There are hopes and plans for a set of Central District properties to be put into service for the community and to help Black residents, businesses, and community groups thrive there. A key property near 23rd and Union will take a different path with similar goals.
The team of Gardner Global and its Onpoint real estate firm has announced it moving forward with a plan to create an eight-story mixed-use development on the land currently home to the Mount Calvary Christian Center. The effort would create a new corridor of growth for the Black-owned developer at the core of rapid economic investment in the Central District.
“We are living in unprecedented times,” Jaebadiah Gardner, CEO of Gardner Global, said in the announcement. “Our current events have shown us why our mission of building wealth for Black and Brown communities are so important and we are excited to have partners onboard who share this vision.”
2020 began with Gardner’s announcement of plans to acquire and develop the church’s properties across the street in a $2.4 million deal. Gardner Global said that development will create a 64-unit “multifamily housing project” with a mix of market rate and affordable units and “intentional community space.” Onpoint brokerage office space will also open in the building “providing the community boutique real estate and property management services.” The project will also “pay homage to the long standing African-American church and Central District Neighborhood” through its name, 23Calvary, Gardner Global says, and “by including various artisan works throughout the building that blends both the history of African-American churches along with contemporary tech and sustainable design.”
The church property adjacent the neighborhood’s Uncle Ike’s outlet and properties owned by the pot shop entrepreneur Ian Eisenberg was on the market for $4.5 million. It is located within the Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning area meaning the developer will either need to make a portion of the units available to lower income renters or pay into a fund to help develop affordable housing elsewhere in the city.
The ballpark $6.9 million agreement paves the way for the creation of more than 200 new apartment units and will “provide more economic empowerment in the community,” the developers say.
June will also bring more change to the area as PCC Community Markets is set to open later this month in the new construction East Union building where neighbors have been awaiting a new grocery for years.
East Union and developments from Lake Union Partners are rapidly transforming 23rd and Union where the developer has created two projects with a third on the way adding a combined 675 apartment units and more than 40,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space. Its largest at the corner — Midtown: Public Square — is under construction on the southeast corner of the intersection and is set to have a Bartell’s drugstore as its commercial anchor.
The Midtown block will also include a project from Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing that will create affordable housing and more commercial opportunities. That effort joins the opening of Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building at 24th and Union that opened in 2019 and created 115 new affordable apartment units and street level commercial space.
The wave of economic activity has not been fully equitable. Tuesday night, Africatown’s K. Wyking Garrett called for leaders to pay reparations for centuries of unfair treatment. An over the weekend at a rally and march organized by Africatown and a large roster of community groups starting at 23rd and Jackson, organizers introduced a new kingcountyequitynow.com initiative that includes a focus on community takeover of properties in the Central District far from the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone protest area around the 12th and Pine East Precinct:
- Decommissioned Fire Station 6 on 23rd and Yesler to become William Grose Center for Enterprise as designated in the City of Seattle Equitable Development Plan
- Vacant Sound Transit lot on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. and S. Angeline St. to become Youth Achievement Center
- Formally Black-owned Paramount Nursing Home recently acquired by Washington State to revert to Black-community ownership.
- Seattle Housing Authority Operations Site (Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. & Dearborn) to become affordable housing.
- Halt development at the King County Records Site project on 13th and Yesler to allow for equitable participation by a Black-led, community-based organization
- Halt the corrupt Priority Development Area proposal for the Seattle Vocational Institute (“SVI”) put forward by the Washington State Department of Commerce to conduct and start a new RFP process that is truly open, transparent and accountable to the community in which SVI is located
For the church on 23rd Ave, the deal marks the fruition of plans announced by the congregation to sell its properties in the Central District and reestablish itself south of Seattle where much of its community now resides. Last year, CHS reported on the church’s future in the Central District as Black congregations have increasingly been priced out of the city and many have chosen to sell their land holdings for new beginnings in more affordable areas of the region.
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