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The Liberty Bank Building broke ground on Juneteenth

The community-led development hopes to fight black displacement in the Central District

Courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing

The community-led development at the former site of Liberty Bank broke ground on Monday—or Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

The project is going for “a new standard of development in the Central District.” The community-led development in the historically black neighborhood is a collaboration between Africatown, the Black Community Impact Alliance, Capitol Hill Housing, and Centerstone.

When it’s finished, the project will have 115 income-restricted affordable units, plus affordable space for small businesses. Typical one-bedrooms will rent for between $504 and $1,008.

The building will also feature art that nods to the Central District’s history by a team of artists led by Al Doggett and Esther Ervin.

“[The project] is about the community stepping forward to own its future," said Andrea Caupain, CEO of Centerstone, in a statement.

A memorandum of understanding attached to the project codifies several measures to fight black displacement in the Central District by securing long-term African-American ownership, developing and supporting black-owned businesses, prioritizing local and minority subcontractors, and “reaffirm[ing] the Central District as a hub of the pan-African community.”

Currently, according to a press release from Capitol Hill Housing, the project is “driving $3 million to black-owned subcontractors, as well as over $2 million more to other minority and women-owned firms.”

"It's not going to be a situation where we’re only going to market to the African American community, or we will turn someone away who is not African American,” Caupain elaborated to KUOW’s Jamala Henderson. “But really, how do we dive deeper and go specific and target the African American community, people who we know want to come back to the CD?"

Starting in the 1930s, redlining pushed Seattle’s black community into the Central District. But the that population is dwindling. According to city data, while the Central District was 73 percent black in 1973, that number has been steadily falling. By 2010, less than a quarter of the neighborhood was black.

That data was presented in the Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use, and Zoning committee on Tuesday morning as they prepare to implement mandatory housing affordability rezones in the Central Area, including at 23rd and Union, where the Liberty Bank Building was—and will be.

Another parcel on the corner, the Midtown Center, will be developed by a partnership of Africatown, Forterra, and Lake Union Partners. That development is also slated to include affordable housing, plus space for small businesses.

The Liberty Bank Building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018.