Ghosts of 23rd & Jackson Past

Where have you gone, Catfish Corner? 23rd & Jackson turns its gentrified eyes to you. Central Area Development Association

Where have you gone, Catfish Corner? 23rd & Jackson turns its gentrified eyes to you.
Central Area Development Association

Gentrification is a motherfucker, indeed.

When the news broke yesterday that Vulcan Real Estate had purchased a crucial property in Seattle’s Central District on the southeast corner of 23rd Avenue and South Jackson Street for $30.9 million, disgust quickly ensued among the city’s social-justice activist community — and properly so.

That corner has long been crucial, indeed, for the CD’s historically black community. Vulcan’s latest abrupt acquisition clearly signals the current metastasis of the CD’s long-ongoing gentrification.

Among local businesses operating in the Promenade 23 shopping center that has long occupied that corner, the main one there remains the long-popular Red Apple supermarket, which long ago earned a positive community reputation for playing classic soul music on its sound system for its regular clientele, most of whom once were black.

And now Paul Allen owns Promenade 23.

Apparently, Vulcan has long planned covertly to convert Promenade 23 into a 570-unit mixed-use development. On Wednesday, Vulcan sealed the deal.

Gentrification in the CD is unfortunately nothing new. Let’s now remember the spring of 2001, when the beloved local restaurant Catfish Corner was planning on moving to the northeast corner of 23rd and Jackson, right across the street from what is now Vulcan’s latest high-profile real-estate acquisition.

Rather than Catfish Corner — a longtime black-owned business and popular community mecca — Starbucks acquired that corner instead.

Starbucks was then of course already infamous for such predatory antics: swooping in and taking over prime retail space from small, local businesses who either established the popularity of those locations or, like Catfish Corner circa 2001, should have inherited them.

Protests then inevitably ensued — including a controversial local boycott demanding that Starbucks endorse a campaign against recent police murders of black people in Seattle. The boycott quickly fizzled out — yet the justified resentment against Starbucks lingered on. Fifteen long years later, the historically black Central District is now less than 20 percent black — and the gentrification nightmare apparently continues, driven by greed and grievous historical obliviousness.

Welcome to the CD, Paul Allen. Don’t you forget about the people who built this place.