Community Post

Goodwill Development Update – Hearing Tomorrow

It’s been a while since we talked about Goodwill in the property development sense vs. the frequent-target-of-shoplifting sense.  

Here’s a quick summary of the history for those that haven’t been following the issue:

  • Goodwill partnered with developers to take their huge property at Rainier & Dearborn and turn it into mixed-use retail with big box stores, medium-box stores, small stores, hundreds of apartments, and thousands of underground parking spaces.  In exchange, developers would construct a new building for Goodwill on the site.
  • Many community groups in the area came out against the plan due to a variety of factors, including the big-boxyness, additional congestion from traffic, and fears that it could ruin the small-business cultural environment in nearby Little Saigon.
  • The Department of Planning & Development approved the rezone in May
  • The Hearing Examiner recommended approval of the rezone in September
  • Also in September, the developers struck a deal with some of the community groups to get them on board with the project.
  • The project now awaits approval by the city council for the rezone and the vacation of public streets on the property

A key part of that last piece is that only some of the original opponents have been brought on board with the plan. To be frank some were bought off with jobs, traffic mitigation funds, and/or community development funds, and some were not. The others, including the board of Squire Park, are still opposing the project.

This past Saturday members of the Squire Park community group got an update on where things stand from Bill Bradburd, a community leader in Jackson Place and a long-time opponent of the project. His main objection is the auto-oriented nature of the project, and says that the thousands of parking spaces and vehicle-centric big-box retail will choke already congested streets such as Rainier & Jackson, plus throw all sorts of new traffic onto small neighborhood streets in the area.

He’s filed an appeal of the hearing examiner’s approval with a claim that the examiner didn’t consider all of the testimony in the case, including that from urban planning academics, economists, and air quality scientists.  

He also says that there’s a fundamental problem with the request for a rezone to NC, or Neighborhood Commercial, which is designed to provide the small-scale shopping areas for the use of a neighborhood, typically accessible to pedestrians and via local transit.  He argues that the scale of this project and its automobile-centric nature puts it up in the Commercial zoning category, which is more regional in nature, has very different rules, and is typically placed at a distance from residential neighborhoods.

I put in a call to Darryl Vange, the project developer, to get his comments on these points, but haven’t heard back yet.  I’ll update this if I do. 

Personally, I’ve gone back and forth on this project. I do make the occasional shopping trip to stock up on bulk items like toilet paper (and in fact made a trip to Costco this morning to do so). So it would be nice to have a Target on the edge of the neighborhood that would be closer than Northgate or West Seattle.  

But I do wonder if we’d be approving a project that was designed for a different era and a different kind of place than what we have here in an urban neighborhood in Seattle. Big & medium-box stores are going out of business left and right, and the uncertain future of gas prices makes an automobile-centric shopping development seem similarly dicey. And there’s a serious chance that a big project like that could stunt the growth of our existing little commercial districts here in the heart of the neighborhood.

Whether you are pro- or con- on the project, there’s a hearing about it at 9:30am tomorrow morning with the city council’s development & planning committee.  There’s no opportunity for public testimony, but interested observers may want to show their presence in the audience.

0 thoughts on “Goodwill Development Update – Hearing Tomorrow

  1. out of 23rd and Jackson area if this gets built. I have felt very non-committal about this, except knowing that I would never go there to shop. I don’t ever go to Northgate or Southcenter, anyway. The only good news in all of this discussion for me was to find out that Lowes is reinvesting in their current site and not planning to move to Dearborn, even if it gets built.

    I think a project like this would have been great for the transit station at the south end of MLK where there is a ton of land still in semi-industrial use….although the actual mix of retail and other commercial would need to be thought about further in that context.

    The really sad part of this whole thing is that Goodwill needs to be able to refurbish its facilities or else threatens to move out. I do agree that the planning on that land needs some work. But, I don’t think a huge shopping mall is at all useful at that location.

    For the record, I do a yearly excursion to Renton and a yearly excursion to Bellevue to take care of all my accumulated big purchase needs and keep my day-to-day stuff locally near home or work…which pretty much leaves out shopping at PCC.

