by Christopher Kim, UW News Lab/Special to CHS
Communion is finally coming together at 24th and Union in the growing core of the Central District.
Kristi Brown and her son Damon Bomar have been planning their new restaurant and bar with Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing for about three years in the earliest stages of the Liberty Bank Building project, an investment in equitable development offering below market rents for apartments and providing commercial spaces for local businesses to people that have been displaced by the gentrification of the Central District.
“They approached us before the final plans for the building were done,” Brown said of her key component in the mixed-use project’s goals for equitable development.
Opening a dining spot in the Central District where all different types of people can sit together to share a meal has been a dream for Brown, who has more than 30 years of cooking experience.
Brown is also the owner of the Beacon Hill catering business called That Brown Girl Cooks! featuring a menu and cooking style she calls “Seattle Soul.”
“I would say that it really describes my journey being from Kansas City and living in Seattle and all the different neighborhoods that I’ve lived in,” Brown said. “I just take a little bit of all of those things and merge them together.”
With plans to open in June, Communion is meant to be a unique and welcoming space where anyone can come to enjoy a distinct and original menu featuring the Seattle Soul cooking style with inspiration from the favorites she has been cooking over the decades, according to Brown.
There will also be a bar operated by Brown’s son, Damon Bomar.
“It’s just a different kind of atmosphere that I haven’t found anywhere else. I don’t think that means that there aren’t any places to commune but I think that we add a different angle to it,” Brown said.
“Food brings people together and I think that, especially during times like this when there’s so many things going on politically and economically, there’s just a need for people to find a place that feels safe, warm, and inviting,” Brown said. “A place where people can come together and commune together, I think that that’s going to be our major theme.”
The restaurant, which was first intended to open last summer, was delayed due to construction and financing complications for the space where the restaurant will be built.
“I think that anytime you’re dealing with new buildings and new construction and you couple that with the fact that this is an equity project, that means that the funding has to be right for us to be able to do this,” Brown said. “This is a $1.3 million project and it’s gonna take some time. Often times for new construction, people will set dates and then have to revise them later.”
The Liberty Bank Building, which celebrated its official ribbon cutting last spring, is a step towards equitable development by offering affordable housing for those in the Central District community who are struggling to meet escalating rents and home prices. The building is also opening commercial spaces for Black-owned businesses such as Earl’s Cuts & Style and Communion in hopes of unifying communities from the Central District that have grown thin over the decades through displacement and the gentrification of its neighborhoods.
Earl Lancaster of the Earl’s Cuts barber shop, which was recently displaced from Midtown Center during its redevelopment, is filling one of the commercial spots in the Liberty Bank Building.
“It gives you the means for improvements, making sure that your business is new and given an opportunity to thrive,” Lancaster said. “To move into the neighborhood with new equipment, new walls, new paint, new building, and new everything.”
Equity projects like the Liberty Bank Building can be even more helpful if the non-profit organizations arranging them take the time to understand the people’s needs to make equitable opportunities more effective, Brown said.
For Brown and her business, having the means and support to sustain her restaurant until she can adjust to serving a community that is rapidly changing is one challenge she will need to face in the early stages for the new business.
“It’s one thing to open the door. It’s another thing to make sure that businesses are able to stay,” Brown said.
Communion is expected to open at 2320 E Union in June. You can check out thatbrowngirl.com to learn more in the meantime.
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