With vision for ‘African American communities and spaces of the future,’ Africatown Plaza will be next to take shape in the Central District

The coming Africatown Plaza at Midtown

23rd and Union’s Africatown mural (Image: Africatown)

Community members met this week for an all-day design symposium at Washington Hall in the Central District to plan “African American communities and spaces of the future” around the Puget Sound.

The event follows a major development in the Central District with the opening of the Liberty Bank Building and comes as the early design process for Africatown Plaza at Midtown, another fully affordable development around the 23rd and Union core, is about to begin.

“Overall, working to make sure that we still have a heart and soul and a place of unity and community,” the Africatown Community Land Trust’s K. Wyking Garrett said Saturday, before giving a shout out to last weekend’s Umoja Fest Parade, a Central Area staple since the 1940s. He wants Africatown, however, to be more than just these major celebrations, but places “where we can experience Black culture, Black music, Black culinary genius from throughout the diaspora.” Continue reading

Hoping to follow the equitable development example of the Liberty Bank Building, Africatown Plaza begins to take shape

Community members discuss their priorities for the Africatown Plaza project (Image: CHS)

“Welcome to what we now call sacred ground,” said K. Wyking Garrett, standing in the still bare-bones corner space of the Liberty Bank Building where a new restaurant by That Brown Girl Cooks will land this summer. His comments marked the start of the first community design meeting for the planned Africatown Plaza affordable housing and commercial retail development on 23rd and Union.

Thursday’s meeting gave a first glimpse into what Africatown Community Land Trust, of which Garrett is president and CEO, plans for the site, and was a first step in the design process that is supposed the mirror and exceed the success of the affordable housing development Liberty Bank Building. The opening of the building this spring signaled the start of what is hoped to be a wave of equitable development across the Central District.

“We are here today to talk about the next project, the next building (…) across the street. Which will be similar, but we will improve on what we’ve done here,” Garrett said. Continue reading

‘Replanting’ — Liberty Bank Building’s opening hoped to be new start in the Central District

More than 100 new affordable homes — and the start of what many hope will be a wave of equitable development across the Central District — are now full of life in the Liberty Bank Building. The development led by nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing and community development group Africatown celebrated with a ribbon cutting, party, and tours Saturday at 24th and Union.

“This neighborhood and this street means so much to me,” building contractor, neighborhood activist, and, now, Liberty Bank Building resident Ted Evans said. “It’s just surreal to be able to live here and raise my son and be part of this redevelopment and being part of this creation that we’re starting, you know, to bring it back home. This is where I started — I was born here.”

“There is power here,” Evans said. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Earl’s Cuts and Styles making temporary move before new life in Liberty Bank Building

It’s almost moving day for Earl Lancaster

After nearly 30 years of business, Earl’s Cuts and Styles won’t be cutting hair in the Midtown Center at 23rd and Union after this weekend. But its new home across the way in the Liberty Bank Building isn’t ready for the legendary barbershop just yet.

After Saturday’s final day of business in its original home, Earl’s is moving across the street to a temporary shop in The Central building. Earl Lancaster said he hopes the stay will be short and that he should be in his new shop in the Liberty Bank Building by the end of March. Continue reading

Lost in progress at Midtown Center: a 23rd and Union small business and a Central District post office

(Image: CHS)

As much as some neighbors may be looking forward to the demolition of the old Midtown Center shopping strip at 23rd and Union, the end isn’t much to celebrate. You can feel the missing systematic safety net for Seattle’s small businesses as one small shop owner struggles to sort out what comes next. Other changes will be inconvenient and, for some, further evidence that Seattle — and the Central District — is tossing aside community elements as it reaches for continued growth and development.

“Please help me. Please don’t forget about me,” Saad Ali pleads. The owner of the 99 Cents Plus store in the now mostly vacant shopping center is happy to finally hear from a journalist. Attention from Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has helped, he says, but it hasn’t helped him find a new place to move his store or any opportunities for grants or financial assistance to weather the change. More useful, he says, has been recent conversations with a few officials from City Hall who are looking into ways to help Ali move.

Continue reading

‘Community interest’ — Newly formed Central Area Board will have say on Midtown: Public Square

A key Central District project to create a set of seven-story mixed buildings at 23rd and Union is ready to finish off 2018 Wednesday night with what many hope is the final step in a multi-year design review process spanning two different developers.

An important group will be on hand to see the process through.

The City of Seattle’s Department of Construction & Inspections tells CHS that the members of the newly created Central Area Design Review Board will be part of the December 19th review joining the East Review Board that has been overseeing the process since the first look at a project from a previous developer in early 2017.

Design Review: 2301 E Union

“Based on community interest, the East Board has agreed to incorporate members of the newly created Central Area Board into the recommendation process for this proposal,” a city rep tells CHS. “While the permit application was vested to the previous design review board district boundaries, the property owner has voluntarily agreed to incorporate members of the Central Area Board into the discussion and recommendation process.” Continue reading

Liberty Bank Building: vision of equitable development, great views of the CD

A ceremony to celebrate a financial boost to its vision of inclusive development also provided en opportunity for an early tour of the nearly completed Liberty Bank Building Monday in the Central District.

“I’m a product of the Bronx, New York. Raised in Baltimore. Used to having a lot of diversity in our lives. Coming to the Pacific Northwest, I was stunned and a little lonely for a while,” Regina Glenn said Monday inside the under construction building. “Coming to this project it reminds me of that pulling together that we had.” Continue reading

$82.5K grant will help Africatown continue Midtown Center art and activation project

Kids set about painting Midtown Center this summer as part of the Africatown art project (Image: CHS)

Central District community organization Africatown will receive a $82,500 grant from the city to continue its work creating an artful installation celebrating the block’s history and marking the coming redevelopment at 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center.

The grant was part of some $900,000 in funding awarded across the city announced Wednesday through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Matching Fund. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Africatown art project shows ‘what’s possible’ in the Central District

The Central District’s Midtown Center got a new paint job over the weekend as hundreds of volunteers came together, brushes and rollers in hand, to paint a massive mural to demonstrate what the neighborhood could look like before the property is redeveloped in 2019.

“What we’re doing is trying to make a statement in the last few months of this property, to talk about history and the potential future of the neighborhood,” said Sara Zewde, a past Africatown board member. “The future redevelopment retail should incubate small, black-owned businesses from this neighborhood and we’re going to demonstrate the potential for that in this market space.” Continue reading

Africatown gets $1M+ boost from Seattle’s first Equitable Development grants

Africatown has been awarded a major grant as part of more than $5 million in funding for equitable development in Seattle.

“Seattle is facing an affordability crisis, which has displaced far too many and left behind many of our neighborhoods and businesses,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said about the grants. “To tackle these challenges, our City is investing in community organizations who are leading the way in creating true economic vitality and opportunity within Seattle’s most underserved communities.”

Africatown will receive $1,075,000 for “capacity-building” and “development expenses to include affordable commercial space to the Midtown affordable housing project,” according to the City of Seattle announcement of the award. Continue reading