Community Post

Residents and business owners talk about the future of the 23rd and Union area

Residents, business owners and property owners met Wednesday evening to discuss the future of 23rd and Union and the entire Union Street Business District, which stretches from Madison to Cherry and 18th to MLK. Among topics of discussion were potential changes on the southeast corner, which includes the Post Office and Midton Centre.

“There is a lot of room for growth in this area,” said Dan with the Organizational System Renewal Program of Seattle University. The student lead group is working with the Central District Association on ways to advance the community and took comments from local business owners on the best way to do it.

Though not structured how you would typically expect a community meeting, the OSR group lead the 30 or so attendees through two exercises with the meeting objective “To engage in a conversation about community values, to inform the CDA’S work going forward,” according to a marker inked placard.

The first exercise lined up the community members by length of time in the district and got them to engage with their neighbors. In the second exercise, table groups sketched down ideas of what they would like to see the CD look like in ten years. At my table sat Tom Bangasser, owner of the Post Office space and other 23rd and Union plots.

He introduced himself to everyone at the table and talked about his family’s history in the area for the past 70 years, going on to name off almost every business owner in the room and describing them. “I’d say the diversity,” said Bangasser to the second prompt about the CD’s future. Most groups had very similar themes for how they saw the community in ten years.

Community, affordable housing, diversity, a public school, public forums, and creating a walkable Central District seemed to be the most addressed topics through the exercise. Architect, Donald King—who actually designed the Casey Family Program’s building, the site of the meeting—hopes to see “a series of store fronts tied together.” A woman named Stephanie emphatically stated, “Please someone, the James Washington Fountain,” to applause. The fountain in front of the Midtown Centre by the renowned artist and CD resident has not worked in years.

The big sell for the night, status of the 23rd and Union Post Office, was talked about very little. A woman described it as, “one of the busiest in the city.” Bangasser had a similar sentiment calling it, “the anchor tenant in the neighborhood.” From 4–6, I observed the Post Office had an almost endless amount of foot traffic and rarely slowed.

Whether the post office is here to stay is up in the air. Bangasser said they’re “here for now,” but that ultimately any choice to move would have to be made by them.

The meeting solicited a lot of feedback from the community, how the feedback is going to be implemented is yet to be seen.

Dan said that the OSR and CDA are compiling feedback about how to head forward before discussing logistics. He also said that more meetings are to come and will provide ample opportunity to for community engagement.

Though the meeting was centered around data collection, the mission statement for the evening was clearly achieved, “To engage in a conversation about community values.” Earl Lancaster, owner of Earl’s Cuts and Styles said, “This involvement, I’ve never seen before.” With a good bunch of local businesses present it definitely stirred up compelling talks on community values.