Reinvesting in Our Buildings

The Bonanza project includes new exterior siding for two of the buildings as well as brick repairs on El Nor’s exterior (pictured above).

The CHH Bonanza project is the preservation and rehabilitation of the Ponderosa, El Nor and 18th Avenue buildings in the Central District. It embodies one of our most core tenets: Everyone has the right to a quality, affordable home. In some cases, those quality homes are produced not through new construction, but through a reinvestment in our existing portfolio.

By a complex refinancing of the El Nor, Ponderosa, and 18th Avenue buildings, CHH has been able to obtain $140,000 per apartment to go toward improvements. This reinvestment allows for a proactive retrofit of an Unreinforced Masonry Building as well as overwhelming cosmetic refurbishments to make these homes feel brand new. In addition to substantial seismic upgrades, all three buildings will now have new windows, roofs, and cabinets. The kitchens will have new countertops and appliances, and the bathrooms will have new shower heads and toilets. Each unit will also feature new measures in energy efficiency: LED lights are being installed, as are programmable thermostats and low-flow facets. The Ponderosa will even have a new rooftop solar array.

Rehab work began in 2019, and two of the three buildings are nearly complete. The Ponderosa and 18th Avenue buildings’ renovations will be completed next month, and El Nor’s improvements will wrap up in August.

The Bonanza project reflects an ongoing movement toward sustainable preservation. Improving existing built resources is not just environmentally friendly; it has a direct impact on the quality of life for the residents of these affordable homes. CHH is very proud of the work completed and can’t wait for residents to enjoy their safer, improved homes. 

Pictured above: The three buildings included in the Bonanza rehabilitation project.

Liberty Bank Building Celebrates One Year

On March 23, 2019, a child and a reverend hoisted up ceremonial giant scissors and cut the ribbon in front of Liberty Bank Building, marking the momentous opening of 115 affordable homes in the Central District. It has been one year since the building opened, and the community within remains as strong as the showing on the day of the ribbon-cutting.

Michelle Purnell Hepburn, community leader, is the daughter of one of the founders of Liberty Bank. Here she displays historic photos of the original building. Liberty Bank opened in May of 1968 at 24th and Union as the first black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1968 as a community response to redlining and disinvestment in Central Seattle, Liberty Bank operated in the Central District for 20 years. The bank provided essential financial services to people and businesses who were otherwise unable to obtain them. Liberty Bank represented resilience and empowerment and stood as an example of a community’s solution to systemic, institutional racism.
The Liberty Bank Building was a community-led development to address displacement in the Central District. A historically black neighborhood, the Central District was a hub for the African American and African diaspora communities that called it home.
The multi-story mural painted on the outside of the Liberty Bank Building was designed by Al Doggett.
The mural reflects the vibrancy of the spirit of the Central District.
Future residents sign an apartment lease.
A high school student sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony. The song is the Black National Anthem, and some of the lyrics include “Lift every voice and sing, til earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.”
Michelle Purnell Hepburn watches the proceedings of the ceremony.
Al Doggett, one of the lead curators of art in the Liberty Bank Building, embraces a friend at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Kristi Brown poses with her son and business partner, Damon Bomar. Their restaurant is under construction at the Liberty Bank Building. It builds off Kristi’s wealth of experience with her catering company, That Brown Girl Cooks!
Community members gather to celebrate the opening of LBB on March 23, 2019.
The Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by over a hundred members of the community.
Esther Ervin and Al Doggett in the lobby of the Liberty Bank Building. The two co-curated the art collection inside and outside the building. The pieces pay homage to the history of the site, the original Liberty Bank, and the chronicle of the Central District. Photo by Kevin Scott.
Community members in the resident lounge at the Liberty Bank Building. Photo by Kevin Scott.
Earl Lancaster, owner of Earl’s Cuts and Styles, signs a lease with Christopher Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing for a new space at the Liberty Bank Building in the Central District. After nearly 30 years of business at 23rd and Union, the legendary barbershop moved across the street into the new building. Photo by Yosef Kalinko.
Earl’s Cuts and Styles officially opens in one of the commercial spaces at the Liberty Bank Building.
A recap video of the Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Station House Sets Green Goals

Station House, CHH’s newest building, is nearly complete! A transit-oriented development co-located with the Capitol Hill light rail station, Station House is our greenest new construction project to date. 

