Another ugly incident at 23rd and Union

A protest against displacement and in support of Africatown’s efforts at 23rd and Union devolved into a fight between activists and security at an area business Saturday — and a video from an ugly exchange in the midst of the confrontation has drawn sharp rebuke.

Police were called to the intersection Saturday afternoon after activists who had been part of an anti-displacement “Mini Block Party” at Midtown Center crossed the street and challenged security seeking to keep protesters off the frequently targeted property at Uncle Ike’s, the legal pot shop that has been a regular target of those opposed to both what they say is the I-502 cannabis industry’s non-inclusive system and concerns about gentrification in the rapidly developing neighborhood.

One protester was reportedly treated for facial injuries by Seattle Fire after the fight. Police said that the groups were separated around 4 PM.

But an exchange in the aftermath of the fight recorded by Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg in which activist and recently evicted block resident Omari Garrett tells the Jewish business owner to “go back to Germany” and “let those Nazis get on you again” has outraged many and forced developers working in the neighborhood and partnering with Africatown — run by Garrett’s son K. Wyking Garrett — to try to distance themselves from the situation. Continue reading

Protest against displacement at 23rd and Union targets landowner’s Madrona home, sparks scuffle at Uncle Ike’s

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

A protest against gentrification and displacement in the Central District that followed the eviction of a longtime neighborhood activist from his 24th and Spring home showed just how personal the tumult around change can be as the Madrona home of a 23rd and Union property owner was targeted — and the owner of a controversial marijuana store momentarily lost his cool Saturday night.

Protesters Saturday night gathered at 23rd and Union outside the office space where the Black business incubator Black Dot is being booted from the teed-up-for-redevelopment Midtown Center. The protest was a planned response after the eviction of Omari Tahir-Garret from the block earlier in the week. The rally and march eventually traveled all the way to Madrona where protesters said they were targeting the home of Hugh Bangasser, head of the family partnership that owns the Midtown Center and is planning to sell the property for redevelopment.

But the sparks flew late in the night after the march returned to 23rd and Union and organizer Cliff Cawthon brought the group to the parking lot of “gentrifier” Uncle Ike’s where the I-502 pot shop was once again surrounded by a mix of protesters, Seattle Police, and Ike’s security employees. Continue reading

Black Dot dispute clouds future of Africatown ‘inclusive development’ at 23rd and Union

14570556_563197213867977_1386588592077165332_o (1)With a multimillion land deal looming in the background that could make the community group part of what it calls “inclusive development” in the Central District, Africatown says it is taking on “Trump-style real estate discrimination” over the effort to evict work space and business incubator Black Dot from the 23rd and Union shopping center.

The community organization run by K. Wyking Garrett has called for a press conference Monday afternoon at the site of Black Dot’s space inside Midtown Center complex:

Today, at 4 p.m., community leaders in support of Black Dot – a business incubator and economic development center providing technical assistance to African American-owned and operated businesses and microenterprises – will host a press conference and rally protesting the recent illegal attempts made to evict the business advocacy group from its current headquarters.

The dispute follows efforts last week for the Midtown Center Partnership, the Bangasser family company, to clear out Black Dot including changing the locks on the commercial berth being used for the work space following the end of the contract with the leaseholder in the partnership of community groups that helped start the location last year.

Police were called to help sort things out Friday but left the property owners to deal with starting a formal eviction process: Continue reading

Shopping center developer’s big deal for 23rd and Union is off the table

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-3-59-53-pmThe development plans for 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center are on hold. The Puget Sound Business Journal reported Wednesday that a member of the family that has owned the property for more than 75 years said the planned development’s financial driver Regency Centers had “fallen out of contract” — biz talk for saying the $20+ million deal likely lined up for the property has blown up.

Representatives for the Bangasser family have not responded to our inquiries about the report but a representative for the project from Lennar Multifamily Communities and Regency tells CHS the buyers are no longer under contract for the the 2.4-acre property at 23rd and Union. Continue reading

With 23rd and Union redevelopment in the works, Midtown Center looking for more businesses

The rapid change underway around 23rd and Union is shaping up to include a partnership for “inclusive development” between massive developers Lennar Multifamily Communities and Regency Centers with community group Africatown to create a full-block shopping center and housing project in the heart of the Central District. But what happens in the meantime?

The Bangasser family, longtime owner of the Midtown Center, say they have been working on improvements to make the property safer over the last couple years and soon hope to bring new tenants to the block. Margaret Delaney tells CHS they plan to post lease listings soon. The center’s kiosk is already on Craigslist. The 500-square-foot space is listed at $1,500 a month and is available for a “short term lease (1-2 years) or possible month-to-month if prefer.”

K. Wyking Garrett, CEO of Africatown, tells CHS that this is the time to invest in the present and the future at 23rd and Union.

