Touring Midtown Center with the NAIOP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

More than 80 attendees joined the NAIOP Diversity & Inclusion Committee for a tour of Midtown Square. The spring property tour is one of our biggest events of the year, and Midtown Square was the perfect choice, full of tangible tie-ins of so many DEI concepts. It’s an exceptional example of local involvement, a strong developer lead, and celebration of culture and community.

The NAIOP Diversity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee’s vision is to “build and develop a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture within the commercial real estate industry in the Puget Sound.” As a committee, we focus on ways to support those who are underrepresented, marginalized, or differ by race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, socio-economic status, family and marital status. We serve as a resource to the greater NAIOP community too by reviewing the chapter’s programming, working together to challenge systemic inequities, and hosting events and educational sessions.

While our committee garnered a lot of attention and activity two years ago, it’s unfortunately tapered. Our hope was that the property tour would be rejuvenating, helping get people interested in the events and work that we’re doing. We’re so encouraged by the turnout and are hopeful and excited about having more people join us!

Midtown Square

Midtown is a special development, a full city block in the heart of the Central District, a historically Black neighborhood. Led by Lake Union Partners, groups Yesler Collaborative, Community Roots Housing, Forterra, and Africatown Community Land Trust, are united around a community-forward vision.

The project is a standout not only because of its scale, but more so because of this emphasis on community. This emphasis is evident in the final design, as Midtown is full of generous gathering spaces and opportunities to come together. The entire development is anchored by a large, central square. The square operates as a business and cultural hub and is open to the public 24/7. It’s surrounded by carefully curated businesses and art, each chosen with intention, ensuring they uplift the community and align with the goal for the block.

Rendering Courtesy of Feature Graphics

MIDTOWN AT-A-GLANCE:

Developer: Lake Union Partners
Architect: Weinstein A+U
Contractor: W.G. Clark Construction Company
Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
Civil Engineer: KPFF
Real Estate: HAL Real Estate

Midtown is a full-block development in Seattle’s Central District. The block (at the intersection of 23rd Avenue and E. Union Street), includes mixed-income project of 430 apartments, 28,000 square feet of ground floor retail, and public gathering spaces.

The Tour

The tour was designed to be light, lively and upbeat. A local DJ provided music and the tour began outdoors. Art is a special focal point, and artists were onsite to discuss their work. As the full group gathered for the beginning of the tour, the artists addressed attendees together.

Eight artists were selected carefully by the Midtown Square Arts Advisory Panel (a group of Central District leaders) to create commissions for the block).

It was amazing to hear them talk about their pieces and experiences, and to see how each fit into the Midtown Square setting. Many of the artists were from Central District originally, and the common sentiment of “this is where we’re from, this is where we’ll stay,” united their work. As they spoke about their inspiration, it was clear that, like the Midtown project as a whole, their pieces strove to honor the past and look forward to the future with hope and excitement. (Meet the full roster of artists here!)

The group’s walking route looped around the outside of the building, then took us up to the rooftop, which is full of amenities, public gathering spaces, and incredible views. It’s a good place to appreciate the City of Seattle’s cooperation – they agreed to expedite a unique rezoning plan, which allowed the entire project to be built a floor or two higher than typical. (The rezone increased the building height from 40 feet  to 65/75 feet.) Our tour continued with a visit to a large rec room, then a residential unit, an important stop as the building is designated 30% low-income housing. At every turn, it was evident how much emphasis was placed on community and gathering space. Inside, on the roof, in the square – Midtown is a place that really enables people to come together.

Up Next for DEI

What’s next for the DEI committee? In addition to welcoming new members and meeting attendees on a rolling basis, the group’s next big effort is around the internship program. Beginning in June, the NAIOP Diversity & Inclusion College Fellowship Program welcomes students interning with NAIOP-member CRE companies. (Coughlin Porter Lundeen sends interns every year!) We’re so excited about the 2022 program, especially since it’ll be in-person!

Participating students can expect five or six lunchtime meetings (every two weeks), big-picture learning and exposure to disciplines beyond their own (architecture, law, brokerage, land use reps, commercial real estate development, engineering, contracting, etc.) and opportunities for networking and mentorship.

If you’re curious about the internship program or committee, please reach out! The committee is always welcoming new members and we’d love to have you!