MOU Partners (left to right) Evelyn Thomas Allen, BCIA; Wyking Garrett, Africatown; Andrea Caupain, Centerstone; Kevin Dawson Jr., Centerstone; Jaebadiah Gardner, CHH; Jill Fleming, CHH. • Courtesy Photo
MOU Partners (left to right) Evelyn Thomas Allen, BCIA; Wyking Garrett, Africatown; Andrea Caupain, Centerstone; Kevin Dawson Jr., Centerstone; Jaebadiah Gardner, CHH; Jill Fleming, CHH. • Courtesy Photo

The following is an announcement from Capitol HIll Housing:

Africatown-Central District Preservation and Development Association (Africatown), The Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA), Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), and Centerstone announced on October 11 the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide the development of the Liberty Bank Building (24th and E Union).

The MOU formalizes an agreement between the partners to use the development of the site as a vehicle for the empowerment of the African-American community.

Liberty Bank was founded in 1968 as a community response to redlining and disinvestment in Central Seattle. The project also accomplishes the City’s goal to bring arts, culture, affordable commercial space and affordable housing. The project is supported by the Mayor Ed Murray’s Office, City of Seattle’s Office of Housing (OH) and the Office of Economic Development (OED).

In signing the MOU, the partners agreed to the following:

  • Secure long-term African-American ownership of the building. CHH will develop a partnership with Centerstone and Africatown that provides the opportunity for African-American community-based ownership of the building. Centerstone will have both a right of first offer and first right of refusal to acquire Liberty Bank after 15 years.
  • Provide affordable commercial space. CHH will work with Centerstone, Africatown, and BCIA to ensure the commercial space of the Liberty Bank project is designed and operated to prioritize affordability for small African American-owned businesses which meet minimum leasing criteria.
  • Develop and support Black-owned businesses. The Capitol Hill Housing Foundation will commit $5,000 per year for three years to help establish a business innovation fund to support small, Black-owned business development in the Central Area.
  • Design a building that connects with the history of the community. The project partners will ensure that the building design both appropriately memorializes its history as Liberty Bank and is representative of African-American design sensibility.
  • Prioritize local and minority hiring. CHH will work with the Partners and other community partners to identify Black-owned subcontractors. The project will also recognize the goals of the City of Seattle’s “priority hire” program.
  • Reaffirm the Central District as a hub of the pan-African community. CHH will work with Centerstone and Africatown to affirmatively market available rental units to members of the community that have been historically disenfranchised and displaced by past and present policies and practices. CHH will work with the partners to program activities in the building in ways which maximize activation of the building reflective of community priorities. CHH will further work with partners or other organizations to develop or facilitate access to services that provide a pathway to home ownership, business ownership, and wealth building.
  • Explore further policy changes. The partnership recognizes that one building is not enough to address the growing issue of displacement in the Central District. The project partners will work with the City to explore policies that allow for the prioritization of displaced families and individuals in publicly financed affordable housing.
  • Diversify CHH. CHH strives to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves. As CHH expands its work in the Central District, it will continue its commitment to diversifying the CHH Board and staff, as recognized in recent hires and appointments as well as ongoing training.

The MOU represents the next step in over three years of extensive advocacy led by Africatown and outreach conducted by CHH to find the best way to honor the history and cultural significance of Liberty Bank and memorialize it at the site.

Construction of the building is scheduled to begin spring of 2017. When completed, the Liberty Bank Building will be a six-story, mixed-use project at 24th and Union with commercial space on the ground floor and 115 units of housing for people earning between 30%, 50%, and 60% of the area median income (between $31,650 and  $54,180, depending on family size). The units will be a mix of studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units. More information can be found at

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