At CHH, one of our core values is to responsibly steward our properties while protecting the environment. Station House’s construction exemplifies these values – triple-paned windows, solar panels, and a green roof are just a few of the environmentally friendly features of the building. Station House’s insulation also exceeds code to boost energy efficiency while reducing noise pollution.

Construction focused on utilizing healthy materials such as low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint to bolster indoor air quality and ensure our residents are staying in the healthiest homes possible. CHH hopes to achieve LEED Mid-Rise Platinum status, the highest and most selective of the four rankings. LEED promotes standards that closely aligns with our own organizational goals; in fact, according to LEED: “We believe green buildings are the foundation of something bigger: helping people, and the communities and cities they reside in – safely, healthily and sustainably thrive.”

LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing Project

Neighborhood: Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine Corridor

Project Address: 1515-1519 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

SDCI Project Number: 3032647-EG

LGBTQ-Affirming Senior Housing – Conceptual Drawing by Environmental Works

Project Description:

The LGBTQ Senior Housing project will provide 125 LGBTQ-affirming, affordable homes for seniors in the heart of Capitol Hill. The new construction, a 79,821 square foot building, will include an LGBTQ senior community & health services center on the ground level operated by GenPRIDE, a non-profit dedicated to providing services to the LGBTQ senior population in Seattle. Over 4,800 square feet of commercial retail space along the Broadway street front will be included within the landmarked façade of the Eldridge Tire Company and an adjacent building. Nearly a dozen community groups that serve or represent the LGBTQ population have participated in the planning for the project to ensure the building provides amenities and design features specific to the LGBTQ senior community.

Amenities for residents include a community room, landscaped patio, bike storage, and access to specialty services provided by GenPRIDE and other community-based service providers. 

Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.

Unit Mix and Income Levels:

The building includes 104 studio units and 21 one-bedroom units for seniors (age 55+) with incomes at 30%, 50% or 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). 

Seattle Office of Housing income qualifications are available here.

Funding Sources:

  • City of Seattle Office of Housing
  • King County
  • Washington State Housing Trust Fund
  • Sound Transit*
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Equity
  • Permanent Bonds
  • Rise Together Capital Campaign

*Sound Transit is providing substantial support to the project in the form of discounted land acquisition costs

Architect: Environmental Works

Contact Information:

For questions or comments about the project, contact Mason Cavell at 1515Broadway@capitolhillhousing.org (note: any information collected may be made public).

For information on GenPRIDE, visit their website at www.genprideseattle.org.

Capitol Hill Housing logo

Station House Opens March 2020

Featured

Status as of 3/6/2020 at 9:15 AM: Starting March 6, we have re-opened the short form of interest for 60% Area Median Income-eligible apartments.  Please review the info below and go here to fill out a short form for the following apartment sizes, income limits and rent ranges:

The form will close after the first 500 short form submissions without notice.

If you already attended an appointment and submitted a complete application, we are currently processing your application to make a final determination. You will be contacted within three weeks with an update on your application. The timeframe to move into Station House is still scheduled for March through June 2020.

We will continue to provide updates as needed.

For updates on future project developments by Capitol Hill Housing, sign up for our e-newsletter here.

About Station House
A transit-oriented development in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Station House opens Spring 2020, by Capitol Hill Housing in Seattle, WA

Station House features 110 affordable apartments co-located with the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. It is anticipated to open in March 2020.

See the flyer on Station House amenities and features in Amharic (አማርኛ), English, Simplified Chinese (简体中文), Somali (Soomaali), Spanish (Español), and Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt).

Want to live at Station House?

If you are interested in applying for an apartment at Station House, we recommend you carefully review the information on this page before filling out the form. Apartments are available to move in starting March 2020 and no later than June 2020. If you are in search of housing before March 2020 or after June 2020, please see our apartment openings available from our current portfolio.

