City Grant Will Boost Development of Affordable Commercial Space in Planned Africatown Plaza Project

by CHS

(This article was originally published on the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this year’s Equitable Development Initiative grants Tuesday including a new wave of funding for Central District organizations.

She also signed legislation finalizing the transfer of city properties to community organizations including the Central Area Senior Center on 30th Avenue South and Fire Station 6 at 23rd Avenue and East Yesler Way.

Africatown Community Land Trust and Byrd Barr Place were key organizations on the day. CHS reported here on Africatown’s plans to transform the unused fire station into a new technology center development as Byrd Barr Place is also taking ownership of the former fire station on 18th Avenue that it calls home. Both organizations also received a new round of EDI grants, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

A nonprofit, meanwhile, has been stewarding the senior center property on a month-to-month lease since the City took over ownership in 1975 and has paid little rent instead paying the city through its services. But the City has done little to pay for upkeep of the building that has set the center back about $120,000 a year since 2014. The center can now move forward with its own plans for the facility.

“To tackle the challenges of displacement, our city is investing in community-based organizations who are leading the way to empower and strengthen underserved communities and create economic vitality,” Durkan said in an announcement of this year’s grants. “The Economic Development Initiative has a strong record of creating the newest homes for our city’s residents, nonprofits, and local small businesses through leveraging other City programs.”

Tuesday, Durkan announced nearly $6 million in awards through the EDI program, “part of the City’s effort to support Seattle’s existing residents and businesses in high-displacement-risk neighborhoods.”

The City awarded $4.4 million to community organizations for site acquisition and major capital projects and another $1.25 million is intended to provide capacity-building support to existing EDI partners providing services during the current pandemic and economic crisis. The awards to organizations led by and serving People of Color will be used for organizational capacity building, property acquisition, and capital expenses. In addition to the $36 million in EDI funds awarded, these community-based organizations have leveraged more than $105 million in City-funded dollars since 2017.

For Africatown, the money granted won’t be earmarked for the 23rd and Yesler — the former Fire Station 6 property — project. Instead, the $640,000 awarded will help the nonprofit include affordable commercial space in the planned Africatown Plaza affordable housing development planned to rise at 23rd Avenue and Spring Street.

The roster of EDI grants announced this week is below:

  • Africatown Midtown Plaza — $640,000
    Africatown Community Land Trust will create between 5,000 and 8000 sq ft of affordable commercial space for Black-owned businesses in Midtown Plaza. The project also includes 130 affordable homes and art that reflects the African American heritage of the neighborhood.
  • Byrd Barr Place — $500,000
    Byrd Barr Place has been operating out of the City’s surplus Fire Station 23. The City transferred ownership of the property to the organization in September and the additional funds will support improvements to the building. Completion of this project would renovate the 100-plus-year-old building to meet contemporary ADA and environmental standards, allowing BBP to expand the services it provides.
  • Chief Seattle Club — $500,000
    The Chief Seattle Club is renovating the Monterey Lofts above their current facility and adjacent to the site of their new facility. It is designed to support the physical, cultural, and spiritual needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native community, with indigenous designs, 80 affordable homes, services, a health clinic, and a café/art gallery space in Pioneer Square.
  • Ethiopian Community in Seattle —$750,000
    The Ethiopian Community in Seattle is redeveloping its existing community center to include 100 affordable homes, childcare, and commercial space. The awarded funds will be used to to finance construction expected to break ground next year.
  • Multicultural Community Coalition — $842,000
    The Multicultural Community Coalition (MCC) will anchor several community organizations serving Seattle’s growing immigrant, refugee, and People of Color communities by creating a community-owned and operated co-working space and an essential Cultural Innovation Center (CIC). The CIC is envisioned as a vital heritage and cultural arts venue which will house year-round, cultural events and activities as well as serving as a Creative Economy space in which artists, cultural nonprofits, and creative small businesses will produce and distribute cultural goods and services that generate jobs, revenue, and quality of life.
  • Rainier Valley Midwives — $1 million
    Rainier Valley Midwives has been operating out of a temporary location in the Rainier Valley Community Clinic that is becoming untenable due to escalating rents. The organization is working to acquire and build a permanent Birth Center in the Rainier Valley that will provide wrap-around services before, during, and after the birth process to People of Color.
  • Wing Luke Museum — $168,000
    The Wing is seeking to preserve the Homestead Home, one block south of the Museum, and to activate and develop its adjacent parking lot. This home is the most intact remaining single-family home in the Chinatown-International District, constructed in 1937 despite the Chinese Exclusion Act and discriminatory barriers to single family homes in the neighborhood. On the lot, the Wing intends to build 60 affordable apartments above a street-level community gathering space.

Featured image: “Africatown Plaza is coming to 23rd and Spring.” (Image source: GGLO via Capitol Hill Blog.)

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