Times still tough at 23rd/Union, Part 2: Vacant lot with stalled project up for sale

In Part 1 of the series, the southeast corner of 23rd and Union loses it’s biggest tenant: the US Post Office. In Part 2, we look west across the street to a discouraging vacant lot.

When discussing 23rd and Union, it’s impossible to ignore the weed-filled, fenced-in and sometimes water-collecting vacant lot on the southwest corner. Once the site of the Coleman Building—which housed the still-talked-about Ms Helen’s Soul Food Restaurant—the storied corner has been fenced off since the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake damaged the building beyond repair.

Now, the property is up for sale as an approved and permitted project ends it’s fourth stalled year.

From the Colliers International sales materials

After many public meetings in front of the Design Review Board and the City Council, developer Jim Mueller got approval in September 2008 to build a 65-foot mixed use building with 92 units and retail space on the ground level. Less than a week later, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and the declining national lending market took a nose dive. 2203 E Union has been stalled ever since, developers citing the lack of financing as the reason.

After several stagnant years, financing for projects of similar scope started to flow on Capitol Hill and down Madison, but not for Mueller’s projects at 23rd and Union and at 22nd and Madison. Both properties, along with their building plans and permits, are up for sale.

The 2203 E Union LLC paid just over $1 million for the property in August 2006. Now, with demolition, environmental clean-up, project design and permitting completed, the property is for sale for $2.75 million.

From the Colliers International sales materials (posted in full below)

Property and stalled project at 22nd and Madison also for sale

Property and stalled project at 22nd and Madison also for sale

Mueller’s property at 22nd and Madison, across the street from Safeway, is also for sale. The site was the original second location of the Twilight Exit (a CDNews sponsor), and the name is still scrawled above the boarded-up windows four years after the bar moved to its current 25th and Cherry location.

The 2051 E Madison LLC purchased the property for $2.8 million in 2007. A 95-unit, six-story mixed-use project has been designed and permitted since 2009, but has remained stalled.

The property is for sale for $4.2 million.

Below are sales materials for both properties from Collier’s International real estate agency.

UPDATE: We received a phone call from Collier’s International requesting that we remove the full sales document we had posted. Since most of the key information in the document already appears in the reporting above, we have removed the document as a sign of good will.

30 thoughts on “Times still tough at 23rd/Union, Part 2: Vacant lot with stalled project up for sale

  1. But, uuugghhhuhughghg. Where in the world are they churning out these architects. Legoland?

    Are other cities churning out these horror’s or is it just Seattle? Can we imprison them for criminal affront to the senses?

  2. Grumbo –
    Wow, you are an architecture critic too?
    Maybe, constructive criticism would go farther than just an unspecified (and unqualified) ugh.
    What is it you don’t like? The materials? The fenestration? The flat roofs? The color? In your opinion would a false Ye Olde Charme be a better option? After all we know they don’t “build ’em like they used to”. NOT.
    Again, real specifics could help the design process. In all seriousness, what about these bother you?

  3. I am actually relieved, these projects need to get going! The big empty lots are a huge drag on our neighborhood. Hopefully someone with financing buys them soon and starts building. I don’t love the design of the madison project; it is massive and I favor a more open plan with areas for tenant gardens etc .. BUT this design is much better than the horrible project housing Safeway across the street.
    I’m sorry Jim Mueller couldn’t make these projects he worked so hard trying to realize happen and wish him the best.

  4. I’m excited about the potential new building going in here, so I hate to complain.

    BUT –

    I agree with Gumbo that new multi-residential buildings in Seattle do tend to be cookie cutter. The go to colors never vary from brick red, slate blue, and forest green. The building do tend to look like Legos stacked on top of one another and the flat roofs are a bit boring. I’m not an architectural critic, but like everyone else, I have an opinion about what is attractive or not. I’d love to see more brick, more glass, living roofs, more vibrant colors (or just less brick red and navy blue) etc., but I realize these materials are likely more costly to produce.

    Still, all of that is better than a soggy hole in the ground and I’m hoping the new building brings new residents and new vibrancy to the neighborhood.

