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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Should This Building Be Granted Landmark Status?

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 1:40 PM


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.

Central District News has more on the story and an interesting history of the former bank:

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 The one-story building is out of date, and the majority of the lot is a gigantic parking lot.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:


Comments (19) RSS

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"His real goal, he acknowledges, is to suspend gentrification in the Central Area"

White people move out?


White people move in?


Pick a lane and stick to it ladies.
Posted by Sugartit on February 5, 2014 at 1:51 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 2
The Times probably referred to him as an agitator because he was convicted a while back of cracking the mayor over the head with a bullhorn.…
Posted by kk in seattle on February 5, 2014 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Being from Lexington, Massachusetts, I have a hard time with almost anything in Seattle being considered "historical". I like the idea of the plaque in this instance, or maybe even a mural inside or outside about it.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 5, 2014 at 2:01 PM · Report this
By all means, tear it down. It's low density in an area that shouldn't be low-density anymore. Seattle is too young of a city to have history worth saving, as the person from Lexington, Mass. says. Seattle has no room anymore for such rank sentimentality. (Comments selected from 1971 urbanists in their campaign to tear down the Pike Place Market and replace it with high-rise hotels and office buildings.)
Posted by Citizen R on February 5, 2014 at 2:26 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 5
@4 This bank, sir, is no Pike Place Market.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on February 5, 2014 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 6
If the Times wants to tear it down, somebody is getting fucked. And you can bet it's not the rich.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 5, 2014 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 7
If Tahir-Garrett's fur it, I'm agin it. Plaque it.
Posted by Max Solomon on February 5, 2014 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Tear it down and call the new building "The Key Bank Luxury Condominiums"
Posted by bsweek on February 5, 2014 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 9
This sounds like a great location for a plaque. Put in a plaque about the architect and the previous building. I think we could use more plaques and fewer 1-story suburban banks.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on February 5, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Omari needs professional help and so do his colleagues.
Posted by Bob Flowers got away with the goods though on February 5, 2014 at 4:12 PM · Report this

I don't think, in this context, suburban means what you think it means.


Hey c'mon, we got historical buildings here in Seattle, why some of them are over 100 years old!
Posted by COMTE on February 5, 2014 at 4:12 PM · Report this
It's a nondescript building that will likely lay empty if the property isn't redeveloped. We don't need another abandoned, fenced-off property in our neighborhood.
Posted by cavatappi on February 5, 2014 at 4:16 PM · Report this
@5, my point in @4 is that there are values to consider other than density alone. The current urban redevelopment conversation needs to be broadened. All neighborhoods have local structures that are worth saving, and this may be one of them for the Central Area.

And I especially dislike white folks from another part of town telling a minority community that their history and their values aren't worth respecting.

Posted by Citizen R on February 5, 2014 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Citizen R, what other buildings should we try to preserve in the neighborhood? I agree with you in principle, but maybe this building is not as good a candidate as others.
Posted by wxPDX on February 5, 2014 at 4:32 PM · Report this
I think "agitator" is a charitable description of Tahir-Garrett. Asshole would be less charitable but more accurate:

Seattle schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and School Board President Cheryl Chow are seeking permanent court protection after saying they were threatened by Omari Tahir-Garrett, who went to prison for striking then-Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn in 2001.

Goodloe-Johnson and Chow allege that Tahir-Garrett has disrupted School Board meetings with threats, obscenities, racially charged remarks and, at one point, pushed a school administrator to the floor. Chow and Goodloe-Johnson say they fear for their safety.

At one meeting, Tahir-Garrett allegedly warned Chow, an Asian American, that the Wah Mee Massacre could happen again, a reference to the 1983 fatal shooting of 13 people at a Chinatown International District gambling club.

Posted by bigyaz on February 5, 2014 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Banna 16
I bet if that bank were still around, it would gladly finance the redevelopment of the lot into affordable housing with street-level retail for the benefit of the African American community in the area.
Posted by Banna on February 5, 2014 at 4:42 PM · Report this
@14, It's not for you or me to say what buildings should be preserved in any neighborhood but our own. There should be a neighborhood planning process in Seattle where such issues can be addressed, where different voices and opinions can be heard, where the neighborhood is fairly represented in the process.

We can avoid having these issues descend into a shoving match between property owners, developers, and urbanists, vs. preservations and traditionalists.

The last two mayors had no interest in such a neighborhood-driven planning process. Perhaps this new guy will.
Posted by Citizen R on February 5, 2014 at 9:03 PM · Report this
@17, this is a city, not a collection of gated communities masquerading as "neighborhoods". And if you think Ed Murray is more neighborhood-minded than Mike McGinn, you're even more naive than your comment demonstrates.
Posted by sarah70 on February 5, 2014 at 9:11 PM · Report this
What? Every hood should get to completely control their own zoning? That is honestly just crazy. Zoning laws are decided at the city-wide level, and absolutely should be. Whether or not this bank gets replaced with apartments doesn't just effect the hood, it also effects the city in a multitude of ways: transportation, power, sewage, rental rates, schools, etc...
And in this particular instance, that building is vacant, which means it's not really functional for the hood as it is. If it was a cathedral or something, sure, keep it, but architecturally it looks like any suburban bank anywhere. A preservation fight to keep a vacant lot in the hood instead of building apartments sounds a lot like just not wanting apartments to get built.
On McGinn; he was probably the mayor most involved with the community I have ever seen in Seattle. Full Stop. I hope and pray that Murray will do half as much.
Posted by JonCracolici on February 6, 2014 at 12:57 PM · Report this

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