Africatown Community Land Trust broke ground Saturday on a new affordable housing development supporters say will not only provide much-needed homes in the city’s Central District but also support Black architects, planners and construction firms.
“We want to make sure our projects are maximizing empowerment into our community,” said K. Wyking Garrett, president and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust.
The seven-story development at 23rd Avenue and East Spring Street known as Africatown Plaza is set to include 126 affordable rental units, a community room, retail spaces and an art collection. The housing is designed to be affordable for people making below 60% of area median income, or about $48,600 for a single person. The project is part of a broader effort to offset years of gentrification in the historically Black neighborhood where home prices have skyrocketed, developers have transformed blocks and the Black population had shrunk to 20% by 2016.
Mayor Bruce Harrell hailed the project Saturday. “When I walked these streets as a little kid, we were not talking about anti-displacement,” Harrell said. “We thought we would live here forever.”
Africatown acquired the land through a partnership with the nonprofit Forterra and private developer Lake Union Partners and will partner with the affordable housing developer Community Roots Housing for construction. Community Roots Housing said the project will tap about $60 million in funding and financing from Africatown, Community Roots, the city of Seattle, King County and other sources.
“That’s what we’re here to break ground on, to break ground on a new normal rooted in equity,” Garrett said. The general contractor on the project is a joint venture that includes a Black-owned construction firm. Still, “we have a long way to go” to a time when more projects are led by Black developers and construction firms on their own, he said. “We know it’s a long way to go from surviving to thriving.”
This article has been updated to correct the amount of funding secured for the project.