CHS Pics | Africatown art project shows ‘what’s possible’ in the Central District

The Central District’s Midtown Center got a new paint job over the weekend as hundreds of volunteers came together, brushes and rollers in hand, to paint a massive mural to demonstrate what the neighborhood could look like before the property is redeveloped in 2019.

“What we’re doing is trying to make a statement in the last few months of this property, to talk about history and the potential future of the neighborhood,” said Sara Zewde, a past Africatown board member. “The future redevelopment retail should incubate small, black-owned businesses from this neighborhood and we’re going to demonstrate the potential for that in this market space.”

Zewde, a landscape designer, was involved in the design ciphers that helped the many ideas of community members to coalesce into one, coherent plan. The result was the Midtown Center’s activation project, which includes an ornate mural that spans the walls of the existing commercial building and the adjacent parking lot, along with an outdoor marketplace and “living room” meant to foster a public space for community events and gatherings.

The Lake Union Partners development set to reshape the block moves forward with what could possibly be its final design review meeting next week. The Africatown Plaza project will neighbor the Lake Union Partners market-rate housing and commercial redevelopment.

Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing will develop a portion of the block with “120-135 affordable apartment homes, affordable to individuals with income as low as $26,880 – or 40% AMI” and about 3,000 square feet of retail. The developers say roughly 50% of the housing on the full-block will be affordable to people earning between 40-85% of area median income.

The Africatown-Capitol Hill Housing project will undergo a separate design review process expected to begin later this year.

Though the space and art created this weekend is temporary and the Midtown Center strip mall will be gone after redevelopment, Zewde said the point of the work is to make a statement.

“We want to talk about the future, how this should be an open space,” Zewde said. “The whole point of this project is to say: here’s what’s possible.”


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