Central District residents came out to give Midtown Center a new coat of paint, creating a mural in the parking lot that is a statement about the neighborhood’s African-American roots and a symbol of their desire to preserve it amid redevelopment.
The temporary art activation project was carried out by the Africatown Community Land Trust, which has partnered with Capitol Hill Housing to develop 20 percent of the Midtown Center superblock at 23rd and Union, which will include 120 affordable housing units.
Lake Union Partners is developing 429 mixed-income units in its seven-story development, which will undergo a recommendation meeting before the East Design Review Board 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18.
Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett said the Midtown Center mural had been discussed for a long time, including during a number of design ciphers the organization has been holding to gather ideas for the new development.
It’s a low-cost way to bring vibrancy and energy to the space, Garrett said, and an expression of the type of community identity people want to see in the Midtown Center redevelopment.
“The greatest part is seeing the children out here working with the parents,” he said during Sunday’s paint party. “This is intergenerational.”
The 2.4-acre Midtown site is the last corner of 23rd and Union to be redeveloped. Garrett said getting it right, in a way that preserves the neighborhood’s culture, is critical.
Africatown was recently awarded $1.075 million through the City of Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative that will be used for creating affordable commercial space at Midtown.
An Imagine Africatown Central District Design Weekend event is slated for this weekend at Garfield High School, starting at 5 p.m. Friday, July 13, and 9 a.m. Saturday, July 14. The weekend will culminate with a Dinner Reunion on 23rd & Union at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 14.
Leslie Buchanan came out to the all-day paint party around 1 p.m. Sunday with her daughter and grandson.
“They’re going to tear all this down and make it, I guess, an apartment complex and an urban space,” said Buchanan, a 56-year resident of the Central District.
She remembers when the Carpapapa Auto Group space used to house the post office, which is now next to the liquor store, and currently doesn’t have a new space planned for it in the redevelopment.
Buchanan’s mother used to save her money over at the old Liberty Bank. Capitol Hill Housing is constructing that site through another partnership with Africatown to provide affordable housing.
She said she wasn’t a fan of the mural project at first, because she didn’t see the point in creating something that wouldn’t last. She changed her mind when Africatown explained its greater meaning.
Sharon Khosla said she’s hopeful there’s still time to get the desires of the community better reflected in Lake Union Partner’s Midtown Center design. Currently, she feels architecture firm Weinstein A+U has missed an opportunity to do something special with the property.
Khosla is an architect, and has been volunteering with Africatown, helping with its design ciphers. She’s also a member of the Central Area Land Use Review Committee, and a newly appointed member of the Central Area Design Review Board that was created following approval of new Central Area design guidelines; Khosla had previously been on the Southeast Design Review Board.
Khosla said she hopes the new Midtown Center mural shows the community’s commitment to preserving its history and stories, and that developers acknowledge that.
“If I think of one corner in the Central Area, this is it,” she said.
Her husband, Chris, and their daughters, Tejal and Gayatri, joined Khosla for Sunday’s paint party.
Midtown Center Design Rec by branax2000 on Scribd