Africatown, Forterra & Lake Union Partners Reach Historic Partnership for Redevelopment of 23rd & Union Block in the Central District

Seattle, Wash., – May 23, 2017 – Africatown Community Land Trust (Africatown), Forterra and local developer Lake Union Partners (LUP) today announced a historic partnership for inclusive redevelopment of the southeast corner 23rd and East Union (Midtown) block in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood.

Lake Union Partners, which closed on purchase of the full City block today from MidTown LP for $23.25 million, will sell 20 percent of the block to local land conservancy non-profit Forterra, which will serve as the interim purchaser on behalf of Africatown. Forterra will work with Africatown to transfer the property into a community development partnership entity. Seattle-based investment firm HAL Real Estate, Inc. is an investment partner with Lake Union Partners in the project. Jason Rosauer and Rob Anderson from Kidder Matthews represented the seller in the transaction.

Lake Union Partners intends to develop between 400-420 apartment homes on their portion of the site, including approximately 125 affordable housing units allocated for households earning between $40,000 and $65,000 per year or 60% to 85% of area-median income (AMI). The affordable housing would be built as part of both the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption Program (MFTE). There are also plans for approximately 20,000 sq. ft. of ground-level commercial retail and restaurant space.

Africatown/Forterra will develop 120-135 affordable apartment homes, affordable to individuals with income as low as $26,880 – or 40% AMI. The building will also include about 3,100 sq. ft. of ground-level retail.

Combined, roughly 50% of the housing on the full-block would be affordable to people earning between 40-85% of area median income.

“The Midtown block has become one of the focal points for the gentrification conversation in the Central District,” said Africatown Board Member Kenny Pleasant. “This historic partnership builds on the equitable development goals achieved in the Liberty Bank project and forges a shared prosperity that directly benefits the Central District and the black community.”

Africatown Board Member Andrea Caupain added, “Bold partnerships like this are necessary if Seattle is to truly mitigate displacement, nurture diversity and create lasting business and residential affordability.”

The full-block project will include capacity for approximately 515,000 sq. ft. of developable building area including ground-level retail, community open space and six stories of apartment housing. Redevelopment of the site is consistent with the vision of the 23rd Avenue Action Plan and the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislative re-zone for the Central District along 23rd Avenue.

“This partnership builds on the deep roots of the African-American experience and the historic contributions of the Black community in Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Midtown Center will ensure that 23rd and Union remains connected to Seattle’s cultural heritage and ongoing struggle for racial justice and equity of opportunity. By creating new spaces for neighborhood advocates and much-neededaffordable housing, this collaboration is creating tangible results.”

Discussion of an inclusive development project with Africatown and Forterra began six months ago with the previous buyer under contract with the Bangasser family. When that agreement didn’t materialize, Africatown and Forterra made an offer on the site, which was not accepted, but it opened a dialogue with Lake Union Partners. The Mayor’s Office and several City Department Directors have been actively engaged with the project partners to help develop and support this new model for equitable development, including direct investment of acquisition funds from the City’s Office of Housing.

“We have been working with partners in the Central District, Chinatown International District, Little Saigon, Capitol Hill and First Hill to support their efforts in equitable and sustainable community development. It is so gratifying to see this work coming to fruition,” said Doris Koo, lead consultant, Yesler Community Collaborative, a local collective impact organization and key facilitator in the partnership.

“Given our other investments at 23rd & Union, we’ve worked hard to connect well with the neighborhood and as always, we simply try to do good work with our design, be respectful of the community, and create projects with neighborhood retail that residents of the area need and want,” said Patrick Foley, partner at Lake Union Partners. “It’s an honor for us to be part of this historic partnership between our company, Forterra and Africatown. It’s a huge responsibility and we take it seriously.”

Michelle Connor, Executive Vice President of Forterra, commented, “In our more than 25 years working for regional sustainability, we’ve learned there’s no separating the well-being of land and people. Decisions on land have to account for social equity. Otherwise we strain the bonds of community, displacing people from homes, relationships, and livelihoods. Ultimately, that drives sprawl across our forests, farms and wilds. Forterra is proud to join with Africatown in a bold new model for inclusive development to assure African-Americans help write the next chapter of a neighborhood they’ve done so much to build. Lake Union Partners and their investors have set a new standard by joining with community members to develop a keystone project setting the bar for how development can be done.”

The group’s ideal plan is for the full-block project to break-ground, develop simultaneously and share design and construction team resources. The team anticipates starting the City design review process later this fall.

About Africatown Community Land Trust: Africatown Community Land Trust is working for community ownership of land in the Central District that can support the cultural and economic thriving of people who are part of the African diaspora in the Greater Seattle region. The Africatown Community Land Trust board is comprised of real estate professionals, business executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals and long-time community members from the Central District.

About Forterra: Forterra secures places — urban, rural and wild — that are keystones of a sustainable future for all. Our work ranges from iconic wildlands, to working farms and forests, to places in our cities for parks and affordable housing. A nonprofit, Forterra has a 25-year history spanning more than 400 land transactions, including the 2016 purchase of the Wayne Golf Course in Bothell to become a public park, the 2013 acquisition of the 50,000-acre Teanaway Community Forest, and the impending purchase of 3,000 acres on the Kitsap Peninsula for the future Port Gamble Forest and Shoreline.

About Lake Union Partners: Seattle-based Lake Union Partners is an urban real estate company specializing in residential mixed- use and commercial projects in Seattle. As a team of creative and experienced developers, the company is focused on building projects with design integrity and sensitivity to local neighborhoods. Learn more at

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