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Spurred by Seattle protests, city says will finally transfer Central District’s Fire Station 6 to Africatown — UPDATE

(Image: Joe Mabel/City of Seattle)

Seattle’s crises of 2020 have caused major disruptions, delays, and postponements. But they have also accelerated and unstuck some changes that should have happened in the city long ago.

Friday, the City of Seattle announced it will transfer the Fire Station 6 property at 23rd Ave and Yesler to community ownership, clearing the way for an Africatown-led redevelopment plan after more than seven years of process over the decommissioned facility.

“We at the City of Seattle understand the urgency behind making bold investments in the Black community and increasing community ownership of land in the Central District,” the brief announcement reads. “The City believes in the vision behind the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and we remain committed to making the transfer of Fire Station 6 to the community a reality.”

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Africatown and a coalition of community groups included the station in a list of six Central District-area properties that should be put in community control as part of a roster of demands including cutting SPD’s budget released in conjunction with a rally and protest at 23rd and Jackson last weekend.

The vision for a new William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation at the landmarked station property is the most well-shaped and long-formed project on the list. Discussion of community ownership of the facility first began in 2012 as the city was looking to sell the property. The new Station 6 opened in 2013 on MLK. In 2015, the city began a process for community groups to take over the building but the stages of the effort dragged on. Along the way, ideas and needs for the station came and went.

By 2016, the ideas behind the planned center were more fully shaped. Africatown’s K. Wyking Garrett said his organization was proposing that Fire Station 6 be repurposed as an “innovation hub” instead of housing Seattle Police traffic patrol vehicles.

The concept for the development could include room for business, enterprise and education support, technology facilities and maker space, as well as about 20 housing units focused on young adults.

The center will be named for William Grose, a pioneer of Seattle recorded as the city’s wealthiest Black resident whose property holdings near the current-day E Madison became the center of the city’s African American neighborhoods. CHS wrote about Grose here in our report on the history of the racial covenants on Capitol Hill:

In 1882, William Grose, an early black pioneer in Seattle, bought 12 acres of land in Madison Valley from Henry Yesler. At the time, the plot was a thickly wooded area far from the hub of activity along the city’s waterfront. But when the Madison Street Cable Car began service in 1889, it made the area accessible to other citizens and more black families moved in.

It’s not clear if the city’s announcement marks the official acceptance of a deal to put the property in Africatown’s control.

It also isn’t clear how the city, county, and state will respond to demands regarding the full roster of properties identified by the Africatown-led King County Equity Now coalition:

  • 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

“We have received Africatown’s list of community requests along with a longer list of asks from other black-led organizations,” the city announcement reads. “Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan has already met with the King County Equity Now coalition and on behalf of Mayor Durkan, she will be working with Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Planning and Community Development to work on next steps with the community.”

The land deal joins another big announcement about proposed development in the Central District that has come this week in the midst of ongoing protests over police brutality and racial and social inequity. At 23rd and Union, Black-owned developer Gardner Global announced it is buying all the Mount Calvary Christian Center properties as part of development plans on both sides of 23rd Ave that will create new business space and more than 200 new apartment units.

UPDATE 6/15/20 10:20 AM: Africatown is calling for continued pressure on the city to follow through on its announcement and said that the King County Equity Now Coalition will announce “its proposed timeline, move-in date and next steps” Monday afternoon:

“The City has yet to provide keys, title, or even a timeline. Outside of one tweet, we haven’t received any formal plans. It appears to be a step in the right direction, and we’re glad that the Mayor recognizes that bold and unprecedented investments are needed to bring equity and shared prosperity to our city and end Jim Crow Apartheid in Seattle, Martin Luther King Jr. County. That said, we need to consistently apply pressure and visibility to this matter so the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Enterprise becomes a reality, not a PR stunt. We need to keep this a movement, not a moment.” said K. Wyking Garrett CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust.

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13 thoughts on “Spurred by Seattle protests, city says will finally transfer Central District’s Fire Station 6 to Africatown — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

    • Yes, it’s about time Africatown be given something. They haven’t been given anything for about 4 months when they were gifted 12 million dollars. Before that it was another six months before they were given entire building and Africatown was paid handsomely for their consulting fees. Yes it’s despicable Africans are being ignored in that neighborhood while everybody else is getting so much attention and massive amounts of property is just being handed to them.

  1. Wait, isn’t that land really valuable, and the city is just giving it away? How much affordable housing could a market-rate land sale generate?

    • Yes, and it is in a neighborhood that is unaffordable for those who lived there and pushed out due to gentrification and want to come back to their neighborhood.

      People are priceless, buildings are not!


  2. Less than 10% are the residents in the CD are black. There are plenty of long-term residents being displaced that are not black. Why is there no interest in being inclusive to other minorities who have long histories in that neighborhood such as Natives, Asians, Jews? Because a black man was murdered on the other side of the country we are seeing once again the demand for racial favoritism that is once again being met. I can think of plenty of injustice has that happened to people of every other demographic and there is no compensation. The blatant racial favoritism in the city it’s disgusting and africatown does not embody the tolerance and inclusivity that is demanded from everybody else.

    • Only a privileged person would make that type of comment. When America gives the Native Americans their country back, that is the only way Europeans and their descendants can even begin to understand what equality really is. They stole people, land, countries, $, you name it,they OWE a huge debt to the people who actually possessed the land (Native Americans), and the Black people who were taken and worked it only to insure that they and their future generations would prosper and have equality. They oppressed and kept their knees on black people’s necks for generations with institutionalized racist laws, etc. to keep it that way, still in full effect for over 400 years. Learn the REAL history. Columbus did nothing but got lost! Native Americans were already here. The TRUTH is hard for most people who aren’t use to it, even when it is there own. Privileged abuse of power produced racism, and the people who are enraged and oppressed, enough already. Writing it down is over, it is time for action. Time is up!

  3. The city used the fire station as a parking lot for their little 3 wheeled ticket giving persons for years. So happy this has been turned over. This little money maker for the city has ruined peoples lives. Good bye :)) Your worse than the Police

  4. This is so wonderful that this building will become a cultural center, right across the street from the library that holds the largest collection of African American authors and literary works. What a complimentary relationship this corner will be. And how can it be incorporated in Academic lessons at Garfield high school? I’m excited

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