  2. The 1st Hill/Broadway street car could connect the project with quite a chunk of the populace:

    (Scott’s Google map:

    Present streetcar plans seem to put it a couple of blocks north of the proposed big boxes. Maybe it will move closer, though running the streetcar on Dearborn might tangle it with the I5 offramps.

  3. I think that this project would benefit the neignborhood in a huge way. Its a total pain to have to drive all the way to West Seattle or we go to Factoria to hit a Target or other similar stores. Not to mention the fact that included in those small businesses would most likely be some great resturants which I believe the neighborhood could use. They have been talking about this project since I moved here two years ago and am really looking forward to the day that they actually begin building.

  4. re: “Big & medium-box stores are going out of business left and right, and the uncertain future of gas prices makes an automobile-centric shopping development seem similarly dicey.”

    Everyone, big and small, is hurting right now, but stores like Costco and Target that actually save people money will survive this recession, just as they have recessions past. Yes, they are corporations, but they provide huge value, especially to low income families. You simply can’t find cheaper food, clothes, diapers, toys, furniture, soap, toilet paper, school supplies, etc. anywhere else. The low income families of Rainier Valley deserve access to the same deals as those who can afford to drive to the suburbs.

    And I can’t think of a better way to reduce automobile usage than to relocate these stores closer to the urban center, where people, especially low income people, can access them by rail, bike, bus, foot, or a 5 minute (as opposed to 25 minute) drive.

  5. Ever since Woolworths and Chubby & Tubby went out of business, the downtown/South Seattle area has lacked the sort of stores where you can buy cheap everyday stuff: potholders, sweat socks – junk like that. (Although a Ross is going in next to the Rainier Safeway!)

    It’s silly and wasteful to have to drive to West Seattle, Factoria or Northgate to buy the flotsam and jetsam of normal life – and it’s dumb that the dinosaurs like Macys and Sears, who have big downtown stores and ample parking, can’t expand their merchandise lines in recognition that downtown isn’t just office complexes anymore. It would be great to be able to hop on a bus and go downtown to be able to buy target-type stuff, at Target-type prices – like you could fifteen years ago – but unless we have a major shift in retail marketing, it’s not going to happen. Thus we need a big box.

    I do like the idea of the streetcar. Heck, why not extend the line all the way to the Mount Baker Link station?

  6. Couldn’t agree more…not sure what on earth 23rd & Jackson has that will be replicated by a Target…nothing comes to mind. But the painful absence of a good, all-around department store like a Target really hurts the whole neighborhood. Would you rather we drive 20 miles to Northgate instead of a few blocks? That’s silly. I’m all for Seattleites getting out of our cars, but this argument doesn’t cut it!

  7. I agree that this is an outmoded development and wrong for this site. Although I don’t shop there, I am sympathetic to those who point out that it would be useful to many to have a retailer such as a Target (a larger general merchandiser) somewhere around SODO – but, while anchored by a store such as this, the current Dearborn proposal is largely made up (in the rest of its 650 000 sq ft or so) with the types of large stores that are beyond the reach of small business and will be filled by formula retail – the kind of stuff you don’t need on a regular basis, and that is already a short bus ride away from this site downtown. As for the restaurants – the ID is home to a wealth of wonderful eateries, and the sizes of the spaces in the proposed development again cater to the uninspiring, formula places usually found in this kind of mall (hey, I know many of us eat in them from time to time – but it would be wrong to say we’re underserved in the restaurant sense in the ID, so close to downtown). I would love to see this developer – who has, largely, consistently failed to respond to community input (even while claiming to do so) – out of the picture so that a developer more in keeping with the times, and with the location, could step in with a plan that does better on the liveability and housing fronts while at the same time providing space for businesses that people want or need – a complement to the neighborhood rather than a crushing blow. I also applaud those who have put in the time, effort, and due diligence on this that the city council seems unwilling to expend – what is the point of having plans like SODO, or zoning guidelines, if you’re unwilling to follow them the minute a shopping mall developer comes calling? Kudos to the neighborhoods, groups, and individuals who have shown that they care by continuing to push for better neighborhoods and amenities for all of us. And, Goodwill, get rid of this proposal – we love you, we want you – you can do better, and we’ll support you in your need for a new facility on your site!!

