The bank building on the corner of Union Street and 24th Avenue has been nominated for landmark status, due to it being the former home of the first bank opened to serve the area's African American population.
Capitol Hill Housing is under contract to purchase the building and redevelop it as affordable housing with street-level retail. CHH executive director Michael Seiwerath said CHH recognized the historical significance of the building, but didn't think it was architecturally significant.
Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the preservation petition. For Garrett, the fight to save the bank runs deeper than just preserving a building.
“Our children are not on the street shooting each other because they don’t have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the central area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.”
Interestingly, the Seattle Times has its own take on the situation, calling Garrett a "community agitator."
Omari Tahir-Garrett, a Central Area resident and community agitator, nominated the structure for landmark status, citing among other things what he called its distinction as the site of the Northwest region’s only African-American bank, called Liberty Bank.
His real goal, he acknowledges, is to suspend gentrification in the Central Area and slow developers, who historically have not flocked to the area in any significant numbers.
As a Central District resident, I would like to see this space redeveloped into affordable housing and retail for the neighborhood. The one-story building is out of date, and the majority of the lot is a gigantic parking lot. The building is currently not being used at all. I say build something new but add a landmark plaque that commemorates what was on the site.
The city's Landmark Preservation Board is having a meeting today at 3:30 p.m. at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue, Room 1756, to discuss the future of the building, but because of the Seahawks parade mayhem, they encourage you to weigh in by e-mail: Erin.Doherty@seattle.gov.