El Centro also seeks the community’s development input

Photo by Wendi
Photo by Wendi

Update: The survey form has been updated. See below for the links to the new questionnaire. They need responses by noon on Sunday, November 29th. Thanks for sending along the new form and revised due date, Chris!

Elliott Jones, Development Assistant with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at El Centro de la Raza sent this to the mailing list today:

If you’re involved with El Centro de la Raza at all, you know that we’ve been working for a few years on finalizing plans to develop the South end of our property (directly across from the Light Rail Station along Lander St.). We are extremely excited because now that the Light Rail is up and running, it won’t be too long before we get to develop the property and make our beloved Beacon Hill even better!

Our vision for the space includes a large multi-purpose/event building, underground parking, low-income housing, an open space/plaza, as well as retail/office/business space. We are currently working with the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business to assess what kind of retail/office/business space will be best for the Beacon Hill community. And of course, in order to figure that out we need your input!

Students from the BEDC will be at Red Apple this weekend with a questionnaire they developed regarding what kind of development you, as Beacon Hill residents, would like to see on that piece of property, so valuable now that the Light Rail has moved in – small, independent stores? Chain restaurants? More grocery options? Better parking?

If you’d like to fill out the survey without taking a trip to Red Apple, you can download the survey in Microsoft Word format from El Centro download the revised survey in Microsoft Word format here.

Because not everyone has the capability of running Microsoft Word, we have made an HTML version and Google Docs version available if you find working with those formats in your web browser easier. (I hope this does not cause a hardship for the survey talliers.) These links have been updated to reflect the new survey above. — Ed.

Please email your completed surveys to Ming Huang, President of the Asian Business Student Association, at huangmingf@yahoo.com.

Ms. Huang and her colleagues will compile them and send the results to El Centro anonymously. Mr. Jones emphasized that they are committed to developing the El Centro property in the community’s best interest.

If you have any questions, you can contact Elliott Jones at (206) 957-4652.

24 thoughts on “El Centro also seeks the community’s development input”

  1. So, what we read here is that El Centro De La Raza (which means “the Race,” notwithstanding their transparent, half-assed story that they are the only Mexicans to use the term “la Raza” in some “cosmic” sense that includes all humanity) now gets to cash in on the land they STOLE from the community, land on which once stood a historic building they BURNED TO THE GROUND in an act of ARSON to avoid a suit from conservation groups. Apparently, the millions they get from taxpayers and local corporations annually to fund their racial-nationalist “reconquista” of “Aztlan” isn’t enough. They now want more millions, and, on top of that, taxpayer-funded housing for even more burglars from south of the border (from the names of burglars caught on BH recently, you can rest better knowing that a portion of the profits from your flat-screen iMac that disappeared from your office was remitted to a family in Mexico for whose poverty you are congenitally to blame anyway).

    I’d like to see the city reclaim its stolen property, and the property sold to a Whole Foods Market or at least a grocery store that doesn’t charge $8.99 for a half gallon of soy milk.

  2. I love the new use of the blog for these kind of discussions. Being a parent of a young child, I hope that the new El Centro development will have nice public amenities outside like child play area that is open to the public, green space, good pedestrian access from different entry points and interesting outdoor art, landscaping, (water feature?) and those kind of things that invite people to hang out in public space. I am not much of a shopper so I can’t speak to the retail thing. I buy less and less each year. More and more I am just looking for time outdoors that is high quality whether in the urban environment, in a plaza setting, or park, or out in the nature beyond. If non-commercial activities can be supported that would be my vote, but I know that development requires serious financial commitment which has to paid back. I wish we had better data on the actual spending power and microeconomics of our neighborhood. It is one thing to say that I want a new restaurant for example, but do I eat out enough to support one? I don’t really know.

    Keep on blogin!

  3. Regarding Hilde’s comment, just a reminder:

    Comments posted on the blog are the commenters’ own opinions and do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of the blog’s editors and contributors.

  4. I’m glad to see that they are reaching out to the community for input on their development plans. However their questionnaire is very focused on business development without any discussion of the general public qualities of how their property will be built out. Where when and how do we get to comment on that?

    There are lot’s of businesses I would love to see on the hill. But more importantly this development will forever define the quality and characteristics of ‘downtown’ Beacon Hill. I hope that it has a very strong public presence and public access.

    I’m happy that they are reaching out to the community with regards to business development, but I hope that they have an even stronger outreach with regards to the design elements of their site. I don’t think that I am the only Beacon Hiller that has lot’s of good will and good ideas that I would like to share with them concerning their development.

  5. What building burned down on that site? I always assumed it was the play field for the school.

  6. Inquiring Minds…I would take anything that Hilde said with a grain of salt. El Centro’s name for example if literally translated by non-bilinguals without word context, it incorrectly equates “the center of the race”, but I think that everyone knows that it really means something closer to ‘center of the people’.