“We need more positive development, more investment,” Garrett said. “There is a need to support and grow black-owned businesses.” Continue reading

What the Liberty Bank Building will look like

Black ownership, Black identity, Black residents — there is a lot hinging on the design plans for the six-story, mixed use Liberty Bank Building. The project, part of a wave of new development around 23rd and Union, takes what could be its final step in the design review process this week.

Last week, community members heard about the proposed design and progress on the project to fill the lot that used to be home to the Liberty Bank, the West Coast’s first black-owned bank.

Nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing is hoping the community support that has helped shaped the project thus far will be on display at Wednesday night’s design review session.

“We would be very grateful for that because your voice matters,” CHH’s Walter Zisette told community members last week before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Design review: 2320 E Union St

The building is designed to have 115 studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom apartments and four commercial spaces. Apartments will be available at 30 to 60% of the area median income, ranging in price from $434 to $1,154. Continue reading

Africatown calls for Central District to ‘rewrite the script’ for future

101816-imagine-africatown-2-ko

Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett (Image: CHS)

Black Central District residents and business owners concerned about the gentrification of their neighborhood gathered on Monday to learn what the organization Africatown is doing to preserve and develop the historically black community.

Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett told the group he didn’t see himself in Seattle’s draft 2035 comprehensive plan, so the community needs to take action to make sure black people have a future in the city.

“We need to rewrite the script,” Garrett said.

Part of rewriting that script is for the community to take ownership of different construction and development projects in the Central District. Continue reading

Black Seattle 2035: How to get involved with the Liberty Bank Building

14520369_1217202578337650_3173024166505919646_nAt 24th and Union, the project to create the Liberty Bank Building is hoped to become a template for inclusive development in Seattle with a respect for history and the empowerment of the African American community. Monday night, you can learn more about the project and other developments being planned in the Central District:

Black Seattle 2035 – Imagine Africatown Update
Monday, October 17, 6 PM – 8 PM
Washington Hall 153 14th Ave, Seattle
Learn what’s happening with development projects to preserve and develop the Black community in the CD including and find out how you can plug in. Current project updates for:
*LIberty Bank Building*
*Firestation 6*
*Midtown Center*
*YK Building*

– Opportunities for Black Contractors and Workers
– Opportunities for Artists
– Sign up for Housing Opportunities in New Developments
– Commercial Space & Business Development Opportunities
– Assistance with Saving and Developing Properties in CD

 

Africatown and affordability: City Hall wants Central District’s Liberty Bank Building to be a model development

City leaders have long talked about the need to create affordable development projects that serve the needs of multiple marginalized communities. A model project could now be taking shape at a planned affordable housing building in the heart of the Central District.

The 24th and Union Liberty Bank Building has come to represent the aspirations of Mayor Ed Murray’s administration to combine affordable housing, arts space/cultural identity, and economic development under one roof.

“Up until recently, this has been a really abstract conversation,” said Brian Surratt, director of the Office of Economic Development. “The question is, ‘why can’t these themes be better linked together?’”

After starting work on the project in 2013, nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing is now planning a six-story mixed-use building that could have up to 115 units and several commercial spaces. CHH is well equipped to build and manage Liberty’s affordable units, but determining how to meet the City’s wider objectives and honor the legacy of the region’s first Black-owned bank will take some outside help.

According to Surratt, the nonprofit developer has agreed to work with the City to ensure that commercial space is targeted towards local business, with a primary focus on black owners. In recent months, OED has brought together a group of Central District organizations with the goal of creating a pipeline of area small business owners that can move into the space when the project is complete. Centerstone, Africatown, and the Black Community Impact Alliance are also discussing how arts can fit into the equation.

“I don’t want to put too much on this project … but this could a great example of those policy objectives,” Surratt said. Continue reading

Assessing the state of Africatown amid rapid Central District redevelopment

k-wyking-garret

K. Wyking Garrett speaking during the Black Wall Street event. (Image: CHS)

In the struggle to forge a neighborhood identity in the same vein as the Chinatown/International District, Africatown has come to represent a movement as much as neighborhood — a movement to create more black institutions, businesses, and influence in the the Central District.

For K. Wyking Garrett, one of Africatown’s leading advocates, the question over Africatown’s struggle to establish itself gets to a much broader question.

“It’s like asking ‘why is it that African identity and contributions to America and the world aren’t lifted up and valued?’” Garett said. “It seems that many people brought their identity from their mother country into the Americas, but there was an erasure when it comes to Africans that were brought here.”

Garrett will be discussing that and more during the third annual State of Africatown event on Saturday afternoon at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center at 17th and E Yesler.

Africatown has made some promising strides over the past year. Continue reading