A collaborative effort between Africatown-Central District Preservation and Development Association (Africatown), the Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA), Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), and Centerstone the Liberty Bank Building project has been hailed as the new standard for inclusive development in one of Seattle’s neighborhoods facing the greatest pressures of gentrification and displacement. A one-of-a-kind memorandum of understanding between the partners guides the development of the site to address these issues head on and maximize empowerment of the African-American community.
“Today, in breaking ground on the Liberty Bank Building, we open a new chapter in the history of the Central District” said Andrea Caupain, CEO of Centerstone. “This project is much more than 115 affordable homes – it is about the community stepping forward to own its future.”
Commitments by the partners include a pathway to African-American ownership of the building, an innovation fund to support Black-owned businesses, a maximization of women and minority-owned contractors, and a design that pays homage to the historic Liberty Bank and the history of the community.
“Our hope was that this partnership could inspire others and serve as a template for inclusive development in the Central District and across our region,” said Evelyn Thomas Allen, Director, CCS-Village Spirit Center and Convener of the BCIA. “We are already seeing the fruits of this labor, and with today’s groundbreaking, we continue to demonstrate the power and potential of community action.”
In addition to the groundbreaking, the event included performances by Northwest Tap and DJ Kun Luv, a preview of artwork that will be in the future building, an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, and a pouring of libation and blessing of the site. Speakers included Seattle Mayor Murray, CHH CEO Christopher Persons, Africatown President K. Wyking Garrett, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, and State Representative Eric Pettigrew.
“We celebrate this groundbreaking of the new Liberty Bank Building to provide a sense of place, connection, rootedness, and sanctuary for our communities going forward,” said Wyking Garrett, the President of Africatown Community Land Trust. “Liberty Bank Building is the first project to embody principles of inclusive development and offer real opportunity for the community.”
The $32 million project is made possible through $12.2 million in financing from City of Seattle’s Office of Housing (OH) through the 2006 Housing Levy and $1 million from the Washington State Department of Commerce through the Housing Trust Fund.
“Today, we are breaking ground on Seattle’s renewed commitment to equity for the Central District,” said Mayor Murray. “Our booming economy should not be pushing people out of great Seattle neighborhoods, it should be lifting up the very people who built those neighborhoods. The partners on this project knew that growth and development offer an opportunity for inclusion rather than for gentrification.”
When completed in the fall of 2018, Liberty Bank Building will provide 115 affordable homes for people earning between 30% and 60% of the area median income (between $20,200 and $57,600, depending on family size). The units will be a mix of studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units. The building will contain 2,695 square feet of commercial space and 11 art installations created by nine community artists to honor the history of Liberty Bank and the African-American community in the Central District.
“The 115 apartments created as part of this project will provide crucial affordability for the neighborhood, and represent the type of innovative projects enabled by the Seattle Housing Levy,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Office of Housing.
The organizers partners say they are working with partners to maximize the participation of African-American during construction, and are driving $3 million to Black-owned subcontractors, as well as over $2 million more to other minority and women-owned firms.
“The original Liberty Bank was a beacon of hope and a source of pride for the community, and I am confident that this new Liberty Bank Building and the partnership forged through this project will not only carry forward this legacy, but inspire future generations to come,” said Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, a member of Liberty Bank Advisory Board and daughter of two of the founders of Liberty Bank.