  5. I’ll also admit those drawings aren’t super inspiring…. Maybe we’ll be lucky and Val Thomas will take over one or two of the empty lots… His projects, while perhaps not world class, award winning architecture, do tend to be a step up from the typical cookie cutter condos. (The new building at Madison and 19th is one of his). At least I think he uses better materials and better design than usual, and he seems to be getting the financing that others are lacking – his projects are going forward…

  6. I think the CD still scares investors/banks a bit .. and this seems to translate to longer plan to build times. I’m with you I would love to see more progressive, inspired design. It does feel like we either get something that looks like an overgrown cottage or a metal-sided, cube infested nod to modernism. Neither is very inspired, though I do think the Mithun designed project at 23rd/Union is much cooler than the larger project on Madison. It is a shame that just up the street the Bullit project will be the greenest building in the world and we get 4 year old design that feels dated and cookie cutter while still unbuilt

    I’m just now realizing that Mueller also owns the project across from Courtesy Tire .. where Dino’s Mkt was .. perhaps he is raising funds to get going on that by selling these 2 .. I always felt he might be over extended.

  7. It looks like grey legos. Silly pop outs are over done. Lack of street level openspace.

    Natural materials like stone, brick, or a little wood would be nice. Some classic architectural cues – arches, pillars. These buildings seem to be going for a look that evades structure. Like skin with out a body. Or a cube of fat without muscle. Like cars of the 80s. Like Leggo has taken over the educational system.

  8. I agree with everyone above regarding the asthetics of these projects. They leave a lot to be desired. Like Grumbo, I love to see buildings made with a more natural feel – brick, stone, wood. Metal cubes… not so much. Color wise, earth tones – feeding into that natural material feel. Red/yellow and metal gray? Meh.

    That said if it came down to “this or nothing” I’d rather take something I personally see as an asthetic eye sore than have nothing at all. But I do hope investers read these thoughts from the community and take them to heart when making their plans.

  9. I agree. Not only are they ugly, and look cheap, but they will not age well. Look around town – these boxes don’t age well at all. Something is better than nothing…unless it becomes a dilapidated slum in 10 years.

  10. Ohforchrissakes, here we go with the “gentrification” bullshit whine again.

  11. I wasn’t too convinced of Olive Oyl’s comment about “the CD still scares investors/banks a bit”, and then I noticed– the Madison location is permitted for 95 units and the land is priced at $4.2 million. The Union St. project is permitted for 92 units (about the same size) and it’s priced at $2.75 million. I guess that lays it right out, don’t it?

    Of course, OTOH, neither is selling, is it?

  12. I’ll take the leggoland brutual cubist facsist boxes (to paraphrase jellyfish guy) over the stinking holes that exist in this hood. But still, how do these guys become architects with no talent. I think it is the regimented K-16 system we have. Systems, systems, systems. No creativity. I here it said train a teacher to teach and they can teach anything. Bull. Find some people who have some talent and figure out how to get them to teach. Not blaming teachers specifically. Just an example of the bad logic we have that values methodology over human spirit. We get crushingly dull minds and idiotic leggo boxes. It’s horrbile. Like the aliminume 50-60 ish crud.

  13. Agreed…I would take ugly buildings any day over empty fenced lots. Perhaps the complainers should think about that when they toss out their negativity.
    5 years ago a small group of people fought and fought and fought Mueller and Mithun. Because of that, it took years to get the project approved. What would have happened if the complainers had dialed it back? Meuller would have been able to build before the economy tanked and we wouldn’t be dealing with years of a fenced off grass filled corner.

  14. This discussion could get warped by a less than clear recollection of the facts. Actually, the rezone requested by Mueller for the 23rd/Union site was approved with quite a bit of support from the community and very little real opposition. What is it that you are referring to when you blame complainers for delay?

  15. I am ashamed to admit, that for the 1st time, I agree with ol’Grumbo here. It looks like something my 14yr old did for a art project. There has to be better options than that!

  16. I sat in design review meetings where not everybody was on board with the plans. A vocal few were fighting the height variance, where the garage entrance would be, etc. The process was slow and laborious. If there wasn’t the fight perhaps the building would have built by Mueller and there would have been progress for this corner.

    Granted this is the only design review meetings I have ever attended, so I can’t speak from much experience. It seems like a few grumblers slowed it down and now we have a hole instead of a building.

  17. When finally it is developed it will be very valuable. It is valuable now. The variance was good only for a certain number of years. However, there would probably be very little to no opposition to another one. As for the opposition to the first, there really was not any. There were a few who wanted tweaking to the design. They mainly improved it for all. I was one who advocated that the developer could offer up a little more public benefit. I can guarantee that if they wanted to or were able to develop it, nothing said would have been a stumbling block. While the community will be pleased when this finally happens, the developers will not be looking at this as a charitable project. Advocate for good design.

  18. I don’t often comment but read these comments a lot. Never thought I’d do it, but I agree with Grumbo. These designs are just plain boring, ugly, cookie cutter, uninspiring….and virtually identical to every other “mixed use” development in the city. Have you been to Ballard lately? Every neighborhood in Seattle is starting to look identical….not ok. Was hoping that “our” neighborhood might come up with something awesome – or at least different. sigh.

