In the midst of controversy and gentrification in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood, the team behind the Liberty Bank Building just broke ground on a housing development that will bring much-needed affordable housing to the historic neighborhood.
The Liberty Bank Building won’t just bring affordable housing to the neighborhood, it will also pay tribute to its long-standing history in the Central District.
When Liberty Bank opened in May of 1968 at 24th and Union, it was the first black-owned bank west of the Mississippi. For 20 years, the bank provided financial services to people and business who were otherwise unable to obtain them. In 1988, the bank closed and later reopened as Emerald City Bank, which was eventually bought by Key Bank. In 2015, Key Bank went to Capitol Hill Housing with an offer to sell the property below market value with the intention that it would become affordable housing.
The Liberty Bank Building will provide 115 affordable housing units to the neighborhood with the typical rent for a stud ranging from $471 to $942 per month, one-bedrooms from $504 to $1,008, and two-bedrooms from $605 to $1,210 per month depending on income. The units are marketed significantly less than current market-rate one-bedrooms in the Seattle area. Units are income restricted and open to people earning between 30, 50 and 60 percent of the area median income.
The project will also incorporate 2,695 square feet of space for local business as well as a 3,000 square foot rooftop deck.
The team hopes to incorporate Liberty Bank’s rich history into the building by retaining the historic “LB” logo of Liberty Bank of the corner of Union St. and 24th Ave. and will be officially dubbed the Liberty Bank Building with signage paying homage to the bank.
The building will also include a plaque on the exterior of the building that describes Liberty Bank’s story. “The story of Liberty Bank and how a multicultural group came together to do something that has never been done before west of Mississippi provided economic opportunities to their community that had been historically denied,” states the website dedicated to updating the progress of the building. In addition to the plaque, there will also be an interpretive courtyard display about the story of the project.
One of the unique features of the building will incorporate the bank’s vault door, which will be repurposed into a common area as a major conceptual art piece and they will also commission a local artist to paint a mural in the lobby.
The team broke ground on the project at 2320 E. Union on June 19th. The full team includes the Africatown-Central District Preservation and Development Association, Capitol Hill Housing, Black Community Impact Alliance and Centerstone. Walsh Construction is serving as the general contractor for the project.