A third-generation resident of Seattle’s Central District, K. Wyking Garrett has fond memories of the MidTown Center property on 23rd and Union. He remembers getting french fries at the now-closed Thompson’s Point of View restaurant, where his sister worked in high school, and waiting in line at the nearby post office with his father. The property was also the former home to Liberty Bank building, Seattle’s first bank owned by African Americans. Garrett’s grandfather was a co-founder.
MidTown Center has remained a stronghold for the historically black neighborhood amid dramatic displacement. The Central District went from more than 70 percent African American in the 1970s to less than 20 percent in 2015. By next year, it is expected to drop to 14 percent.
“We’ve seen buildings gone, businesses that have been there for a long time are no longer there,” Garrett said. “Restaurants, like Thompson’s Point of View … we’ve just seen the erasure of the black community.”
The block has become emblematic of the Central District’s struggle. It is the subject of a song by Seattle hip-hop artist and activist Draze called “Irony of 23rd.”
As president of Africatown Community Land Trust, Garrett has been fighting, along with other activists, to preserve MidTown Center for the Central District’s black community ever since the property came up for sale a few years ago. In May, the organization reached a landmark deal with help from a new investment fund launched by land protection non-profit Forterra.