Hanna Tania & Sophie Ni, University of Washington Dept. of Architecture, courtesy of Africatown

Forterra and Africatown make an offer at 23rd & Union

Forterra and Africatown Community Land Trust are working together to secure a continued place for the historically-black community in Seattle’s Central District. We hope to team in the redevelopment of Midtown Center, a 2.4-acre property at 23rd & Union, and have made a proactive, pragmatic offer to purchase the property after another buyer’s offer was withdrawn.

The property is exactly the kind of community-defining, keystone place that Forterra makes a specialty of securing. Set in the heart of a vibrant, historically African-American neighborhood, the land is now home to Black Dot, a community center, and beloved black-owned businesses such as Earl’s Barber Shop.This is one of the last large blocks available for redevelopment in the CD, and if done right it can help stem the displacement of current residents and ensure the continuity of the neighborhood’s rich African American history. Otherwise, redevelopment of the site may be the coup de grace of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, which according to the Seattle Times was 70 percent black in the 1960s and early ’70s. Today, African Americans make up less than one fifth of the neighborhood’s population.

(For more about the changes in the neighborhood: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/central-districts-shrinking-black-community-wonders-whats-next/)

In the earlier phase of the project, Forterra and Africatown were negotiating with then-buyers, developers Regency Centers and Lennar Multifamily Communities, to purchase 20% of the property.

When those buyers reconsidered, Forterra and Africatown persevered. As Africatown leader Wyking Garrett said, “Our vision did not start with that contract, and our vision does not end with that contract.” In an effort to control its own destiny, Africatown asked Forterra to join with it in an offer to purchase the entire site. The Puget Sound Business Journal described our offer on such a prime property as “audacious.”

An opportunity of this magnitude calls for audacity—and we believe we have a strong opportunity for success.

Drawing on our 27 years of experience in complex land transactions, Forterra’s role is providing real estate expertise, negotiation leadership, and interim financing, with the goal of allowing Africatown to ultimately achieve an inclusive development that preserves diversity and upholds the neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage amid rapid change.

If we succeed, 23rd & Union will be a keystone place for the community.

Forterra’s mission is to secure places — urban, rural and wild — that are keystones of a positive, sustainable future for all. So we are proud to serve as a partner to Africatown Community Land Trust, a gutsy community based organization with a vision for what their neighborhood can and should be. The outcome of our efforts are uncertain and the circumstances fluid. Regardless of the outcome, we’re convinced that creating livable, equitable cities is not only right for people but also right for the environment, working against sprawl and destruction of farms, forest and wild landscapes.

Get to know Africatown in the video below: