The sign is up: 23rd/Union Post Office block could allow 65-foot buildings

IMG_0073The block southeast corner of 23rd and Union could someday be the site of one or more 65-foot buildings. Comment period is officially open on plans to rezone the property from 40 feet to 65 feet, a change that property owners hope will make it easier to find a developer who will replace the aging strip mall. 65 feet — likely six floors — is the same height as the already-approved-but-stalled project across the street.

Efforts to rezone and redevelop the property kicked into high gear in recent months with the announcement that the Post Office will be leaving. The Post Office is by far the property’s biggest tenant, and property owner Tom Bangasser is not hopeful that another business or organization will want to invest in the space, especially the sprawling 24th and Union parking lot that used to house mail delivery vehicles.

The Post Office has already moved its distribution efforts to 4th and Lander, and the PO Boxes are moving to Broadway. The whole Post Office will be gone by January.

To comment on the rezone, call (206) 684-8467 or email [email protected] (refer to Master Project #3005931).

Because the Post Office is such an anchor to the block, other businesses in the area are concerned about declining foot traffic. As the longtime property owner for the entire block, Bangasser believes it is time for large-scale changes. He has already spearheaded community outreach efforts to start the conversation about the future of the storied corner, and he said there are plans for many more such efforts in the near future (stay tuned for details).

Often, rezones like the one currently proposed are part of a specific project. In this case, there are no building designs and no developers involved. This zone change would make it easier for a prospective developer to get a 65-foot project moving. It will require approval by the City Council, and will likely not be decided until late this year or early 2014.

15 thoughts on “The sign is up: 23rd/Union Post Office block could allow 65-foot buildings

  1. Good. This is a great corner for an upzone. Good transit from three directions, and plenty of foot traffic. Let’s hope he can attract some development money.

  2. If we really want more foot traffic, let’s rezone it even higher…85′ or even 125′. More room for residents = more feet, more customers, cheaper rent

  3. Indeed. Imagine actually being a growing vibrant area rather than stagnant decaying “central district”. It’s doomed.

  4. @ Pragmatic – 85′ or 125′ feet? Are you kidding? That’s much too high for the surrounding area, its buildings, and our current residential core. Building higher structures, building beyond the approved zoning height costs more money (to make an exception in the code) and thus developers end up with higher construction costs and thus makes housing LESS affordable – to break even they have to charge more. Here’s more about that in a blog post on the Daily Journal of Commerce:

    65′ feet is plenty high in my opinion. Now let’s just try to not make it terribly ugly – unlikely, with the City’s current design “standards” for multi-family…

  5. What many of us want is the benefit of being part of the urban center and the vibrancy that comes from it. For many years Seattle resisted growth with overly restrictive “caps” on building height other than a very narrowly defined downtown. The result was Downtown Bellevue and loss of business and development to Spokane, Portland, Boise and beyond.

    We can add 100,000 people and 100,000 jobs for those people by having more little downtowns, like say Freemont, in places like Madison, CD, Magnolia, South Park. Let’s have that stuff here. Instead it is out in Redmond even North Bend.

    It makes sense and is good for most to have some well conceived urban density centers. It makes less sense to push such things out. Here we talk about carbon foot prints, mass transit, density, local jobs, walkability, but then at the same time don’t want the growth that comes with those things. What – we want better busses, trolleys, and trains, but add nothing and nobody to use them? The whole point of our transit and street upgrades is to prep for building.

    Push out building and we will have the same poor people in a neighborhood that continues it’s downhill slide.

  6. I’m with Liz. Grumbo’s analysis is…interesting…and not particularly accurate. Downtown grew and grew and grew in the ’90s, and we still had sprawl. South Lake Union is growing leaps and bounds, and there are projects aplenty all over Cap Hill and Madison and 12th. I’m confident saying someone who wanted to be in Seattle didn’t migrate to Spokane or Boise because of a lack of skyscrapers…perhaps lower cost of doing business had something to do with it.

    In any event, this is a contract rezone, and Tom’s asking for a 65′ limit, which would match the site across 23rd (the “empty lot”). It’s an entire block site, so plenty of room for apartments or condos or whatever, and more people to pack on to the #2.

    • Hi John, how is this a contract rezone? I think it is a request for a general rezone for the southeast corner. I always feel like my experience in these things is limited, and that I ask the same question sometimes twice before I know the answer. The original one on the southwest corner was a contract rezone with a design attached good for so many years and for that design. That was my understanding.

  7. How ever you choose to remember the Seattle CAP, if you even know what it was, it is a codified example of they knee jerk anti change reaction. We all talk a progressive opportunity for all story but the every single project is attacked and only those with the biggest financial backing can crush the negativist Seattlite wall. Thus you have Bezos and Gates people living well in SoOnion and while the Seedee wilts under it’s own reistance.

  8. Apartments, condos, street cafes – all would be a HUGE improvement at 23rd and Union. After a lifetime (my entire lifetime, and I’m soon to be a grandma) of the corner being a dangerous, horrible trashy place, BRAVO to anyone who wants to make it a user friendly, resident friendly, drug-dealing-and-shooting unfriendly place. Woo hoo!

  9. We wouldn’t want anyone to displace the Gangsters. Too bad that we didn’t consider Italian Mob violence to be “culture”. This might be little Italy today. What will we get for encouraging, respecting, and excusing the current gangsters. Perhaps I’ll pull up a chair and pretend I’m watching the dawn of a new hit series 20 years from now.

  10. I’m not kidding and I think that article actually helps prove my point. That article is talking about charging developers to pay extra if they build higher than current limits. I’m suggesting we raise the limits. As your article discusses, restrictions or burdens on development (like height limits and design reviews) drive up costs and restrict the market from producing the most efficient result. As the article talks about, if we want more affordable housing, we should think about enabling a more efficient market where we can. I’m not saying a market without any restrictions is an ideal one, but 65′ limits are pretty arbitrary with no real quantifiable benefit (beyond maintaining some traditional aesthetic). Raising the height limit to 85′ or higher doesn’t force anyone to build that high, it simply provides the option.
    My original post was about raising height limits to make room for more people to live in the area, but it’s equally applicable to helping improve affordability, so thanks for the article.