    I’m glad that BHB has a forum where everyone can be heard but I’m sad to see such uneducated, uninformed opinions.

  7. Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that. I just wanted to know what was there, if anything. I’m a local history geek.

  8. There was a little one story building South of the main building. There was a fire there I remember. I am guessing 10 years ago maybe. It was torn down after that I think. It looked like an extra classroom, or old fashioned portable.


  9. I would like to see the City use the upzoning of the south property as leverage to push the design to include some significant open, and truly public, space usable by Beacon Hill residents. Normally, I would think that this is asking too much of a development but not in this case.

    Regarding Joel’s comment: There are city and Beacon Hill specific design review guidelines that are available for us to reference during the design review process if the development meets the minimum requirements. My guess is that the scale of the El Centro development will warrant this process and it won’t be exempt from design review. I wonder what the quality of the construction will be. El Centro states in their strategic plan that they still plan to seek government funds for renovations of the existing building, so I’m a bit confused as to how they plan to pay for development of the south property. I suspect that the design and construction quality will be on the lower end due to the limitations of the typical El Centro funding mechanisms and the idea that the residential units will be dedicated for low income residents. Hopefully El Centro follows through with their commitment to keep the community involved in the process.

  10. Hello all,

    My name is Elliott and I work at El Centro (and wrote the e-mail from which the information for this blog post was culled).

    FYI – The blogger forgot to mention that the questionnaires need to be in BY TODAY! PLEASE, if you have not filled one out, do so and send it to huangmingf@yahoo.com today!


    Regarding the first commenter:

    I haven’t worked here or lived in Seattle long enough to know about that person’s allegations. I suppose one could consider our building “stolen;” El Centro’s founders occupied it 37 years ago (it was at the time both abandoned and dilapidated) but now own it and the property, quite legally. It didn’t seem like the commenter was talking about that, though. I also don’t know about arson.

    I do know that our current building is the historic Beacon Hill schoolhouse, which we are continuing to renovate and maintain because we know its historic status is important to the community.

    Regarding the charges of racism and nationalism, I wonder why the commenter used quotation marks around “reconquista” and “Aztlan,” as though they were quoting our mission statement. I also wonder if they have an examples of this type of behavior. In lieu of examples, we can look at El Centro’s actual mission statement, which says this:

    “As an organization grounded in the Latino community, our mission is to build unity across all racial and economic sectors, to organize, empower, and defend our most vulnerable and marginalized populations and to bring justice, dignity, equality, and freedom to all the peoples of the world.”

    I think that’s hardly racist, considering it says “unity across all racial and economic sectors,” or nationalist, considering it says “all the peoples of the world.” I think that the mission jives with the non-literal, non-direct (read: accurate) translation of the name of our organization.

    The commenter also neglected to mention whether they are against low-income housing in general, or only when it is given to Latinos. Maybe if they clarify I can address that point.

    As a final note, I think it’s interesting to note that the commenter held up Whole Foods as an example of a conveniently-priced soy milk dispensary. If I get soy milk, it’s usually from Red Apple, and usually for less than $5.00. But more importantly – a Whole Foods on Beacon Hill? I can’t afford to shop there, and I feel as though I’m wealthy compared to many of my neighbors. I think it’s interesting to think about when people who can afford to buy soy milk, at whatever price, complain that too much of their tax money is going to help poor people.

    Anyway, I gave that comment way too much of my time. I apologize. As I’m sure you understand, we’ve been getting a lot of vitriol recently (immigration’s a hot issue). Had to get some stuff off my chest.



    A couple commenters mentioned abundant public space – this is a major part of what El Centro is going to do with the property. I’m really excited, because I think that’s just what Beacon Hill needs. Stay tuned.

    Another couple commenters mentioned keeping the public involved – and that is another priority:

    The South end development is one of El Centro’s Capacity Building priorities for 2009-2013, and in our strategic plan for the period, pertaining to the south end development, the first two points are:

    3.1 Develop a master plan for the South End Development by the end of 2010
    3.2 Work closely with the neighborhood in developing the plan

    That’s what this questionnaire is for – and we’re going to continue seeking community input throughout the next year to make sure that whatever ends up happening with the property is to the best interest of Beacon Hill.

    Thanks for taking the time to read. If you read this today, Monday, please fill out the questionnaire and get it to Mrs. Huang by today!

    Elliott Jones

    PS) Though I work for El Centro, I am not a PR Representative for the organization and I do not represent them. The views expressed above are my own, not necessarily the organization’s. Just wanna make that clear.

  11. Thank you very much for coming by to comment, Elliott!

    There was no due date in the original message sent out to the mailing list, so it wasn’t clear there even was one. Sorry!

  12. I just received a message from Ming with a revised survey format. She indicated that they are accepting completed surveys until 12pm on this Sunday, 11/29.

