A Rainier Valley birth center and an Ethiopian community center are among projects that will receive grants from Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative this year.

The initiative, which first awarded grants in 2017, is meant to support community organizations that are led by and that serve people of color in neighborhoods at risk for displacement due to rising housing costs and related pressures. The city selects projects that provide housing, jobs, cultural spaces and other needs.

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced $5.65 million in grants Tuesday, including $4.4 million for capital projects such as the Rainier Valley birth center and Ethiopian community center.

Rainier Valley Midwives, which is led by and which caters to people of color, will receive $1 million to acquire property and build its own birth center in South Seattle. Its current space is insecure due to rent increases.

Executive Director Tara Lawal said Tuesday the grant would “catapult our organization to the next level.” The plan is to bring midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, social workers and mental-health workers together at the birth center, while partnering with doctors from Swedish Cherry Hill.

The Ethiopian Community in Seattle organization, meanwhile, will receive $750,000. The organization, currently based in a one-story community center on Rainier Avenue South, is building a new complex on the property’s parking lot with affordable housing for seniors, child care space and business space. The project could break ground next year.


In some cases, projects that receive Equitable Development Initiative grants also receive other grants from the city. For example, the Ethiopian Village project is also using more than $10 million from Seattle’s Office of Housing.

“These investments are not enough” on their own to provide all Seattle residents with equal opportunities, Durkan said in a news conference. But the organizations involved represent “the soul of our city,” she said.

This year’s Equitable Development Initiative capital grants also include:

  • $640,000 for Africatown Community Land Trust’s Midtown Plaza project in the Central District
  • $500,000 for the renovation of the old fire station in the Central District where Byrd Barr Place runs a food bank and social services
  • $500,000 for a Chief Seattle Club project that will provide affordable housing and health care to American Indian and Alaskan Native people in Pioneer Square
  • $842,000 for a Multicultural Community Center project that will serve eight refugee and immigrant groups in Rainier Valley
  • $168,000 for Wing Luke Museum’s preservation of a historic home in the Chinatown International District and for the development of affordable housing on the adjacent parking lot.

In addition to the capital grants, more than a dozen organizations will receive “capacity-building” grants of up to $75,000.

Also Tuesday, Durkan signed legislation transferring two properties from Seattle to Black-led community organizations that have long sought the sites. The Central Area Senior Center will be transferred to the nonprofit that has operated there since 1975, and the city’s old Fire Station 6 will be transferred to Africatown, which plans to convert it into a cultural center.