Key DatesEligibilityThe ProcessFAQDocuments & Links

Key Dates

  • On January 7, 2020 at 9AM we opened a short form to express interest. This form started the application process for an apartment at Station House.
    • Apartments are available on a first come, first serve basis. Apartments are limited, cannot be guaranteed, and depend on applicant eligibility, see below.
    • Note: The form was available until the maximum number of applications were received.
    • The form was open from January 7th through January 14th. Please see the status update at the top of the page for more opportunities.
  • Starting March 6 at 9AM: the form will again be available for applications limited to the following apartment sizes, income limits and rent ranges:

The form will close after the first 500 short form submissions without notice.

  • March 2020 through June 2020: Apartments will be available for tenants to move in during this timeframe.

Eligibility

Applicants are eligible based on their gross household income and number of people in the household. The chart below shows the maximum allowable income for different sized families for a studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom. See the chart in our flyer for detailed info on the income limits per household, number of apartments available, and rent ranges. See FAQ below for more information.


Process

Step 1: Submit a Form to Express Your Interest

  • Starting at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2020, the online form was available for a week.
  • Starting March 6 at 9AM: the form will again be available for applications for the following apartment sizes, income limits and rent ranges:

The form will close after the first 500 short form submissions without notice.
Please check back here on March 6 for the link to fill out the form to be considered for an apartment.

  • The form asks for the following:
    • Your first name and last name
      • A reliable phone number and email address. We will call you back via phone to start the prescreening process. If you require a special accommodation, please indicate from our available options on the form.
    • The apartment size you are interested in
    • How you heard about apartments at Station House

In keeping with the City’s “First in Time” ordinance, applicants will be called in the order in which they filled out the form. If you have not received a call back, it means that all apartments have been filled.

Step 2: Prescreening

  • If you receive a call back from one of our administrative assistants, they will ask you a series of questions to determine your eligibility for an apartment.
  • *Pro-Tip: please note you might not recognize the number that is calling you back. In case we miss you, make sure that your voicemail box can accept messages and if you have a landline phone that does not have voicemail and you are not available, consider forwarding your phone to someone who can answer on your behalf.

Step 3: Set-up an in-person appointment

  • Based on the results of your prescreening, the administrative assistants will also set up a time for an in-person appointment to fill out eligibility paperwork. The administrative assistant will explain what documents to bring to your appointment, which are also available here.
  • You will be required to bring the following fees to the appointment: There will be a $52 application fee per adult in the household over the age of 18 and $200 apartment holding fee. If you do not qualify for an apartment, the $200 apartment holding fee will be refunded.

Step 4: Applicant Review

  • Due to the high volume of people interested in living at Station House, it can take up to three weeks for us to process your paperwork and verify your information.
    • If for some reason there is a problem with your application or you are missing information, you will have 72 hours to provide the correct information before we will move on to the next applicant in line.

Step 5: Move-ins

  • If your application is approved, we will contact you to schedule a time to sign your lease and set a move-in date and time between March 2020 and no later than June 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What information should I have ready before I apply?

You will be expected to bring documents that demonstrate how much money you (and everyone in your household) make as well as the value of any of your assets. A full list of items to have ready when you apply can be found online in a document called “What to bring when you apply

How much does it cost to apply?

As part of the application process we will run a background check. Background screening fees are $52 per person, over the age of 18 in your household. Once you have been approved for an apartment, an apartment holding fee of $200 will also be charged.

What are the credit requirements?

We do not look at your credit score when considering your application. However, we do look at your rental history including rent and utility payments.

I have a criminal history or poor rental history, is that a problem?

Poor rental history or a criminal record do not necessarily disqualify you from housing with Capitol Hill Housing. If you do not meet our rental housing policy standard, you may request an Individual Assessment (IA) of your criminal history, rental history, mortgage history or references. This IA will be conducted by a blind panel of staff to make a final determination of eligibility.

Learn more about our Individual Assessment Process online.

I am having trouble accessing the short form link since a previous person already filled out the form from this computer. What do I do?

