direct action, such as protests and occupations, to create community projects and get laws changed. He also suggested that community members could create some cooperative businesses to keep the wealth generated on the corner circulating as locally as possible.

“And, a little less radical, can we get a credit union there?” he asked, pointing out that there are only commercial banks in the close vicinity.

Leaving the meeting, people were tasked with talking to their neighbors (especially neighbors who don’t use the Internet) about Jackson and get them involved in the conversation. Anyone with project ideas are encouraged to email jacksoncommons@gmail.com or, of course, suggest it in the comments below (a great way to get connected with others interested in helping). Reach out to churches, groups and community events to keep the discussion going.

And, of course, head over to Jackson and support the businesses there.

24 thoughts on “Jackson neighbors kick off renewed effort to support local busineses and culture

  1. For me, Jackson has little to offer. I don’t frequent mini-marts. I like to shop in stores that are clean, well stocked and don’t feel the need to barricade their entrance and exit to guard against crime (Walgreen’s on Jackson). I also enjoy shopping in stores without fear of being shot at or being caught in crossfire in the parking lot and that also provide good quality products at fair prices (Red Apple, aka The Crapple on Jackson). I can buy a cheaper gallon of organic milk at Whole Foods or Safeway.
    I’d be happy if Weingarten’s razed the entire area and started from scratch. Add a few more police patrols and security guards, too.

  2. The old drawing looks interesting. Looks like you could fit a Theater in there. Something like that would be great. I don’t so much care what the Anchor is, so long as there is some opportunity for ecclectic local stuff. But just having a center to draw to will possitively promote the opportunities near by. I’ll back just about what ever my communist neighbors suggest.

    Note on the article: “Obviously, the meeting did not solve the problem of gentrification.” That is a faily biased statement. Assuming that Gentrification is a Problem. It is a reality. There are possibly (probably in my opinion) more possitive impacts than negative. Negative impacts can be mitigated it the issue is address in a fair and open way. Calling it a problem is a trigger for conflict. It would be best to separate that conflict from our efforts to possitively impact possible urban renewal of 23rd and Jackson.

    I’m sure somebody will put up a statue of Jimmy to passify us all.

  3. I think you are confusing the definition of “gentrification.” A lot of the arguing happens due to people not all holding the same definition.

    Gentrification ≠ Investment. Gentrification (among other things) describes a process in which the unique aspects of the culture that makes an area appealing are priced out and replaced with more of whatever the dominant culture of the city is (plopping Ballard condos on top of Jackson Street is an extreme example).

    Other than those awful skybridges (the city actively discourages them now, but they were popular at that time), the drawings seem like plans for a successful commercial center. The question is: Why were banks not willing to lend money for a project like that in the CD back then? It’s always dangerous to play “what if” with history, but what if that center were built and black business owners had a vibrant place to start a business? There’s no way to say, but it’s not right to suggest that whiteness is required for that money to start flowing.

    So, history aside, we find ourselves here. Instead of arguing about whether gentrification is bad or good, we need to start talking about what we can do about it. People fighting gentrification often seem to get pushed into the position of fighting investment, which is not good for the neighborhood. People arguing for gentrification are essentially saying, “move away” to many neighbors, which obviously creates tension and anger. We need to find a better way to talk about what we all actually want to see happen.

  4. I wish people would use the real definition of gentrification and quit reading their own biases into the word. From free Websters: ” the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents”

  5. I remember when the NE corner of 23rd and Jackson held a grass lot full of drug debris and garbage. The neighbors wanted soooo badly for Starbucks to come. That was back when Judkins Rejected was big (don’t know if that splinter community council still exists). Poor Mia Zapata’s body was found a stone’s throw from where Walgreens is. When Starbucks came, and Walgreens, and Hollywood video, it seemed like we might have a nice little mall area, and not have to drive to the hill all the time to get coffee or rent a movie. There was the black owned barber shop where my dad and grandfather got their hair cut and made fun of the barber for wearing too much cologne. Cannon House arrived which was great. The building looked nice and provided assisted living for our elders. It seemed like the corner was improving – certainly improved over a place to dump bodies, garbage, a grass block home to rats. Then just as quickly, despite a Starbucks frequented very much by locals, the rest of the little mall just seemed to go cheezy and start to die. Across the street was Thriftway, then Red Apple, but never a very good store. Who pays $4.99 for a Lean Cuisine? Nearly everything is cheaper at Safeway so again we drove out of the hood to shop.

