On May 5, 2023, Seattle, Washington Mayor Bruce Harrell announced $13,550,000 in awards through the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), part of the City’s effort to support property ownership among Seattle’s diverse cultural communities in high displacement risk neighborhoods.
It should, of course, have been titled “Equitable Redevelopment Initiative”, since redevelopment and revitalization are the heart of the program. It still amazes us here at REVITALIZATION that—two decades after books like The Restoration Economy were published, local governments still have trouble distinguishing sprawl from renewal in their everyday language.
The City awarded funds to community organizations for site acquisition and major capital revitalization projects, as well as capacity-building support to organizations that are still developing their plans for permanent spaces in Seattle.
The EDI fund, administered by the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), was created to respond to the needs of marginalized populations, reduce disparities, and support access to opportunity in healthy, vibrant communities.
The initiative is championed by community organizations concerned about displacement pressures and historical lack of investment that has occurred in communities of color in Seattle.
“Seattle is investing in tangible efforts to support cultural organizations that are working in our historically underserved neighborhoods to fight displacement pressures so they can continue to increase access to opportunity and strengthen our communities,” said Mayor Harrell.
“The Equitable Development Initiative makes real our One Seattle vision – supporting organizations that serve diverse communities in planting and reinforcing permanent roots in our city. From new affordable housing developments to space for youth programming, these projects are generational investments that will help us foster vibrant, thriving communities throughout our city,” he added.
EDI fosters community leadership that promotes equitable access to jobs, education and childcare, outdoor space and recreation, cultural expression, healthy food, and other community needs and amenities.
These funding partnerships are designed to build capacity among the most historically marginalized groups in Seattle. The program is based in shared decision-making and power, working towards racial equity outcomes that allow all communities to thrive.
“These projects will help ensure that our many cultural communities will always have a home here in Seattle,” said Rico Quirindongo, OPCD’s acting director.
“Displacement pressures are real, and the Equitable Development Initiative provides timely financial support to these organizations to help build a more inclusive city,” he continued.
The following community-based organizations received awards to support property ownership, capital projects, and capacity building:
- Estelita’s Library — $2,375,000 to complete the purchase of property on Beacon Hill to allow for the development of a cultural and community center.
- Central Area Youth Association — $1,000,000 to support the development of affordable homeownership units and youth programming space for families at-risk of displacement from the Central Area.
- Somali Health Board — $2,310,000 to support a mixed-use affordable housing and community facility project in the Graham Street Transit-Oriented Development area.
- Arte Noir — $375,000 to complete the transfer of the ARTE NOIR gallery and community space to community ownership.
- El Centro de La Raza — $700,000 to support the establishment of a new affordable housing and childcare center in Columbia City.
- New Hope Community Development Institute — $1,300,000 to support a new mixed-use affordable housing project in the Central District.
- Rainier Beach Action Coalition — $175,000 to support building improvements to the Rainier Food Innovation District site in Rainier Beach.
- Empowering Youth and Families Outreach — $600,000 to support creation of a Youth Enrichment Center in the Dunlap neighborhood.
- SCIDpda — $400,000 to close a final financing gap for the 13th and Fir project in Yesler Terrace.
- Union Cultural Center – $75,000 to provide capacity-building for the organization to support pre-construction costs.
- Tubman Health — $75,000 to support site feasibility analysis.
“Tackling the multiple aspects of displacement requires collaborative approaches,” said Vivian Phillips of ARTE NOIR.
“This funding further solidifies our partnership with the City of Seattle in establishing spaces like ARTE NOIR that reclaim some of what has been lost and build sustainable impacts for the arts and cultural community,” she added.
Other community organizations, not listed, received awards while still in negotiations to acquire real estate. Publicity of their awards at this time could inflate the cost of their acquisitions.
“Estelita’s Library is a social justice library, bookstore, and cultural hub focused on uplifting our most marginalized communities,” said Edwin Lindo, Estelita’s Library.
“It has been serving South Seattle through literature, space for communities to organize and build, and fighting gentrification through culture. With this support, Estelita’s Library will be able to fulfill its commitment to acquire property in Beacon Hill; expand its services, space, and library; and ultimately fulfill its vision and commitment of building affordable housing that is grounded in and uplifts community,” he explained.
Additional EDI funding will be available this year. Information on the application and approval process will be announced in the coming weeks.
Since November 2016, OPCD and partner departments, including Office of Economic Development (OED), Office of Housing (OH), Department of Neighborhoods (DON), Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), and Office for Civil Rights (OCR), have coordinated the administration of the EDI Fund.
The EDI Advisory Board of community members provides guidance and sets direction to advance several racial equity outcomes, including:
- Promoting economic opportunity through education, job training, and enhancing community cultural anchors;
- Helping marginalized populations, businesses, and community organizations stay in their neighborhoods; and
- Enhancing health outcomes, access to healthy, culturally relevant food, and supporting safe environments.
“This critical EDI funding award for El Centro de la Raza’s José Martí Child Development Center at the Four Amigos-Beloved affordable housing community will provide families with local access to high-quality, multifaceted, bilingual early childhood education,” explained Estela Ortega, Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza.
“Regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, children who live onsite or within the community will have access to programming that will prepare them for kindergarten, celebrates culture, and incorporates social justice and community engagement into the curriculum,” she continued.
EDI projects receiving financial support demonstrate a deep relationship with the community they are seeking to serve and feature an inclusive community process, with community members serving in their organizational leadership.
Photo courtesy of Estelita’s Library.