Africatown to transform Fire Station 6 into innovation hub.
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
The old Fire Station 6 located on 23rd and Yesler is well on the way to once again serving the community in the Central District but instead of housing fire fighters and paramedics, it will soon be transformed into a cultural innovation hub offering a one stop shop for technology education, job skills training, business development services, event and co-working space, and overall management of community innovation resources and in the coming years affordable housing units in the area just adjacent to the fire station in which entrepreneurs can exist in a live / work environment.
This is the grand vision of the Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA) and Africatown Seattle. Titled the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation (WGCCI), named after William Grose, the Central District's first African American resident and landowner who settled in the CD nearly 140 years ago. The WGCCI vision is rapidly gaining speed after years of discussions with the City of Seattle ever since the building was vacated by the Seattle Fire Department nearly 5 years ago when they moved into the new Fire Station 6 on MLK and South Jackson. That move by the Seattle Fire Department, while leaving the structure on Yesler vacant, unfortunately also displaced the Rights Of Passage Experience (ROPE) organization which was previously located on MLK and Jackson. So in the eyes of many, the old Fire Station 6 presents an opportunity for the community to regain a structure to replace the one it lost years ago.
This is not the first time that Africatown and the Black Community Impact Alliance have joined forces on a grand scale for impactful and sustainable positive change in the Central District. The two organizations teamed up (along with Capital Hill Housing and Byrd Barr Place) on the development of the historic Liberty Bank Building, a $40 Million development, that offers 115 affordable housing units on 24th and Union and which currently has a population that is 87% African American, most of whom were displaced from the Central District years ago due to skyrocketing rents and systemic gentrification policies and have managed to finally return back to the Central District thanks to the Liberty Bank Building. Africatown also has another affordable housing development, Africatown Plaza, on the way up. The Africatown Plaza development, located on 23rd and Union will have 140 units and is expected to break ground early next year. Africatown and the Black Community Impact Alliance have a clear track record of being able to manage and deliver large scale community based projects.
The process of official transfer of Fire Station 6 to Africatown and the Black Community Impact Alliance picked up steam earlier this year, where at the 6th Annual State of Africatown, Seattle Mayor, Jenny Durkan, reaffirmed her commitment to making the transfer of Fire Station 6 a reality and her belief in the WGCCI vision. Just a few weeks ago, several City of Seattle property managers as well as directors from Africatown and BCIA toured Fire Station 6 to work together in formalizing the use of the space in phases over the next few years. With the first step being Africatown and BCIA taking possession of Fire Station 6 later this year and moving some of the existing innovation and business development programs to that building.
Currently, Africatown offers several technology, business development, and youth engagement programs that are operating at Black Dot and the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation (ACEI). Some of these programs include co-working and business development programs via Black Dot and Young Guinness, education support, and Communiversity via ACEI and those would be housed at the WGCCI along with a host of new innovation and community engagement programs and initiatives.