KeyBank at 23rd/Union to be redeveloped as affordable housing

IMG_0040There is more change coming for 23rd and Union. The KeyBank building at the intersection is being acquired by nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing and will be redeveloped as “mixed-use and affordable housing,” according to the announcement sent out Wednesday afternoon and posted below.

The bank will continue to operate into April before operations are consolidated at other area branches, according to the announcement.

A bank has operated at the site for decades including the Liberty Bank, started in 1968 as a black-owned bank.

The plan for development comes as some of the more ambitious projects for 23rd and Union were iced by economic downturn. Residents and business owners in the area met in December to work together to help foster growth and safety at the intersection. The post office, a key component of the area, appears destined to remain at its location for the time being. Other, smaller investments have also helped keep the area active including the 2012 opening of Med Mix and the debut of The Neighbor Lady last spring. But investment also means change. The Neighbor Lady took over the space of longtime favorite Thompson’s Point of View after tax and business issues forced the restaurant’s closure.

Recent home of the Central District Flea Market

Recent home of the Central District Flea Market

Troubled by a series of violent incidents, the corner saw a fast turnaround in crime levels in recent years. Many credit SPD’s Drug Market Initiative in 2009 for playing a key role in the decline.

Though, along with crime activity, community activity of any kind hit a low period that lasted years. At one point in 2010, three of the the four corner properties were vacant.

The nonprofit Capitol Hill Housing develops and operates affordable apartment buildings across Capitol Hill and Seattle. Its most recent project — The Jefferson at 12th and Jefferson — opened this fall. The developer’s next big effort will be the 12th Ave Arts building on Capitol Hill that will transform the current East Precinct parking lot into an apartment and office building with a theater facility — and parking for SPD.

No timetable for development at 23rd and Union was included in the announcement but design and environmental review will need to come before any construction begins. We’ll try to more about timing and CHH’s plans for the property in the interim.



 Seattle – January 16, 2013 – Capitol Hill Housing has tentatively agreed to buy KeyBank’s Central District branch building and property at 2320 E. Union St., Seattle, for redevelopment as mixed-use and affordable housing.

Capitol Hill Housing, a KeyBank client since 1976, had expressed interest in the property in the past. When KeyBank recently decided to consolidate its Central District branch with its Capitol Hill office less than a mile away, it offered to sell the site to Capitol Hill Housing at a rate well below its assessed market value.

Capitol Hill Housing owns and operates nearly 1,200 affordable apartments in 44 buildings throughout the city, ranging from historic renovations to award-winning new developments. KeyBank has participated in financing six of its properties.

“Capitol Hill Housing is pleased to have the opportunity to develop affordable housing at this site and acquire the property from KeyBank at a price considerably below its market valueAs rents continue to rise in the neighborhood, the need for affordable apartments is critical,” said Christopher Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing.  “We look forward to working with the Central Area community as we move this project forward.”

KeyBank advised branch employees and clients last week of its plans to consolidate the Central District branch with its Capitol Hill branch at 321 15th Avenue East.

Despite considerable investment in the Central District branch, most recently a 2007 interior and exterior modernization, KeyBank has been unable to generate the projected return on that investment.

“We’ve decided to consolidate our business in the Capitol Hill branch, but we care about this community and want to make an investment here,” said KeyBank District Retail Leader John Roehm. “The discounted price we’ve offered Capitol Hill Housing will help them acquire the property and redevelop it into an attractive place to live and work that enhances the neighborhood. Capitol Hill Housing has been a client since 1976 and we’re confident in their ability to build something great here.”

 The branch will close on Friday, April 12, 2013. No jobs will be lost – all the employees are being transferred to other offices.

At its meeting Monday night, the Capitol Hill Housing board approved a letter of intent to purchase the property. The timeline for redeveloping the site has not yet been set.

Despite this branch consolidation, Roehm said, Washington State continues to be a priority market for KeyBank. The bank built 17 new branches and modernized 52 offices in Greater Seattle from 2009 through 2012.

29 thoughts on “KeyBank at 23rd/Union to be redeveloped as affordable housing

  1. Here’s the blurb from the Daily Journal of Commerce:

    January 16, 2013

    CHH plans housing at 23rd and Union

    Capitol Hill Housing said it has tentatively agreed to buy property at 2320 E. Union St. in Seattle for a mixed-use complex with affordable housing.

    KeyBank’s Central District branch is there today. KeyBank said it will consolidate its Central District and Capitol Hill branches, and sell the site to Capitol Hill Housing at a below-market price.

    Capitol Hill Housing owns and operates nearly 1,200 affordable apartments. KeyBank has helped finance six CHH properties.

    KeyBank told employees and clients last week that it will consolidate the branches at 321 15th Ave. E.

    The Central District branch will close Friday, April 12. All employees will be transferred to other offices.

      • Thanks. To a developer the P means they do not have to provide much parking, which helps the economics. When things get further along we will have to keep an eye on their parking plan.

      • Would that that were true. Most developers (I have worked with many and various architecture firms) prefer to build as much parking as the law allows, because it makes it easier to sell/lease units. It often takes caps on the limits to reduce the amount of automotive infrastructure they supply. Reducing dedicated parking disincentivises car ownership and helps gets us closer to our carbon reduction goals. The CD is well served by transit, and recent improvements to bike infrastructure, and the arrival of car2go are making it easier to live without a car. This is a good thing.

      • I would hope that a Cap Hill Housing project will do the least amount of parking they can get away with, to decrease the expense and help make their units more affordable. We shouldn’t expect anything near as much parking as the Key Bank property currently has – and that’s a good thing for the neighborhood.

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    • I assume they’ll have retail at the ground level. We’ll have to wait for plans.

      • The press release says that plan is for a “mixed-use” building, which means not just housing. Usually this does mean retail on the ground level (like their Jefferson building).

      • New retail space will help the corner to develop, and the low income housing will help mitigate the displacement of longtime CD residents. I’d say that’s a win-win!

  3. “long term CD Residents…” Have you ever met and talked with a long term CD resident? When people live along time in their home either the extended family move in, they sell to a son or daughter or they sell and move to warmer states. This “long term CD Residents…” guilt trip P.R. statement is a false social premise used by social service “pimps” to develop, pay themselves huge admin. funds and live in nice north of the ship canal neighborhoods while they rape the property equity of homeowners in the CD, using it as a low income plantation. Sad but true.

    • I see people are out of touch with the things going on in the CD! There are many long time residents in the neighborhood. Its amazing to me that people can regurgitate land use codes but dont know the history of the people around them. Do your research! My family has been in the CD since the 40’s and are still here despite urban renewal, land grabbing, unatainable inheritance taxes, redlining, and gentrification. And, guess what? There are others! So, now you can say that you know of at least one longtime CD resident…

      • I have been here since the mid 1970’s with my family and I am not “out of touch” just observant and honest.
        And John S…grow up!

  4. It is great news that there is more activity coming the 23rd & Union. Mixed us residences and retail is exactly what is needed. I heard a rumor that a deal was in the works for all 4 main corners but the buyer backed out. It would be exciting to have a jumpstart like that. Somebody has to do something down there, the current property owners have been all talk and no action for decades.

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  6. We must maintain the poor population within the bounds of the CD, otherwise they might escape and find better schools, a cleaner environment, and a job. If we want to serve the poor, we have to make sure they stay here and stay poor.

    Still, development is good for 23rd. I’m for it even though I see the way Eyes do.

  7. This is an interesting discussion. I think there’s kernels of truth in most of these comments, and it’s not surprising that folks have some anger about what they have experienced over the years.

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