If another person has previously filled out the short form on your web browser, you can enable private browsing on any web browser. See directions here (external link) for Google Chrome, Mozilla FireFox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge. If available, you can also try accessing the form from a different web browser not previously used.

What are you looking for on the criminal background check?

We screen for people who are listed on the sex offender registry for a conviction that occurred when the person was an adult. We also screen for people who have been convicted of the manufacture or production of methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing.

Will I get to see the unit before I am accepted?

Unfortunately, no. The construction of the building will not be completed until March 2020 so you will not be able to view an apartment during the application process or before you sign a lease. We anticipate having printed floor plans available at the time of application processing to help you determine if the apartment is right for you.

Can I select a particular unit within the building?

We cannot guarantee any particular unit, but we will do our best to accommodate requests. Any requests for special features or needs in the apartment that are related to a disability must be verified by a healthcare provider or other qualified source.  

What if I want a larger or smaller apartment than what is offered to me?

Station House will consist of 41 studios, 44 one-bedroom apartments, 18 two-bedroom and 7 three-bedroom apartments. We will do our best to accommodate requests; however, due to the limited number of varying size apartments available, our ability to accommodate these requests will be limited.

I was deemed ineligible in the screening process, but I think there has been a mistake. What can I do?

If you completed an application, the appeal process is outlined in your denial letter. Appeals must be submitted in writing. Unfortunately, we cannot hold an apartment while a decision is appealed.

How much money do I need to make to qualify for a unit?

All apartments at Station House have income minimums and maximums you must make to qualify for the building. 

  • 8 apartments will be available to households earning less than or equal to 30% of the Area Median Income
  • 10 apartments will be available to households earning less than or equal to 50% of the Area Median Income
  • 92 apartments will be available to households earning less than or equal to 60% of the Area Median Income

Anticipated Rent Ranges
Please note that rents are subject to change.

Type Apartments Size Range Rent Range
Studio 41 385-470 sq. ft. $551 – $1,132
One Bedroom 44 538-720 sq. ft. $587 – $1,210
Two Bedroom 18 743-969 sq. ft. $697 – 1,445
Three Bedroom 7 948-1,101 sq. ft. $783 – $1,646

Maximum Income Limits

Household Size 30% AMI 50% AMI 60% AMI
1 Person $23,250 $38,750 $46,500
2 People $26,550 $44,300 $53,150
3 People $29,900 $49,800 $59,800
4 People $33,200 $55,350 $66,400
5 People $35,850 $59,600 $71,750
6 People $38,500 $64,200 $77,050
7 People $41,200 $68,650 $82,350

Can I be put on a waitlist ahead of time?

There is no waitlist for this project. All vacancies will be filled on a first come, first serve basis.

If I am approved to live at the Station House Building, when should I give notice to my landlord?

Once you have a scheduled a move-in date, you should check with your current landlord about the appropriate time to give notice. Do not give notice before you have a scheduled move-in date.

Can I smoke in the apartment or building?

No, Station House is a smoke-free property.


Documents & Links

Maplet shows Station House located at the corner of 10th and E. John St. in Seattle, WA.

These documents may help answer some of your questions.

Partner Spotlight: GenPRIDE

Community meeting at GenPRIDE offices. Photo courtesy of GenPRIDE.

We’ve got some big news.

You may have heard that, in partnership with nine LGBTQ-serving organizations, we are building the first LGBTQ-affirming affordable housing for seniors in the Pacific Northwest. Guiding this effort is an Advisory Committee that includes Aging with Pride, Generations Aging with Pride (GenPRIDE), the Ingersoll Gender Center, LGBTQ Allyship, Country Doctor, Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, POCAAN, the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), and Seattle Counseling Services.

The past six months have been busy as the Advisory Committee has navigated a site change to Broadway between Pike and Pine and the selection of a ground floor tenant: GenPRIDE. Focused on empowering older LGBTQ+ adults to live with pride and dignity, GenPRIDE promotes, connects, and develops innovative programs and services that enhance belonging and support, eliminate discrimination, and honor the lives of older members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The move to Broadway – originally, the building was to sit at the corner of 14th Avenue and East Union Street – brings better access to more amenities, including the Capitol Hill light rail station, and more visibility for the services that GenPRIDE and others will provide. If this project is funded by the Seattle Office of Housing this fall, we plan to break ground in December 2020.