    It would be so nice if the corner lived up to its promise and housed businesses we all want. A good store, good restaurants instead of just horrible fast food (not mentioning names here but yuck). A theater (hard, I know, in this economy and electronic age to make one work). I’d love to see a Fred Meyer where Red Apple is! Affordable groceries, clothes, garden stuff. And some green space in the mix. An outdoor fountain with seating or something. Starbucks tries with their outdoor seating but there’s so much parking lot and so little green.

    And, as Jane Jacobs pointed out in The Life and Death of Great American Cities, you have to have housing above. If you don’t have eyes on the street from residents, then when the businesses close at night, the crime moves in.

  6. As usual, Wikipedia article on gentrification is fascinating. I’d urge everyone to get a cup of coffee and read it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentrification

    And to be clear, I was referring to the colloquial use of the term (which does not always match the definition). Then again, maybe this is all the more evidence that we are not all operating under the same understanding of what the word means (which makes it really hard to debate).

  7. This bit describes what I was trying to say much better:

    “In the Brookings Institution report Dealing with Neighbourhood Change: A Primer on Gentrification and Policy Choices (2001), Maureen Kennedy and Paul Leonard say that “the term ‘gentrification’ is both imprecise and quite politically charged”, suggesting its redefinition as “the process by which higher income households displace lower income residents of a neighbourhood, changing the essential character and flavour of that neighbourhood”, so distinguishing it from the different socio-economic process of “neighbourhood (or urban) revitalization”, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.”

    So maybe we need to separate our terms. Revitalization ≠ Gentrification. We all want the CD to have equal access to city and private investment. And I believe we also all want the culture, people and businesses that make the CD a great neighborhood to stay. Maybe gentrification is inevitable with revitalization. At least this way we can discuss that (which is one small step further than where we were)

  8. What Mrs D said! Love the idea of a theater–maybe an eat-in movie theater that serves food and drinks to draw folks from other neighborhoods? I like the Red Apple but I like Whole Foods more (their extensive line of generics is very reasonably priced) and would love closer access to organics.

  9. There are no discount stores anywhere near the CD. No Target, Wall Mart etc. You have to drive to the burbs. Rich people can drive and shop wherever they want. Poor people don’t have that luxury so they have to buy over priced junk at places like Walgreen’s. We had the prospect of a Target at Goodwill site but that was torpedoed. Blocking developments like that do as much to gentrify an area as anything else. Lower income people would really have benefited. It is a luxury to buy things from cute neighborhood boutique stores and farmer’s markets but not having real discount big box retailers adds one more reason for people to move to the burbs. Gone are the days of mom and pop shops that can compete on price. It is a reality. A good big box anchor tenant brings in shoppers that can patronize smaller independent shops in the vicinity.

    Personally I would love a Whole Foods but it is not exactly cheap. A Fred Meyer would serve a broader audience.

  10. @Ian, I hear what you’re saying. There is a Target downtown now, which is a bus ride away, but no, not in the neighborhood. I do agree a Fred Meyer would serve a broader population – we have to drive to Ballard for one of those. That said, I’d still love a Whole Foods. Closest one is at Westlake & Denny.

    @Helene, we have an eat in movie theater in the CD – Central Cinema! And it has definitely livened up and improved the E Union Street corridor between 19th & 23rd.

  11. Fred Meyer does a great job. Whole Paycheck? Please no. Sure I love to eat $20 dollar hot dogs, but our wives will run us into the poor house if they put in a Whole Paycheck. It could not survive here anyway. Fred Meyer is a perfect fit.

    Or what ever. Just less ugly. Starbucks is the only thing I like there. But, I only want to go to Starbucks at 0500 or earlier for a road trip, they don’t open till 5:30, so I hit the road and stop in CleElum, Marysville, or Olympia depending on the trip.

    When I have time (almost everyday) Broadcast Coffee is the best in the area.

