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Mayor Durkan Announces $5.65 Million to Community Organizations Through the Equitable Development Initiative

EDI organizations have secured more than $105 million in City-funded dollars since 2017Mayor signs property transfer to community ownership for Central Area Senior Center, 99-year lease for Fire Station 6

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced nearly $6 million in awards through the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), part of the City’s effort to support Seattle’s existing residents and businesses in high displacement risk neighborhoods. The City awarded $4.4 million to community organizations for site acquisition and major capital projects and another $1.25 million is intended to provide capacity-building support to existing EDI partners providing services during the current pandemic and economic crisis. The awards to organizations led by and serving people of color will be used for organizational capacity building, property acquisition, and capital expenses. In addition to the $36 million in EDI funds awarded, these community-based organizations leveraged that amount to more than $105 million in City-funded dollars since 2017. 

“To tackle the challenges of displacement, our City is investing in community-based organizations who are leading the way to empower and strengthen underserved communities and create economic vitality. The Economic Development Initiative has a strong record of creating the newest homes for our City’s residents, non-profits, and local small businesses through leveraging other city programs,“ said Mayor Durkan. “One of my most important priorities in this budget was to transform how the City invests in communities of color by centering the experiences of Black and Indigenous communities. Even in this difficult year, my budget set aside historic resources to meet the challenges of this moment and move us toward being the city we want to be when we come out of this crisis: stronger, more just, and more equitable.” 

The EDI fund, administered by the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), was created to respond to the needs of marginalized populations, reduce disparities, and support access to opportunity in healthy, vibrant communities. The initiative is championed by community organizations concerned about displacement pressures and historical lack of investment that has occurred in communities of color in Seattle. Mayor Durkan proposed a sustained funding source for the program in 2019. 

“By hosting this important event we honor the priorities of our community members and the hard work they are doing to create the kinds of neighborhoods they want,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales, District 2. “In this environment especially, when Seattle is working on anti-displacement strategies and responding to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the nearly $6 million being awarded today will launch the kind of changes sought by organizations led by and for Black and Brown communities in neighborhoods like mine that are at high risk of displacement. I am proud of all the recipients today. I am especially grateful for the work of the Rainier Valley Midwives providing culturally relevant, holistic pregnancy care to a community with high infant mortality rates. Our community deserves medical care that centers their life experiences and celebrates their humanity. I’m excited that the Central Area Senior Center finally has control of their building so they can make the facility and grounds improvements they’ve been planning for so long. And I’m especially thrilled that a worn out building can be repurposed to make way for the development of the Food Innovation Center, which will create a healthy food industry in Rainier Beach, create job opportunities, and serve as a catalyst in a neighborhood that needs it most.” 

“We are so grateful to receive $1 million from the Equitable Development Initiative,” said Tara Lawal of Rainier Valley Midwives. “It is giving us the momentum to build a community Birth Center of our dreams. Thank you for believing in us and supporting our vision to provide equitable healthcare in South Seattle.” 

EDI fosters community leadership and supports organizations to promote equitable access to jobs, education and childcare, outdoor space and recreation, cultural expression, healthy food, and other community needs and amenities. These partnerships are designed to support leadership and build capacity building among the most historically marginalized groups in Seattle, sharing in decision-making and power, and working towards racial equity outcomes that allows all communities to thrive. 

An interim board of community members provided recommendations to the City on the funding decisions announced today. The City is seeking representatives for a new permanent EDI Advisory Board grounded in community to provide ongoing guidance for the initiative and provide input on future funding decisions. Applications are currently being accepted through Nov. 30, 2020.   

“When community members advocated for the creation of EDI, it was with the intention of creating collaboration between community-initiated projects and the City to respond to historical injustices and increase community-ownership,” said Ubax Gardheere, EDI division manager. “The transfer of these properties and EDI investments are all important contributions towards creating a more equitable City.” 

Along with today’s award announcement, Mayor Durkan signed her ordinances, approved unanimously be the Seattle City Council, that transfers City property to Black-led community organizations in the Central District. The two ordinances permanently transfer the Central Area Senior Center (CASC) to community ownership and establish a 99-year lease with Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) for Fire Station 6, an EDI award recipient. These property transfers build on the September transfer to Byrd Barr Place, another Black-led advocacy organization. 

“In recent months, the City has proposed and passed the transfer of Black-led organizations including Byrd Barr Place, the Central Area Senior Center, and Fire Station 6 back to community. In recent weeks, the Sound Transit Board moved forward on transferring ten surplus properties in Rainier Valley to the City of Seattle at no cost, for 150 new affordable homes. Our City must make real on the promise of bold investments in the Black community and increasing community ownership of land. These places and organizations will uplift and support the Black community for decades to come,” concluded Mayor Durkan.  

Fire Station 6 will be the future home of the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation (WGC), where ACLT will provide small business assistance, skills training and celebrate Black/African American culture and history in the Central Area. The City has committed $1 million from the EDI fund for tenant improvements to Fire Station 6. As a valued community partner, Africatown Community Land Trust has received $15.5 million in city funding, since 2017.  