With 90+ affordable apartments at 60% at or below area median income, a main goal of the project will be to create an anchor for a community at risk of displacement – one that provides health and social services to residents as well as community members not living on site. In addition to becoming its headquarters, GenPride will oversee space on the ground floor to serve community-determined needs.

“This housing project is significant for many reasons—the need for affordable housing is essential, especially for our LGBTQ elders. Many of us have been displaced to far-flung areas in the region where isolation and limited access to services creates more risk to our health and well-being,” says Steven Knipp, GenPRIDE’s Executive Director. “It is also important for us to reclaim Capitol Hill as the LGBTQ+ historic center—and placing this building right in the heart of the neighborhood sends a clear message that we are still here.”

In Development: Station House Update

Last June, we celebrated the groundbreaking for transit-oriented development above the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station. CHH will build 110 apartments affordable to households earning at or below 30%, 50%, and 60% of area median income in a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units at the corner of 10th Avenue East and East John Street. The building is being built with a goal of reaching a LEED Platinum standard and will also include a 1,409 square foot community room. CHH plans to complete the framing of the top story on this, our 50th building, during the week of May 20th.


  See below for an animated look at the evolution of Station House since June!

Photos courtesy of Charles Hall. GIF by Yiling Wong.

Public Notice

Closing of the 18th Ave Apartment (2bdrm), 412 Apartments, El Nor, Elizabeth James House, Haines Apartments (Studios), Hazel Plaza (2&3 Bdrm), Holden Vista (2&3 Bdrm), Mary Ruth Manor (2&3 Bdrm), and Union James Section 8 Waiting Lists. Effective August 3, 2018: Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) will close the Section 8 waiting lists at these buildings.

CHH will NOT accept any NEW applications for any waiting lists on or after this date until further notice.

When a waiting list becomes longer than the amount of people we can service within
two – three years, we stop taking applications. Because we have very few vacancies, we expect it will take a long time before we can assist applicants already on the waiting lists. Therefore, we have no plans to re-open these waiting lists in the near future.

The closures are effective August 3, 2018 and shall remain in effect until further notice. No applications will be accepted for these buildings while the waiting lists are closed. When CHH is prepared to re-open these waiting lists, an announcement will be posted on our website and in the local newspaper.

While CHH will not be taking new applications during the time the waiting lists are closed, staff will continue to process those currently on the lists and make unit offers as vacancies occur. You are still required to update your personal information by submitting changes in writing.

For more on the CHH properties subsidized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), go here.

Resident Spotlight: Myrtle

Myrtle remembers walking by the El Nor when she was a little girl living in the Central District. “I remember the women working with their flowers and veggies,” she recalls, alluding to the large, beautiful resident garden, “it was always here.”

Myrtle refers to herself as a “CD Baby” – she grew up here, raised her family here, and later, retired here. She’s seen a lot of changes in those times – buildings torn down, new people moving in, seniors and families getting pushed out. And yet, Myrtle hasn’t let that discourage her. She still feels a strong sense of community in the neighborhood, and even greets newcomers with a friendly “welcome to the CD!”

Nonetheless, she feels lucky to be able to continue living in the Central District. With rising rents and skyrocketing housing prices, she considers her home at Capitol Hill Housing’s 55-unit El Nor building for seniors to be a “blessing.” With a monthly rent she can afford on her fixed income, she is able to stay in her community where she knows everybody and has a strong social network, close to family and resources. Myrtle talks passionately about the bingo nights, the garden, and even regular outings that contribute to a strong sense of community within her building, where she knows her neighbors and feels safe and well cared for.

“We all have so much we can learn from one another,” she says, referring to both her neighbors and other community members. “It’s great to be able to share our histories.”

