Finished Installation (Jean),
originally uploaded by 23rd and Union.
A group including representatives for the four property owners at the corners of 23rd and Union met Thursday morning to discuss solutions for moving development forward and activating the intersection that now stands unused at three of the four corners, Central District News has learned.
According to Will Little of Cortona Cafe who also attended, representatives from all four corner properties and the Union Street Business Group attended the meeting to talk solutions both near-term and long-term.
What can they do right away? Decorate for the holidays.
Attendees are said to have hatched a plan to string holiday lights at the 23rd and Union intersection. It’s a long way from some of the other plans also targeting the area such as Operation “Safe Union” but for an area so critical to the neighborhood’s future but also facing so many challenges, police work needs to be matched with a diverse set of solutions — including Christmas lights.
The discussion is also said to have laid the groundwork for an effort to apply for more grant money from the City of Seattle to help fund more long-lasting improvements and possibly events.
We reported in mid-November on the sudden shut-down of the gas station on the northwest corner of 23rd and Union. The Richlen family has owned the property for decades and plans to bring a new tenant on board to operate the service station, CDN reported. King County says the land is now worth about $2.2 million.
Across 23rd, the building that once housed the Philadelphia Cheese Steaks restaurant still stands and waits, after some work by owner 1400 23rd LLC, for a new business to move in. It’s been empty since this tragic January 2008 shooting. The formal ownership of the $1 million property is complicated. We waded three levels deep through Washington State records before we found anybody’s names on the paperwork but CDN has identified a man named Ian Eisenberg as the “owner” of the property in our past reporting — he also now owns the property where the nearby car wash stands.
The $1.5 million lot where the state liquor stands is owned by Mid-Town Limited owned by Thomas Bangasser. Bangasser’s family is a longtime property holder in the area, according to county records.
The fourth southwest corner is also well known. Developer Jim Mueller’s 2203 East Union LLC owns the land where development of his project has been on hold for years. Mueller bought the parcel in 2006 for just over $1 million. The county says it’s now worth about $1.7 million. It currently is fenced and empty.
we need businesses/buildings on ALL four corners that attract DIVERSE groups of people. All of the players at that”meeting” are responsible for the situation that exists .. The Philly Cheeseteak Building needs a dramatic remodel to attract a new tenant, the gas station needs to become a 21st century, clean green station, selling biofuel as well as traditional fuel … and it’s market should become something other than a stab & grab. The SE corner is a disaster and has been for the 12 years I’ve lived in the CD … and Jim Mueller needs to sell his soul to get financing to start building his project.
All of the players at that”meeting” share in the responsiblity for the situation that exists. At least they all sound like local owners. Hey owners! Imagine being neighborhood heroes! Work together!
I’ll look forward to seeing the Holiday lights on this intersection. Hope it will cheer the intersection up if only for a few weeks. It can’t be easy being a property owner at this particular corner, or trying to get and keep a business going in this area in this economy. Thanks to these business owners for whatever they do, however small it may seem, to try and make some progress.
I know for a fact that Mueller would be developing right now if he could. It isn’t so simple to get financing during a recession, especially for this location. Until all of these owners can prove that they can get really robust rents on the spaces they build nothing will happen there, that is the simple fact.
This area has so much potential it’s just sad that nothing has been done. While I realize that it’s not as easy as placing a new gas station or restaurant on that corner, with the amount of foot traffic it gets, the exposure to all the cars – it could wind up being great little area to grab a drink or some food. Thug life still persists (I think it’s overflow from the liquor store personally) but I think it could “clean up” a bit once some decent stores/restaurants go up. One can only hope.
I am not quite sure what to think about Jim Mueller. He owns several corners where the promise has not been realized. In the meantime, during the recession he has bought more property in Columbia City. These may be wise investments for his future, but for us it can seem as though our neighborhoods are simply his speculative playground.
He may be serving his investors well, and remember that is his responsibility. Residents and elected officials have a different responsibility to our neighborhood and ourselves. I am not sure what tools we can use to improve the situation. Doing something positive would at least help him maintain the value of the property although that may not be important to him at this time. We need not defend or condemn him for doing what he feels is best for his future bottom line. However, residents and other business owners can continue to advocate better use of the resource.
