The Central Area, with its convenient proximity to Downtown and uniquely authentic character, has begun to attract the attention of potential developers. No surprise there. But one such site at 2301 E Union St, also known as the Post Office Site, has become the first major development site under the watchful eye of both developers and the community. And just like anything that’s worth caring about in the world, this site has become a topic of much debate.
Some would argue that development at this neighborhood node, whatever it may contain, is good for the neighborhood because it would provide some much needed pedestrian and commercial activity in an area that is currently dominated by a gas station, vacant lots, and parking lots. Others are more hesitant in encouraging unencumbered growth, fearful that a neighborhood which currently contains an incredibly rich history, potent ethnic & economic diversity, and an entrepreneurial (and artistic) backbone, could rapidly become an unaffordable place like Capitol Hill. And yet, here we are with the possibility of development knocking at our door. So how should the neighborhood respond?
The Central Area Land Use Review Committee (CA LURC), subcommittee to the Central Area Neighborhoods District Council (CANDC), believes there is some middle ground by which to address these two seemingly contradictory ideas. The committee’s work focuses on building participation and collaboration between residents and developers, with the express desire to shape development that is not only better for our most immediate community but also the health of a growing city. While we are NOT against redevelopment in general or the redevelopment of the Post-Office site in particular, we responded to the rezone proposal, which was put forth in isolation and lacking compelling rationale, and urged that it be denied for the following reasons:
- The rezoning of the Post Office site must be part of the broader, neighborhood-wide planning process for the 23rd Avenue Action Plan, administered by DPD, with cooperation from the Department of Neighborhoods and the Department of Transportation, which includes the intersection of 23rd & Union and the subject site. This effort includes a proposal to rezone the site, but with conditions that mitigate negative impacts and provide public benefits. The proposed rezone isolates the site from this more-inclusive, community-supported planning effort already under way.
- The rezone of the Post Office site must include conditions to mitigate negative impacts and provide public benefits associated with the more intense level of development it would allow. There is a precedent for such development conditions, set by the Mueller site across 23rd Ave at 2203 Union Street. Unfortunately, the proponents of the Post-Office site rezone incompletely and improperly reference the Mueller rezone. The Mueller rezone (which in fact included an actual building plan), included important conditions to mitigate negative impacts and provide public benefits to the immediate surroundings and greater neighborhood. The proposed rezone includes no such conditions, or any conditions of any kind.
It is on this basis that we chose to issue a letter to the Hearing Examiner urging denial of the rezone proposal that, in responding to the DPD Director’s Recommendation, took the form of a technical argument specifically suited to the structure of the Hearing Examiner’s process.
To recap, the CA LURC is NOT opposed to the rezone of the Post Office site, provided that some strategic conditions are placed upon it to ensure a measurable amount of impact mitigation and public benefit is provided to the community in exchange. In response to community input, the proponent has already adjusted their proposal to accommodate the NC2 designation in lieu of the more intensive NC3 designation, suggesting that Mr. Bangasser [owner of the Post Office site] is receptive to community concerns and aspirations. It is in that spirit that the CA LURC hopes to have an open and collaborative dialogue with Mr. Bangasser and has already extended an invitation to begin that conversation.
Amanda Bryan (Chair)
Central Area Land Use Review Committee