Despite all this, Myrtle says she is ready to move on. While her apartment is cozy, it is too small to comfortably host guests. And with her daughter and two grandchildren living close by, Myrtle would love to be able to have them over for dinner, and have a place for her grandson to sleep when he comes to visit. Myrtle hopes she can find this in the new apartments being built by Capitol Hill Housing at the Liberty Bank Building, at the site of the historic Liberty Bank.

“I opened my first bank account at Liberty Bank when I was 16,” Myrtle recalls. “It would feel like coming full circle to be able to live in a place with so much historic meaning.”

Looking back, Myrtle is proud of how far she’s come. She has a home, her family is doing well, and she is dedicated to using her life to make a difference for the younger generation. “I’ve struggled, my family’s struggled,” she says, “but I’m blessed to be where I am now, to have a home here in my ‘little sanctuary.’”

From the CEO

A little over a week ago we held our annual fundraiser, Top of the Town. (Thank you to all who sponsored, attended and donated—because of you, we exceeded our fundraising goal.) What follows is a version of the remarks I gave at that event.

Originally I had planned to talk about the crisis of homelessness and affordable housing in Seattle and King County—an issue that has not only been in the local media spotlight lately, but one that is at the very heart of CHH’s mission. However, the events that have transpired in the past few weeks surrounding the Liberty Bank Building have made me realize that there is a different dialogue I want to engage in today.

On Monday, April 25, CHH held a community design charrette to solicit input from community members about the Liberty Bank project, a CHH development in the works that will create 115 new affordable apartments in the Central District. The architects presented current massing studies and other early design elements; then community members met in small groups, brainstormed their priorities, and reported back to the whole group. It was great! We got a lot of good ideas that will be incorporated into the final design of the building. It’s exciting when these events function as they are supposed to, extracting meaningful feedback from stakeholders that will make a project more useful and equitable for the immediate community. But this charrette stands in stark contrast to the design meeting we held the week before with the Land Use Review Committee (LURC). At that meeting, there was so much pent up frustration from a small number of people in the audience that CHH was unable to even make a presentation.

To understand why this happened, you need to understand the history of the Liberty Bank Building. Liberty Bank existed on the corner of 24th and Union from 1968 to 1988. It was the first African American owned and operated bank west of the Mississippi. The founders, the owners, the managers, the tellers, the borrowers and the depositors were all local residents. The bank became a hub for the Black community, a proud institutional resource for a community that has historically been excluded from the kind of banking services that White America takes for granted.

Sadly, as is the case with most small businesses, Liberty Bank suffered some turbulent times and was forced to go out of business. When the bank closed, people lost money. That was 28 years ago, and to this day there are lingering resentments and a sense of ownership loss.

When CHH acquired the building in 2015 it was from Key Bank, who had been operating a branch there for 22 years. Although we had significant community support, we were also met with an effort to turn the site into a historical landmark, preventing any future development on the site. Though the landmarking effort was ultimately unsuccessful, we listened closely to the community. We convened an advisory board that included two daughters of Liberty Bank founders, and worked with them to determine the most sensitive and dignified way to memorialize the history of Liberty Bank at the new development. Among other things, we’re naming the development “the Liberty Bank Building”; we are incorporating the original sign into the building; we are creating places with remembrances of the bank for people to sit and reflect on that history; and we are displaying many old photos of staff and bank history.

Since making those commitments a year ago, we’ve been doing normal development stuff like demolishing the old building—but we’ve preserved the vault door, the safety deposit box doors, and many, many bricks, all of which we’re incorporating into the design of the new building. We’ve done our soils remediation work, hired our general contractor and architect, and have been negotiating a partnership with Centerstone. All of this work led up to the productive charrette at the end of April, where we continued to absorb stakeholder thinking that will lead to a design supportive of community priorities.

* * *

What I’m about to say next will seem like a tangent, but if you bear with me, I promise these stories will come together.

Let me tell you about Uncle Ike’s marijuana shop. A little over a week ago, there was a protest outside Ike’s. If you don’t know, Uncle Ike’s is likely the most successful marijuana shop in the state, and is located at 23rd and Union next to the Liberty Bank Building. It has a huge marquee lit sign, murals and glassware displays—and, as you’ll know if you’ve ever walked or driven past it, it’s a pretty popular spot.