  13. if they are doing underground parking – I would love for them to have an underground dog park! What a great addition to the area and it would bring lots of people to behi!

  14. Beacon Hill deserves better than to be referred to as some abbreviation like behi. As per an underground dog cave, wtf??? feces and urine rank are the only things that come to mind…there are plenty of good dog parks around.

  15. I took the survey and it seemed a bit too simple in it’s scope. Missing from the survey were questions about the potential housing elements, open space, or other elements of the project. The questionaire seems more like a marketing survey that a developer would create to optimize the revenue-generating capabilities of retail elements of the project rather than an effort to poll the neighborhood about real project issues.

    It would be good for El Centro to come forward with a conceptual design of the overall project and THEN get some opinions from the neighborhood. Inclusion of the description of the general project elements was certainly helpful, but knowing the scale of each proposed element would provide a better vision of how . For instance, why does the new development include a large multi-purpose/event building and how does that relate to the certainty of the future of the existing schoolhouse. Also, what is the scale of the housing component of the development and what will make it qualify as low-income housing (unit size, rent control, Section 8, etc). If the housing is a significant project component, does it make sense to limit the housing to low-income units or would a mixed-value development make more sense?

    Personally, I am a bit skeptical that El Centro really wants and will consider comments or opinions of average residents of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. This is based on several instances of an “us and them” additude over the years

  16. Oops, I hit the submit button too fast. I just wanted to make sure that I ended that last statement with saying that I really hope that El Centro proves me wrong on this and they work with the residents of greater Beacon Hill on real issues related to this development, not just whether a particular storefront is occupied by a yarn shop versus a toy store.

  17. @Jason,

    Sorry I didn’t put the due date in the original message. I thought for sure it was in there! But now it looks like we have more time!

    @Chris – is there a way the revised format can be distributed? If you have a digital copy, I would love to forward it to the Beacon Hill listserv. Or is it just the same survey better formatted? Should it be sent out again? E-mail it to me at donor@elcentrodelaraza.org, or post it to the listserv, if you can/think it should be redistributed.

    Also, I agree that the survey was somewhat limited. From what I understand, it was focused specifically on retail. I anticipate that more surveys will be distributed throughout the year that address the other aspects of the development – housing, parking, open space, etc., and I think that El Centro will continue to address concerns and gather support and critique at neighborhood meetings.

    In terms of coming forward with a conceptual design of the overall project, I believe (don’t quote me) that Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro, has been at many of the town calls, Beacon Hill council meetings, Neighborhood planning meetings, etc. to discuss the development and go over the plans in detail. I have to say that I was not able to attend any of these meetings, so I am not the best resource for these questions; I’ll try to help how I can.

    Here is a links that gives a little bit better of a general sense of what’s going on with development on N. Beacon Hill:


    There are lots of comments from people in the community that attended the neighborhood planning meetings. I admit it’s skimpy and doesn’t address many specific issues, but reading through the “Comments from the September Open Houses” link and some of the other links does give more info.

    The large multi-purpose/event building doesn’t have anything to do with preserving the existing schoolhouse, to the best of my knowledge. It is part of the plan based on its own value to the community, to El Centro, and to our participants, I believe.

    Chris, I wonder what you mean by “average” residents of Beacon Hill? Again, being new, I don’t know about any clashes or an “us and them” attitude, yet, but I hope that is not a part of this process.

    I do know that as an organization very interested in advocating for the rights of an oft-marginalized minority, El Centro is going to have to balance what is best for the majority, for the “average”(?) residents of Beacon Hill, with what is best for the poor and the marginalized, who are the participants in our programs and who make up a large, though sometimes less visible, part of our community (though in my opinion, in reality these two are, or should be, rarely at odds).

    Anyway, I want to make it clear again that I do not speak on behalf of El Centro de la Raza and am only expressing my personal opinion based on the knowledge I’ve gathered while working here. Also, I know there are people in the organization that are much more capable of answering some of the questions (like, Chris, your questions about how our housing plan qualifies as low-income; I have no idea) and as such I am going to forward many of these comments on to my supervisors.

    But, I think the best way to find out more about what’s going on with North Beacon Hill development is to make sure and subscribe to this blog or the listserv so that you know when community meetings are happening! Make sure you make it out to the next planning meeting for more information than the scant amount I’m able to provide.


    Elliott Jones

  18. PS) I personally think an underground dog park is a terrible idea, though I wonder whether I’m just not thinking creatively enough. I would never have imagined an underground dog park. There must be some precedent for that idea to have even been presented. Hm.

    And my girlfriend would be very interested in there being a yarn shop on Beacon Hill too!


  19. Beacon Hill history buffs may remember that in WWII, observation balloons were tethered to the hill above the reservoir. Now that the reservoir is covered and becoming park space, I propose that we revise this practice by tethering an enormous flat topped balloon there and creating the world’s first hovering dog park.

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