You know when you’re driving downtown on Pike, there’s a building below that uses its rooftop radio antennae as the “trunk” of a tree and then strings lights around it from the top to the ground? Something like that would look so cool in the empty lot this year. :O)
I don’t think Mueller is just sitting on that property as an investment. If he had the cash to build the project, he would. Just because he can afford to buy property in Columbia City doesn’t mean he can afford to build the project at 23rd/Union. To do that he needs financing that’s very hard to get these days. I have hope, however, that something will happen sooner than later, especially when I read articles in the paper about the recent increase in apartment construction activity in the city.
but if they really want to make it festive they should also hand out elf and santa costumes to the crack dealers.
hmmm .. by this logic then we have a huge Catch-22 scenario, without 4 thriving developed corners no one will get “really robust rents” … I believe what Mueller might need is tenants signed up to go into the retail on the corner. Perhaps he could adjust his business plan and sell the retail as condos? I just think all of these business owners really need to get it together, they are dragging each other down and taking us with them. It’s depressing that noting seems to be happening in any of them … the property where the liquor store stands has been a sad, poorly utilized mess for 15 years. The gas station was a wreck before the last tenants and I’m sure it will continue .. I hate to sound negative about it but someone with vision needs to come up with a plan to jumpstart something more positive than stringing some holiday lights.
Last thread I saw regarding the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich shop Ian mentioned he was negotiating with three different potential tenants and getting really close to signing a tenant that will fit well with the neighborhood. Ian – any updates?
Ironically, I believe it is Mueller that has a vision for this intersection, but that would probably entail other property owners selling to him, and that is not likely going to happen. Think about it. The “poorly utilized mess” of a shopping center you reference has been full of rent-paying tenants for years, including a post office (which I am sure pays rent on time) making it something that the owner probably doesn’t want to mess with. I am not trying to make excuses for owners of ugly strip malls, just saying that there are strong reasons why they have no incentive to change things. I believe that the best bet for a change here is to strongly support Mueller in developing something different that could spark some positive change and pedestrian activity and commerce. But like I said, I think the reasons he is sitting have everything to do with the economy and not any kind of professional laziness. If this were a corner downtown, he might be able to finance it, but being in a “transition” area makes it really really hard to get a loan. I don’t mean this in any offensive way, I just mean that a bank will look at his plan and ask, “what else like this has been built successfully around here” and there really isn’t anything new that compares except the development at 23rd and Madison and the Lorig project at 23rd and Jackson (both built in the boom), both in the vicinity but not probably not close enough to take away Mueller being the “first” to develop at 23rd and Union. I hope he is successful here and I hope neighbors can get behind him moving forward sooner rather than later.
I agree with kgdlg. I think Jim and Ian can and will both bring good things to this corner, but this economy is a real challenge. It affects both financing the projects and getting tenants (and of course both of those are interrelated). We need to do whatever we can, cosmetic or otherwise, to keep things together until business picks up.
Residents have a reason to go there just in the course of daily life. We need to create a reason for others in the area to visit. We’ve had good attendance at some events, and we need more of those (besides just clean-ups, which of course are helpful but rate pretty low on the exciting event scale). We need city officials to show up if they have agreed to do so. We need to encourage civil behavior in the area and discourage the opposite.
Supporting people with vision, such as Ian and Jim, and making incremental improvements where possible, may be all that’s possible right now, but let’s at least do that, and then quickly grab onto whatever good breaks come our way.
And I want to make a shout-out of thanks to the Community Court people who have done some good work at our corner recently.
Maybe, due to it’s proximity to that big electrical yard to the north, the gas station could also have electric car charging stations, in addition to the biofuels? Make it an alternative fuel destination!
I do, think that he is just sitting on it. If he can’t afford to improve it, he should sell it. It’s been in this state of decay since before the recession. It started with the earthquake that condemned the building. Man I miss Ms. Helen’s. We can continue to blame this corner on the recession as much as we want, but it’s been in decline long before that hit, and will stay that way till it is sold to someone that has the get up and go to improve the area.
I have a small update on that; it will run on Wednesday CDNews in a story about the Union Street Business Group and what they’re up to. Stay tuned…
If they built affordable Condos with parking, I would buy one. Instead, I had to buy in South Seattle. My agent said that Capitol Hill Condos cost $50,000 more just to have a parking spot. It sounds like a good investment to me. Just do not charge those ridiculous prices and people will buy them up fast.