by Emerald Staff
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Friday that the City will provide $2.1 million to buy land for the future home of the Food Innovation Center in Rainier Beach, a project of the not-for-profit community organization Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC). Funding was made available through Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative (EDI).
RBAC is a Black-led community organization that is actively seeking to address racialized economic disparity in a neighborhood where communities of color experience a high risk of residential and cultural displacement. With this funding, RBAC will proceed with closing on a site adjacent to the Rainier Beach light rail station.
“The best ideas come from community, and Rainier Beach Action Coalition is leading on bringing this much-needed and valuable resource to the community to address food insecurity,” said Durkan in a statement. “Rainier Beach for far too long has had to endure the negative impact of the displacement of families and businesses. Making these types of investments are critical to creating a just City with true opportunity for all of Seattle’s residents.”
RBAC’s Food Innovation Center is intended to create jobs and build on the many food cultures of Rainier Beach. The Center will support economic opportunity through new small food businesses, as well as education and workforce development for Seattle residents. The concept includes classrooms and teaching kitchens, an entrepreneurship center, a marketplace, food production facility, and community services. Plans for the site also include critically needed affordable housing.
“We’re excited that the City is taking this important step to the implementation of the Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan and the long-standing (10 years) community vision for the Rainier Beach Food Innovation District. Securing the site for the Food Innovation Center will be a launching pad for so many communities in Rainier Beach to build on their unique food cultures and bring economic growth to the neighborhood,” said Gregory Davis, RBAC Managing Strategist. “Investing in community-based organizations to secure ownership of land is critically important for mitigating the impact displacement has on disproportionally impacted BIPOC communities, this is building on the local cultural assets, and setting a new community control of land and development model.”
EDI funding for RBAC was allocated from the sale of the underutilized City-owned Mercer Street properties that was finalized in 2019. This year, approximately $15 million will be used to further support community-based organizations that are led by and serve people of color in the purchase property or to build new community assets.
The Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) was established in 2016 to provide investments in neighborhoods that support those most impacted by displacement and low access to opportunity. The program’s objectives include the advancement of economic opportunity and wealth-building strategies, preventing displacement, and building on local cultural assets. EDI is coordinated by the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and guided by an external community advisory board representing impacted communities.
“We’re pleased that these Mercer St. revenues will be reinvested in ownership of land by a Black-run community organization,” said Sam Assefa, director of OPCD. “Not only are we hoping to support new small businesses in Rainier Beach, we’re celebrating the many food cultures of the neighborhood and preventing the displacement of cultural communities that call Rainier Beach home, including many immigrants.”
EDI provides grants to organizations for site acquisition, capacity building and other capital needs, and provides technical assistance to community-based organizations. To date, EDI has invested $25.5 million in 25 projects through an annual competitive grant process with some projects having received multiple rounds of funding, including these:
Featured image: Rainier Beach High School High 5 day by Susan Fried