Block Party Lays Groundwork for Proposed Youth Achievement Center

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Last Sunday, the Seahawks cheerleaders, local activists, and graffiti artists gathered along Martin Luther King Jr Way South and South Angeline Street in Columbia City for one purpose — to bring a youth achievement center to that block of South Seattle.

The building proposal for the center consists of a north and south site which will provide permanent and emergency housing and amenities for different age groups, in addition to space for commercial businesses. Both sites are located next to each other along Martin Luther King Jr Way South adjacent to the Columbia City light rail station. 

The south site will consist of 45 studio apartments for 18- to 24-year-old young adults, three one-bedroom apartments for site operators, office spaces, a fitness room, and other spaces. Similarly, the north site will consist of dorm-style housing for 56 youth between the ages of 13 and 17, eight studio apartments for site operators and resident advisors, a daycare, and other communal spaces.

Dominque Davis of Community Passageways explains plans for the proposed Youth Achievement Center. (Photo: Maile Anderson)

“To be able to have free housing that’s supportive for young people in the South End who otherwise wouldn’t have a place to call home is really special,” King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay told the Emerald. “[It’s] a great opportunity and a perfect blueprint for us to do in more places to keep more of our communities intact and in place.” 

Zahilay hosted the event Sunday alongside other community organizations that form the Youth Achievement Center (YAC) Coalition which includes Africatown Community Land Trust, Community Passageways, Creative Justice, and Youth Consortium. Currently the coalition is partnering with King County, Sound Transit, the University of Washington, King County Equity Now, and others.

The project needs between $5 and $10 million to break ground and will require $30 million to maintain programming, staff, and other costs, according to Dominique Davis, the founder and CEO of Community Passageways. Davis is optimistic that the facility will break ground soon. 

“I know this sounds crazy and everybody keeps telling me that I’m reaching for the stars, I guess you could say, but I want to break ground in February, maybe even next year in the spring at the latest,” Davis said. “I feel like there’s so many resources in our government entities, so many buckets that came out because of COVID that’s it’s not impossible to have the resources to break ground by the end — at the latest towards the end — of next year, and that’s only if the government entities don’t kick in like they should.”

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay with Seahawks mascot, Blitz. (Photo: Maile Anderson)

In addition to providing housing, Davis is adamant that the center will serve the community overall and referenced providing art and music shows. Overall, he believes the space poses an answer to issues the local government has been trying to deal with and, most importantly, will provide for youth in the area who are predominantly Black and Brown and who combat systemic inequalities. 

“[The city, county and state] are dealing with homelessness, they’re dealing with the education system, they’re dealing with gun violence — this right here is an answer in our community to deal with a lot of that,” Davis said. “This is going to be a space of safety, a space to grow, a space to be taught and trained.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

📸 Featured Image: Community advocates speak at a July 18, 2021 block party in support of a proposed youth achievement center. (Photo: Maile Anderson)

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