by Elizabeth Turnbull
A new HUD EnVision Center is set to open in the old U.S. Bank building in Skyway in 2023 — providing connections to economic, health, and other resources — after U.S. Bank donated the land and the building to the King County Housing Authority (KCHA).
The space, which will be known as the Skyway Resource Center and is located at 12610 76th Ave. S., will replace and expand on the existing mobile resource center the Renton Innovation Zone Partnership (RIZP) launched roughly a year ago to provide resources during the pandemic.
“For too long, Skyway has not received sufficient public and private investment, and that has slowed the development of economic opportunities and the provision of needed community services,” Stephen Norman, KCHA’s executive director, wrote in a statement released by U.S. Bank. “We are excited to work with the Skyway community and King County to reverse this trend and assist in the development of a new community asset that will provide additional tools and resources to help residents to move ahead.”
The first step in a multipart process, U.S. Bank donated the land and the building to KCHA, which will oversee building improvements and will act as the fiscal agent for the property with the goal of fully transitioning the property to a local community organization within the next three years.
For the time being, RIZP is facilitating the community design side of the project and is working on finding and gaining support for tenants and organizations who will ultimately occupy the building. They are currently hoping the space will remain flexible for seasonal events like farmers markets and that it will house organizations requested by the community.
“Not only is this a huge win for our neighborhood and something tangible that our community will feel,” Ryan Quigtar, the RIZP executive director, said, “but this donation represents the beginning of a community-owned development the people of Skyway have wanted and advocated for over the years.”
In general, HUD EnVision Centers, part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provide resources through public and private partnerships. Overall, the goal is for recipients to become self-sufficient and to be on a path toward economic mobility.
The donation of the building for the center comes after U.S. Bank permanently closed their storefront in Skyway in November of last year, leaving the Skyway area with an ATM but no other bank and exacerbating economic difficulties in the area.
In 2019, over 30% of children under 18 years of age lived below the poverty line in Skyway-West Hill, nearly triple the rate of the county overall (12.3%, according to King County data). In addition, the median household income in Skyway-West Hill was $65,900, over 20% less than the countywide median of $83,570.
As an unincorporated area, meaning it is not a part of the nearby cities of Renton and Seattle, Skyway does not get help from the nearby city governments and must lean on the County to fill in this gap.
While the area remains without a bank, organizers intend for the new resource center to provide financial literacy help and home-buying direction in addition to mental health services, healthy food options, a farmers market, youth mentoring programs, and workforce development, among other things, according to Quigtar.
“With this permanent location, we have a different type of flexibility when offering services, because we have … indoor and outdoor space,” Quigtar said. “… We’re really focused on meeting people where they are and supporting their upward mobility.”
Aside from the donation of the building, in August of this year, the U.S. Bank Foundation announced it would award the RIZP $50,000 to fund a new immersion program for Title 1 elementary and middle school students in the Skyway-West Hill neighborhood.
The program is set to begin this fall with a series of 10 events which will expose the young people involved to various industries such as health care — a “Doctor for a Day” event, for example, will let students interact with medical professionals and learn more about the field — STEM, construction/trades, transportation, arts, food/entertainment, government, and business.
RIZP will host a pop-up event to collect community design feedback on the Skyway Resource Center on Friday, Oct. 22, from 3 to 5 p.m. at King County Fire District 20, 12424 76th Ave. S. in Seattle. To participate, visit the community design survey. Learn more about the center on the Skyway Resource Center website.
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.
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