  19. I sat in on the 23rd and Union design review meetings (and have sat in on other projects too) and I think for 23rd and Union, Jim Mueller really responded to the thoughts and opinions of the community member who participated. That said he was never going to put forward the mock vintage ye olde town square look that so many commenters here seem to be suggesting they want.
    I’d love it if the CD had tons of amazing building that merely needed to be updated/renovated but fact is we don’t. But when we try to recreate bungalows as 4 story mixed use residential we get something that looks fake and suburban. I think the Mithun project slated for 23rd/Union is nice, not great .. the project slated for Madison is a bit so-so but leaps and bounds better than the hideous Safeway project.
    I think it is easy to grumble about design, it actually takes a bit of effort to attend meetings and comment on design … maybe affect change instead of griping about it here?

  20. Interesting bunch of mumbo jumbo, but, I didn’t get the relavence to 23rd and Union, other than probability of racial similarity.

  21. So I’m new to the CD, and I’d like to know if we have any kind of a representative group, like a neighborhood association, district coalition, etc. I see a neighborhood that is poised to change dramatically, and from what I’ve seen elsewhere, the more the community is involved in the process, the more likely it is that it can shape those changes for positive ends. the I’d like to participate in the land use process, and I’m curious if the district has some kind of body that meets regularly to discuss these issues and hopefully provide some kind of input in the city’s process. Who should I contact to get involved?

  22. Interesting links on Omari’s website. 9/11 & The Jews. Now we’re behind 9/11 attacks. Lovely. “New World Order” pulling the strings behind global terrorism. I just lost all respect for Umoja.

  23. There are number of folks who network regarding Land Use in Seattle. In the absence of Neighborhood Planning updates for the Central Area, we are both working from the existing Neighborhood Plan http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/npi/ and via our community councils which participate in the District Council which in turn has representation on the City Neighborhood Council.

    Another body of community councils that educate and respond to Land Use amendments to the Seattle Municipal Code is the Seattle Community Council Federation. It meets the 4th Tuesday of each month at the Central Area Senior Center. See for contact information to be added to the email list: http://seattlefederation.blogspot.com/

    Current planning relevant to the Central Area includes Comprehensive Plan Amendments and Yesler Terrace. There is upcoming planning activity for the east link light rail Station Area near I-90.



    Much of the conversation on this thread is a discussion of the Design Review process, something worth checking out. http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/UrbanDesign/default.asp

    The 12th Avenue Stewardship continues to meet regularly for those who live in that area.

    Hope this allows you to select an area to participate that interests you!

  24. City Council will be considering for a vote Monday Council Bill (CB) 117430 which amends a number of sections of the Seattle Municipal Code. This bill has also been called ‘Regulatory Reform’.

    One thing included is to allow exclusively residential uses to be on the ground floor of Neighborhood Commercial zones, except for areas specifically defined or mapped out as excluded from this provision. Concretely, this would mean the code would allow a residential building with no commercial store fronts at street level on that property at 23rd and Union.

    The impact is that ‘chopping out’ stretches of street front from commercial use threatens the whole of a commercial area. The rationale might be that it makes sense in some areas, and it certainly means a developer can turn over a building faster, but a city wide lifting of the requirement means there is no way to deal with neighborhood specific development needs. Worse, the change would not require — in case it makes sense to initially have residential use — that the first floor is of commercial height. This would leave us stuck with what is built with residential use for however long the building stands.

    If you are concerned about this, email each city council member individually before Monday. Their email addresses can be found at: http://www.seattle.gov/council/ by clicking on each individual council member’s picture.

    From the public notice: “Written comments on CB 117430 may be submitted at any time up until the final Council vote on the legislation. However, the Council would prefer to receive written comments by 12:00 p.m. on July 16, 2012, in order to allow for review by Councilmembers prior to the final vote. The Full Council will discuss and vote on CB 117430 no earlier than July 16, 2012.”

    A full copy of the legislation:

  25. Thanks KT. I agree with your points. It is tough to lease out the commercial space today, but, would love to have the avaialbilty in the future.

  26. @KT I don’t think the new proposed zoning would effect 23rd and Union because of the existing pedestrian overlay. The Mueller property wouldn’t be effected in particular because the contract rezone was specific to his approved MUP, which included retail at street level.

  27. Pingback: KeyBank at 23rd/Union to be redeveloped as affordable housing | Central District News