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Liberty Bank Project Breaks Ground In Future Of Seattle's Central District

Simone Alicea
Capitol Hill Housing CEO Christopher Persons and Centerstone CEO Andrea Caupain pose in front of the site of the old Liberty Bank in May before the new project's groundbreaking Monday.

The site of Washington state's first black-owned bank is on its way to becoming what developers hope will be a hub for the neighborhood's modern black community.

The Liberty Bank project on 24th Avenue and East Union Street broke ground Monday. The groundbreaking ceremony coincided with Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Like many new developments in the Central District and around the city, the project is set to become high-rise housing with businesses on the ground floor.

But unlike some new projects, the group behind the new Liberty Bank Building is trying to take a different approach to development.

The site was sold to Capitol Hill Housing, a city corporation that develops affordable housing. That organization partnered with neighborhood groups AfricaTown, Centerstone and the Black Community Impact Alliance.

Their agreement keeps ownership with Capitol Hill Housing for 15 years. After that, it's expected the coalition of other groups will take ownership of the property.

"For a long time a lot of us in the [Central District] were having discussions about how this community geographically has been overlooked by developers, overlooked by investors," Centerstone CEO Andrea Caupain said.

The goal is to build affordable housing in a neighborhood where rents are rising fast. The neighborhood coalition also plans on populating the ground floor with black-owned businesses and prioritizing local and minority subcontractors during construction.

"We've always had hopes and dreams about what could be here that could be community-inspired," Caupain said.

Project leaders say they expect to begin accepting tenants in the fall of 2018.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.