As it turned out, the coordinated protest of Uncle Ike’s also happened to be the same day as the Liberty Bank LURC design meeting. The community was protesting because they don’t want a pot shop in such close proximity to a church, Mt. Calvary Christian Center, and its teen center. Now, there’s no State law against how close a marijuana shop can be to a church or teen center, and no one complained about Ike’s proximity during the formal licensing period in 2014. These protestors had gone to court and for these reasons, the judge ruled against them. That ship has sailed. But how would you feel if a drug dispensary opened up next door to your place of worship?

A lot of people roll their eyes at the protesters and write demeaning things about them in the comment sections of the blogs. But I understand their frustration, because there is a dark irony at work in the background of Uncle Ike’s. For a hundred years, the Central District was the only neighborhood in Seattle where Black folks could live. They were shunted there by redlining and racially restrictive covenants so that by the 1970s and 80s, seventy percent of the Central District population was African American. The community faced disinvestment from business and industry, and from public investment. So a concentration of poverty built up. And the corner of 23rd and Union became the place where some young Black men, who were given so few options and so few opportunities, plied the drug trade. Some were arrested; some were killed; and most were unable to gain employment because of their newly minted criminal record.

So this corner is steeped in symbolism and history. It is entrenched in the memory of a community who banded together for economic freedom, to create a Black-owned financial institution that was a community hub. And it is now at the epicenter of the radical change that is happening in the Central District. It has changed from an African American poor and working-class neighborhood to an increasingly white and affluent one. It has changed from a neighborhood where young Black men were arrested and jailed for selling marijuana, to a neighborhood where White people buy and sell pot freely—not only without fear of arrest or violence, but also at great profit.

So after the protesters were done demonstrating at Uncle Ike’s, a small number of them (perhaps eight) came to the Liberty Bank LURC meeting, steeped in a hundred years of neglect, indifference and inequity. We could not make our presentation because of the hostility, yelling, and sometimes hateful language.

I don’t condone their behavior—it was beyond disrespectful and certainly misplaced. But I do understand it. I hear it. As a community organization and as a developer that builds for the benefit of the community, we respond to those concerns, angry or not. In the end, the project that we deliver will have shared ownership with a local Black-led organization; it will be designed to reflect the priorities of African-American and African cultures; it will memorialize the history of Liberty Bank and its role as a hub for the Black community; it will be set up so that small local and Black owned businesses can operate there; and it will be planned so that African American individuals and families may find the Liberty Bank Building a comfortable and welcoming place to call home.

The commitment of CHH isn’t to do what we want. Our commitment is to do what the community wants. Some communities ask for theaters in their buildings (perhaps you’ve heard of our award-winning 12th Avenue Arts building). Other communities ask for ownership. And in this case, as in all cases, it has not been easy to meet all of the stakeholder priorities. But that does not mean that CHH shies away. We stand firm in our mission and will continue to listen, humble ourselves and take on the projects that we know will build up the cultural fabric of this great city. And in the process we will provide affordable housing to the families and individuals who serve as the backbone of our communities.

Of course, no community is a monolithic voice. It is a thousand voices. In the presence of this chorus—or perhaps more accurately, this cacophony—our vow is to listen. We listen so that we can reflect those voices, and out of them, together with the community, we strive to bring them into relative harmony. At the end of each project there can only be one song, but it is composed by many, many authors.

* * *

My friend George Staggers and I sometimes share funny e-mails exaggerating how much we get beat up in the community. But I sent him one the other day that shared some real exasperation, and he said, I don’t have any solutions or advice except to be honest and sensitive. And then he said, Peace.

This is my expectation of myself. To be honest, and to be sensitive. And if I may be so bold, this is my expectation of you, too. Our design team and contractors, our vendors and stakeholders, our staff and board members, I say this to you. As we venture into these grounds steeped in symbolism and mired in history: be honest, be sensitive.
     Christopher Persons, CEO