Africatown Plaza is an opportunity to restore communities fragmented by displacement through the creation of architecture, landscape, and urban design
that celebrates history and identity.
The Central District and Africatown
From the late 1800s to the present, African-Americans have made significant contributions to the architecture of the Central District - weaving expressions of African and African-American culture into the foundational fabric of the neighborhood. Throughout multiple generations, the establishment and passing down of black-owned homes, businesses, and places of community has contributed to the creation of a distinctive neighborhood character that is unique in Seattle. The Central District is the city's oldest surviving residential area and was the location for many instrumental moments and events that shaped the city. It also remains one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the metro area. In more recent years, as the city and surrounding suburbs have undergone significant demographic changes and intense gentrification, the black communities of the Central District have experienced fragmentation and displacement.
Africatown is a continuation of the rich legacy of this neighborhood and is focused on keeping the identity of the Central District in the hands of the communities that shaped it. Africatown's mission is to provide opportunities for community building with events that focus on finance, technology and literacy. These events seek to bring the people of the Central District together to reclaim and own their part of Seattle.
All of Seattle’s residents, regardless of income, need a place to have a voice, a place that speaks to their specific culture, and a place where they can thrive with equal access to economic opportunity. Africatown Plaza is that place.
Community Centered Design
The design team began developing the concept for Africatown Plaza by inviting public input to help shape a robust design process. By holding a series of design workshops, two stake holder meetings, and two community meetings with current and former residents of the Central District community feedback was gathered and integrated into the development of the initial concepts. The result is a community-centric ground floor with strategically placed programmatic elements in locations that reinforce the ability of place to support community. Additionally the spaces were designed to allow for meaningful interaction between residents of the building and Africatown.
Themes that we heard during the community meetings included:
• Balance of apartments
• Providing green space
• Integrating small businesses
• Emphasizing plaza
• Activating 24th Ave and Spring Street
• Creating multiple building entrances
• Providing open plaza space
• Emphasizing pass-through connection
• Understanding the importance of 23rd Ave
• Adding green space along 23rd Ave
• Parklets on the corner
• Providing play area and a stage
• Access off 24th Ave
• Designing multiple points of entry to the site
• Creating places to sit
• Allowing for flexible courtyard uses
• Joining of building
• Emphasizing community
Setting Design Goals
Input from the community was vital to developing a set of actionable goals for the design to address. By allowing community members to take part in the design process, they were able to share their stories and perspectives, speaking not only to what they wanted to see, but also to how they wanted to experience the site. When we overlaid the various programmatic elements that were identified by the community as most essential, we were able to see clusters of the program emerge. This informed our design process and together, we began to carve and create space.
As the project progresses, we have tested a number of design options, each developed to meet a set of goals evolved directly from the community process (goals are listed to the right). With continued community involvement, we hope to complete design and construction for Africatown Plaza in 2021.