Central District artist’s sculpture will be part of 23rd/Union redevelopment

James Washington, Jr. (Image courtesy James & Janie Washington Foundation)

A work by an important Central District African American artist will be restored in the midst of coming redevelopment set to reshape the corner of 23rd and Union.

The James and Janie Washington Foundation, a museum and art gallery to commemorate and preserve the work of James Washington Jr, announced the planned restoration of the “Fountain of Triumph” sculpture that has called the MidTown shopping center home since the 1990s.

The sculpture will temporarily move from MidTown to the foundation’s property on 26th Avenue and Denny so the Pratt Fine Arts center can restore it. When the sculpture returns to its original location, it will be part of a major new mixed-use development that will partner a for-profit developer with affordable housing and community nonprofits including Africatown.

James Washington Jr., an African American writer and artist, created “The Fountain of Triumph” in the late 1990s. He passed away in 2000 at 90 years old. Meant to be a community meeting place and focal point for unity in an ever-changing neighborhood, the sculpture will stay true to Washington Jr.’s original intent as it gets restored and placed in Africatown.

“We’re so pleased that LUP is helping to restore and return this meaningful sculpture to its original location,” said Washington Foundation board president Reverend LaVerne Hall in the announcement of the project. “We’re thrilled it will be returning it to its former glory.”

“A symbol of this is the salmon’s return from the sea,” Washington Jr. wrote of his creation. “As the salmon starts back on its physical trend to complete the cycle where life began, so it is with Blacks of the racial trend on the American scene who have struggled like the salmon to reach his or her pinnacle of life and the free spirit again … This is the goal of the African-American women and men: To pass on to their offspring the energy in their body and recycle their physical remains in Mother Earth to be used again.”

The sculpture is part Washington Jr.’s artful legacy in the Central District. His house and studio at 1816 26th Avenue is considered a Seattle historic landmark.

“Since its first installation, the ‘Fountain of Triumph’ sculpture still brings significant meaning to the neighborhood,” said Patrick Foley of Lake Union Partners, the firm developing the property. “We’re so pleased it will return to in a prominent location on the property following the redevelopment of MidTown with Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing.  We are thankful to the Foundation for working with us to ensure its safe removal and restoration.”

LUP, which bought the MidTown property for $23.25 million, sold 20% of the block to local land conservancy nonprofit Forterra, which is serving as the interim purchaser on behalf of Africatown. Africatown has sinced partnered with local affordable housing developer Capitol Hill Housing.

LUP plans developing between 400 and 420 units, with approximately 125 affordable housing units. The affordable housing will be built as part of both the City of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption Program (MFTE). There are also plans for approximately 20,000 square feet of ground-level commercial retail and restaurant space.

Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing will develop 120 to 135 units affordable to individuals with income as low as $26,880. The building will include about 3,100 square feet of ground-level retail. Across the development, roughly 50% of the housing on the block will be affordable housing. Buildings will reach up to six stories in height.

With Lake Union Partners taking over ownership of the property, there has also been an increase in security and clean-up around the center. A spokesperson said she could not comment on any plans for new tenants in the shopping center as redevelopment approaches.

Africatown Plaza – Midtown Center Design Cipher

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4 thoughts on “Central District artist’s sculpture will be part of 23rd/Union redevelopment

  1. About 20 years ago, my son (then about 5 years old) and I were walking by the sculpture. Mr. Washington was there with a reporter/photographer doing a story about him. We paused and spoke to him while he waited to have his photo taken. A wonderful, gentle man of tremendous talent. So glad to hear about this.

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