An effort to save an empty but historically significant 1960s bank near the intersection of 23rd and Union got its first round of approval for landmark status last week. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted late Wednesday afternoon to accept the nomination of the former Liberty Bank building, the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest.
The building will have to win another round of approval from the board to be preserved as an historical city landmark. The utilitarian building, which has sat empty and fenced off since KeyBank left in September, is planned to be razed for an affordable housing project. Capitol Hill Housing has been in negotiations with KeyBank to buy the building and erect a mixed-use development on the site.
Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the landmarks petition for the bank. He said his fight to preserve the bank ran deeper than just saving a building.
“Our children are not on the street shooting eachother because they dont have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the Central Area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.”
A community post on the Central District News site praised the board’s vote:
Members of Seattle’s Africatown attended the meeting to continue to advocate and preserve the cultural and historic fabric of the african american central district community, now known as ‘Africatown”.
Historic preservation, economy success, education, and cultural identity all make a substantial contribution to Seattle’s Africatown community.
The success of the nomination was the right thing to do.
It was the only thing to do.