  8. Concern about this developer. He was involved with Westlake Mall which is not really terribly useful. And, I herd him envision this as ‘like University Village, but more downscale with housing above.’ U Village has its uses, but it is very auto based.

    Also, unless there are signed agreements, there is no guarantee of having this or that particular store. I would personally prefer that folks wanting a low cost general merchandizer consider working to get them as tenants for some of the new construction going on up and down Jackson or on the regional justice center lot. Downtown models of stores at street level, like Metropolitan Market, seem to be pretty effective. I mean rather than malls.

  9. Absolutely agree, kt. You know, current city planning mandates that no new shopping precinct (not sure if that’s the right wording) should be put in while existing zoned retail capacity is underused – and it seems that we could fit even the amount of retail proposed in this development in the underused capacity in the surrounding neighborhoods, including the new transit hubs created by light rail (which are supposed to be built up to some degree). Experts have shown that this kind of dispersed neighborhood retail development, which you also advocate, is what creates more liveable cities and walkable communities – which is, after all, what we want and need in this day and age…

  10. Commuting through this corridor daily, I am absolutely concerned about the excess traffic that will be created. However, as is noted previously, there is a need for this kind of commercial presence IN our city. I, too, make treks to Northgate or Southcenter to hit Target and others on occasion. Makes me think we should call it Centergatecenter…

    Car centric culture is so ingrained that we can make baby steps by having what we need (want!) within 1 mile instead of 15. That’s at least one giant step in the right direction.

  11. We could get the baby steps you ask for, and the shopping you want, without this regional mall wrecking your commute – a development more in tune with the area would be all that. We already have so much so close to this site (it’s one of the reasons why it’s nice to live near downtown – which is, and should be, a retail center with more stores than Northgate or Southcenter – let’s call downtown Centergatecenter…), and we could get the other things people feel they need without selling out surrounding neighborhoods, and without undermining city planning that is already well underway (and would prohibit a retail development of this scale and in this location). Baby steps does not equal a giant mall. And, whether we like it or not, when we build at this scale we need to think ahead, to a time when our car-centric culture will HAVE to change. Building near downtown as a complement to what’s already there rather than a replacement shopping destination could be part of that – our more daily needs close by, the more occasional purchases a short bus ride away (or dispersed through the neighborhoods). It makes more sense to think of this behemoth in the context of what already is, and could be, available nearby, rather than making it a stand-alone exception.

  12. “…this developer – who has, largely, consistently failed to respond to community input (even while claiming to do so)”

    Has there been any constructive, meaningful input from those who oppose this plan? Most of the input I’ve heard and read from these quarters consisted of vague statements against “car-centric”, “big box” development. Many of these complaints seemed to be based more on personal taste and attitudes than well-reasoned concern for the neighborhood or the environment.

    Developers can respond to suggestions and criticisms related to the project’s design, but there’s not much they (or anyone else) can do with blanket opposition.

    In any case, it was cool to see the neighborhood get energized over something. Perhaps next time (and there will be lots of next times), that energy will have more impact by focusing on reasonable and realistic goals.

  13. It’s all good. I’ve been waiting for this for years. I can’t stand the shopping options around here, and I’m frankly tired of people telling me how I should change my life to fit the way the think I should live. I’m not interested in the limited, unappealing retail offerings in the immediate vicinity (the CD and downtown). FINALLY, we’ll have a cost efficient retail solution close at hand, with quality brands.

    And by the way, all of the talk about when our car-centric culture will have to change is quite humorous. It’s clearly defines those who have and have not traveled outside of our fair city. First of all, we can power cars for years to come with gas– peak oil hasn’t even happened yet. Secondly, hybrids and electrics are rapidly gaining acceptance. Do you really think those less densely populated parts of America that represent 80% of our populace, but are, for better or worse, spread out across our great nation, are going to be serviced by a great maze of light rail? In your dreams! Cars, in one form or another, will always dominate the bulk of our vast country. It’s just reality– accept it and move on.

  14. Seattle Public Schools needs to take in account all of the new apartments going up in the area. This, 18th n Jackson, and the Re-vamping of Yesler Terrace…… this should be interesting in about 2 years, to see where these kids are going to go to school when all schools in the area are already over-crowded