“The proposed lease and reuse of Fire Station 6 as the WGC would directly carry and contribute to the EDI Wealth Building strategies and the accompanying EDI are critical to showing us a path forward, that our communities have solutions and that a more equitable Seattle is possible,” said Wyking Garrett, president and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust. 

CASC has served Central Area seniors since 1972, when it was founded as a nonprofit volunteer-supported organization. In 1975, the City purchased a facility in the Central Area where CASC continues to provide health and wellness, counseling, transportation, and meal services.  

“CASC is ready, and eager to accept the transfer of the property to the community. The gentrification of the Central District and the movement of Black people out of Seattle has been quite evident within the City limits. However, there remains a core of institutions that Black people and those who are now seniors, travel far and wide to reach. CASC is one of these locations.  It is a place of historical importance,” said Dian Ferguson, Executive Director of CASC. “We applaud Mayor Durkan for setting the stage for the transfer of this property to its rightful 50-year community-based partner. It advances a collective mission to move from business as usual to achieving real outcomes focused on equity with no strings attached to the seniors of our community and its African American founders.” 

The following community-based organizations currently working with EDI on anti-displacement strategies and economic development opportunities will receive awards from the $4.4 million for site acquisition and major capital projects in 2020: 

Africatown Midtown Plaza — $640,000  

Africatown will create between 5,000 and 8000 sq ft of affordable commercial space for Black-owned businesses in Midtown Plaza. The project also includes 130 affordable homes and art that reflects the African-American heritage of the neighborhood. 

Byrd Barr Place — $500,000 
Byrd Barr Place has been operating out of the City’s surplus Fire Station 23. The City transferred ownership of the property to the organization in September and the additional funds will support improvements to the building. Completion of this project would renovate the 100+ year old building to meet contemporary ADA and environmental standards, allowing BBP to expand the services it provides. 

Chief Seattle Club — $500,000 
The Chief Seattle Club is renovating the Monterey Lofts above their current facility and adjacent to the site of their new facility. It is designed to support the physical, cultural, and spiritual needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native community, with indigenous designs, 80 affordable homes, services, health clinic, and a café/art gallery space in Pioneer Square. 

Ethiopian Community in Seattle —$750,000 

The Ethiopian Community in Seattle is redeveloping its existing community center to include 100 affordable homes, childcare, and commercial space.  The awarded funds will be used to to finance construction expected to break ground next year.  

Multicultural Community Coalition — $842,000  

The Multicultural Community Coalition (MCC) will anchor several community organizations serving Seattle’s growing immigrant, refugee and people of color communities by creating a community-owned and operated co-working space and an essential Cultural Innovation Center (CIC). The CIC is envisioned as a vital heritage and cultural arts venue which will house year-round, cultural events and activities as well as serving as a Creative Economy space in which artists, cultural nonprofits, and creative small businesses will produce and distribute cultural goods and services that generate jobs, revenue, and quality of life.

Rainier Valley Midwives — $1 million 
Rainier Valley Midwives has been operating out of a temporary location in the Rainier Valley Community Clinic that is becoming untenable due to escalating rents. The organization is working to acquire and build a permanent Birth Center in the Rainier Valley that will provide wrap-around services before, during, and after the birth process to people of color. 

Wing Luke Museum — $168,000 
The Wing is seeking to preserve the Homestead Home one block south of the Museum and to activate and develop its adjacent parking lot. This home is the most intact remaining single-family home in the Chinatown-International District, constructed in 1937 despite the Chinese Exclusion Act and discriminatory barriers to single family homes in the neighborhood. On the lot, the Wing intends to build 60 affordable apartments above a street-level community gathering space. 

The following existing EDI partners will receive new capacity-building awards of up to $75,000 in 2020: Black & Tan Hall, Byrd Barr Place, Central Area Youth Association, Cham Refugees Communities, Chief Seattle Club, Duwamish Tribal Services, Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, Lake City Collective, Friends of Little Saigon, Queer the Land,  Rainier Valley Midwives, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, HomeSight, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Urban Black LLC, West African Community Council, and Wing Luke Museum. 

Additional awards to new EDI partners will be announced later this fall, including organizations that are supporting communities of color and small businesses responding to the devastating economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

Since November 2016, OPCD and partner departments, including Office of Economic Development (OED), Office of Housing (OH), Department of Neighborhoods (DON), Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), and Office for Civil Rights (OCR), have coordinated the administration of the EDI Fund. 

Projects were evaluated on their ability to positively impact several equity drivers, that lead to racial equity outcomes including: 

  • Promoting economic opportunity through education, job training, and enhancing community cultural anchors. 
  • Helping marginalized populations, businesses, and community organizations stay in their neighborhoods. 
  • Enhancing health outcomes, access to healthy, culturally relevant food, and supporting safe environments. 

Successful applicants demonstrated a deep relationship with the community they are seeking to serve and feature an inclusive community process, with community members serving in their organizational leadership.