  12. @Grumbo – Ha! Whole Paycheck, I know. My husband is the chef in the house though and he loves it so who am I to argue? But I know it’s not a realistic store for everyone, I was just admitting that yeah, it sounds nice. A Fred Meyer with both groceries and department store shopping would be a nice addition. We were in the Ballard area the other day and stopped at the Fred Meyer there. The wine and local beer section put our local Safeway’s to shame! We were wishing for something like that closer to home. As it is now we go to Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe’s and Madison Market, depending on what it is we need in the neighborhood, and if we’re out and about sometimes we stop at Whole Foods. We’ve noticed if you get their store brand, 365, it’s comparable to other stores’ organic options.

  13. Yeah, I didn’t mean to be sexist by the way. I cooks a bit myself. Just that my partner has a taste for the good stuff.

    I try to shop daily or for two days when I am on duty. I had a girlfriend that worked at Costco, Internally they call it the $300 dollar store. Whole Paycheck is the $200 store, but you only get two small bags vs an SUV full at COSTCO.

    I try to get out of the QFC for $50 bucks with small steaks, a fish, a loaf of bread and a bag o veggies. I skip the organic as it is better to get more vegies than worry about one ppb of pesticide.

  14. I think Whole Foods gets a bad rap. If you haven’t shopped there lately, I don’t think you should dis it. I find better prices than at QFC or Safeway on lots of things – I can usually get 4+ bags for $200 easily. They have good specials, too. The produce can’t be beat for quality and selection.
    I agree about Fred Meyer as well. Would be nice not to have to drive so far to get what we need at decent prices. The downtown Target hasn’t opened yet but I’m looking forward to that day.

  15. This conversation seams to have digressed into stuff I like to buy and were I like to buy my stuff. And the definition of the word gentrification . Who gives a crap not me If this is how you define the world You live in I would seriously suggest building a park.

  16. @jim -It is hard to have a discussion when different people are using the same word but using it with different definitions. It is sort of a “logic” thing but I doubt you give a “crap.”

  17. Well “Jim”, there happens to be several parks nearby. There seems to be a reasonable amount of park space. Adding more in that particular spot in not interesting to any real people and it’s just a terrible idea.

    The concept is for a commercial space or perhaps a mixed use residential commercial. We all want to support some commercial space that we can enjoy and perhaps be employed or own a business at the location. That’s how the world works everywhere you go. People work, produce, sell, buy, enjoy the market place, select activities and things they like.

    What planet are you from?

  18. The idea of having a space where people can gather, though, is a good one. I doubt Weingarten is going to make a large charitable land contribution to build a park, but they could maybe be convinced to have some good public plaza space…

  19. Whole Foods? Gimme a break. I realize that those who buy organic (and are thus able to pay a freakin fortune for their food) think Whole Foods has some sort of decent price range, but for those of us who do not and cannot afford to buy Organic, Whole Foods’ prices are INSANE. My teens can eat $200 worth of Whole Foods merchandise before they leave the store. Fred Meyer, please! Clothes, food, toiletries, home items, etc. at a decent price!

  20. We love Red Apple – the cashiers always smile and know us, the food is decent and the prices are reasonable. We walk there anytime we need anything. Whole Foods? Fred Meyer? QFC? Really? We go to those places at times but would HATE HATE HATE to lose the familiarity of the people at Red Apple for some 17 yr old douche collecting a paycheck. Talk all you want about “newer” markets but at least Red Apple has some character – can’t say that for those fugly big, box chains. No thanks.

  21. I have to say that I thihnk it’s disgraceful that Weingarten’s hasn’t supported the formation of a BIA in the area. BIA’s can do so much more than just cleaning streets and hanging flower baskets – though they do that well. BIA’s create a sense of community and pride of place in a busieness district and a communications and advocacy network for making real, substanitive change in a neighborhood.

    If the community wants change they should begin by making large players like Weingarten take some responsibility for the neighborhood they’re doing business in.

  22. My opinion of gentrifaction in the Central Area.The problem is following the civil rights all of black folks were no longer forced to live in the hoody hood hood. Now we could live wherever we wanted most of us like all the white people left for the suburbs abandoning our neighborhood and only leaving the rtrash behind. People predomitaly white with no children relized how close the CD was to downtown and the wonderful housing stock. That’s when the gentrifaction happened. Today most of the people that left the ghettoe are stuck in areas like Kent and Renton where you have to drive everywhere and most of the people of color that stayed in the Central Area were very unstable and or coming of age and now dieing off. If we would have stayed here we could have kept our voice in the community and a one of a kind commuinity in this city.