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Independence Day in Seattle: A 4th of YouLie rally in the Central District as coalition marks win vs. ‘predatory development’

Africatown’s Joy (Image: CHS)

On Saturday afternoon, organizers of the Africatown-led King County Equity Now Coalition are holding a “4th of YouLie” rally event at 23rd and Union to shift the narrative surrounding the Fourth of July.

“Fourth of July depicts the independence of the United States — not everybody was free. Our people of African descent weren’t free, were still slaves in that time,” organizer and Africatown ambassador Fynniecko Glover Jr. said. “So the July 4th, the Fourth of YouLie, is just saying that not all of us were free.”

The event will center around a teach-in with a series of speakers discussing the history and gentrification of the Central District neighborhood, according to Glover Jr., and there will also be a teen resource area and Black-owned businesses for people to shop at.

“23rd and Union historically is a significant intersection in the Black community,” Africatown Community Land Trust member Isaac Joy told CHS. “That intersection has been transformed, I think at really all four corners, in the negative with huge gentrification projects.”


Friday, the coalition announced it had halted a “predatory” development of the former Keiro Care Center at 17th and Yesler. This coalition of ‘Black-led, community-based” organizations has plans to turn the property into a space that will “honor Indigenous and Pan-Asian communities.”

Negotiations are ongoing with Shelter Holdings over the price of this property, according to a campaign started by Africatown Community Land Trust, one of the organizations in King County Equity Now. The campaign says the approximately $13,000,000 the real estate developer asked for is “entirely too high.”

“We’re standing here now in front of the Keiro Center which is a cultural icon in the Central Area and we are announcing fantastic news that Shelter Holdings, a Bellevue-based predatory developer, has agreed to stand on the right side of history,” Africatown Community Land Trust’s Joy said at the press briefing held outside the former Keiro property.

Africatown Community Land Trust president and CEO K. Wyking Garrett said they are starting a “community planning process” with Indigenous, Pan-Asian and Black community members to envision the future of this property.

The Keiro Rehabilitation and Care Center, a nursing home largely serving the Japanese-American community, was sold to Shelter Holdings in 2019. According to Northwest Asian Weekly, the real estate company planned to turn it into a mixed-use building with ground floor retail space, and King County Equity Now’s press release said the real estate developer planned to turn it into “largely market-rate housing.”

For the short-term Shelter Holdings agreed to use the property as a homeless shelter and CHS spoke with nonprofit organization Mary’s Place in May about its plans to occupy the space as a shelter on a two-year lease.

“Our understanding is that Mary’s Place has moved to make way for a Black-led housing consortium to lead the activation and use of this as a shelter in the interim,” Garrett said.

King County Equity Now started a petition in June with now over 5,000 signatures to halt the 17th and Yesler development, and the coalition has a number of ongoing demands over properties throughout the Central District, including turning 23rd and Yesler’s decommissioned fire station into an enterprise center.

Meanwhile, the site of Saturday’s planned event at 23rd and Union has seen many new developments over recent years, including Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop properties, PCC Community Markets, Tacos Chukis, Midtown: Public Square and a new six-story development planned at Mount Calvary Christian Center.

Among the coalition’s goals, King County Equity Now is calling for a $1 billion “anti-gentrification, land acquisition fund” and for a series of property-related demands to be addressed:

  • Decommissioned Fire Station 6 on 23rd & Yesler to become William Grose Center for Enterprise, per the City of Seattle Equitable Development Plan
  • Seattle Housing Authority Operations Site on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. & Dearborn, to become affordable housing
  • Paramount Nursing Home, formally Black-owned and recently acquired by Washington State, to revert to Black-community ownership
  • Vacant Sound Transit Lot on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. & S. Angeline St. to become Youth Achievement Center
  • Halt development at Yesler Terrace W until equitable participation by Black-led, community-based organization
  • Halt the WA State Dept. of Commerce’s corrupt Priority Development Area proposal for the Seattle Vocational Institute (“SVI”). Conduct a new RFP process that is truly open, transparent and accountable to the Central Area’s Black community
  • Halt development at the King County Records Site project on 13th & Yesler until equitable participation by a Black-led, community-based organization

“I think there’s a larger movement to transition the celebratory holiday of this kind of start of the summer to really being Juneteenth, which I think is much more significant and reflective of the values that we espouse for the nation in terms of equality, individual freedoms, individual liberties, whereas July 4th I don’t think represents that,” Joy said.

The most recent King County Equity Now demand is a call to email Sound Transit board members to transfer the Martin Luther King Jr. Way and S Angeline St. lot to Africatown Community Land Trust ownership, so it can become a youth achievement center.

“The knee on the neck of our community when we can’t breath is this predatory development and gentrification and I think that, in this moment, many people are seeing what their opportunity is to contribute and help build a new normal rooted in equity,” Garrett said Friday.

The “4th of YouLie” event is set to start at 2 PM and updates will be available on King County Equity Now’s social media.

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9 thoughts on “Independence Day in Seattle: A 4th of YouLie rally in the Central District as coalition marks win vs. ‘predatory development’

  1. So, Shelter Holdings’ reward for deciding to be on the “right side of history ” was to be described as “a Bellevue based predatory developer?” I am sure they’re very appreciative of that description. Maybe when an entity decides to do something you support….praise them. That is how you build further support for your mission.

    • Sometimes I think it’s less about support for the mission and just getting whatever is deemed wanted at the time, by any means. Quite frankly it’s not a new concept that if you want to keep someone else from buying a property and doing whatever they want with it, you should buy it yourself.

    • The term “predatory developer” is very inflammatory. Wanting to develop a property and make a reasonable profit is not evil by itself. What evidence is there that Shelter Holdings is worse than any other developer out there?

      It is one thing to “demand” that certain, underused government properties be re-purposed as community space, and I think that some of the properties on King County Equity Now’s list be seriously considered for this to happen. But it’s quite another thing to demand that the asking price for private property be reduced. If you can’t afford it, look elsewhere.

  2. When I moved here in the late 90s, pre gentrification, the four corners contained a vacant lot a gas station a derelict strip mall and a hoagie shop. Three of the corners are categorically better for all residents. The hoagie shop is now a head shop.

    There was no housing at 23rd and union, now there is. how can building housing decrease access to housing?

    • There was a 3 or 4 story, if I am recalling correctly, apartment building on the southwest corner of 23rd and Union who’s footprint covered the area of the new building and the Casey Family Center- but it was severely damaged in the Nisqually earthquake and condemned- and it wasn’t done needlessly. You could easily see just how tilted the building was. None of the windows on the upper floor could close because the facade was so tilted. It was torn down, but the lot stood empty for some time due, I believe, to the need for soil remediation because of dry cleaning chemicals, and possibly longer because the economy at the time simply was ready to support rebuilding.

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