Named for a Black pioneer credited with shaping today’s Central District, the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Enterprise will begin its work this week as a center for “economic empowerment and community-driven development” providing training, networking, and connections to help launch new businesses and careers in the Central Area, the Africatown Community Land Trust announced.
“Historic Districts are OK, but we don’t want to be museum pieces and plaques in the neighborhood where we once were vibrant,” trust president and CEO K. Wyking Garrett said in the announcement. “This will be a living memorial.”
Built out of the former Fire Station 6 at 23rd and Yesler, Africatown now holds a 99-year lease on the fire station property after its transfer in late 2020 following years of hope and promises including pledges from Mayor Jenny Durkan that summer as Black Lives Matter movement demonstrations grew in Seattle.
The name honors a key figure in Central Area history. 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 on the city’s waterfront. But when the Madison Street Cable Car began service in 1889, it made the area accessible and more Black families moved in. For the next 50 years, Madison Valley and the hill up to 23rd would continue to be the geographic heart of the city’s Black community. Racist ordinances and covenants were shaped to keep it that way.
The landmarked station once mothballed and used to store Seattle Police vehicles will now begin a new era with classrooms and work space that will serve as a business development facility providing free and low cost access to tech-related training, skills, and mentorship, and “education and programming to train the next generation of tech, business and media leaders.” $1 million in renovations funded by the City of Seattle Equitable Development Initiative were led by Black-owned contracting firms, Africatown says. $400,000 in donations from KeyBank, Boeing, and Kaiser will help power the opening.
The center lists partnerships in place with the UW Paul Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Renton Technical College, Salesforce, and All is Well Studios.
The center will debut with a week of celebration starting Monday with an appearance by Mayor Bruce Harrell and capped with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, September 16th. In the meantime, Wednesday and Thursday nights will feature open house sessions for visitors to see the new facility. Descendants of the William Grose family are planned to be in attendance.
The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Enterprise is located at 101 23rd Ave. Learn more at africatownlandtrust.org.
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During the opening two years ago Wyking said the center was for technology, especially in the medical/biotech field. Has something changed?