Al Doggett's courtyard entry art piece.
Al Doggett's courtyard entry art piece.

Capitol Hill Housing’s latest affordable housing project will pay tribute to the history and culture of the Central District.

During an open house Wednesday, April 26, at Centerstone, nine artists presented brightly colored murals, sculptures, paintings and photographs that will eventually adorn the walls of the Liberty Bank Building, at the site where Seattle’s first black-owned bank once stood at 24th and Union.

Liberty Bank Building will be a six-story building with 115 affordable units and more than 2,500 square feet of commercial space, and is expected to break ground on June 19. The units, a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms, will be rented to families whose incomes are between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. The project is being developed through a partnership between Capitol Hill Housing, Africatown, Black Community Impact Alliance and Centerstone.

“Black culture is about rhythm, it’s about color, it’s about vibrancy,” said Evelyn Thomas Allen, director of the Black Community Impact Alliance, addressing the crowd at the open house. “This building could be nothing else other than to share that kind of art.”

Many of the artists have been active in the Central District community for decades.

“We had the challenge of coming up with how to create imagery that would reflect the history of the Central District community and Liberty Bank,” said Al Doggett, an artist and one of the project’s art curators.

Seeking input from the community, artists displayed preliminary sketches to share their ideas with attendees. Painter and muralist Aramis Hamer was brainstorming a list of neighborhood founders to add to her piece. She plans to paint their portraits inside giant dollar bills that will float above open and closed multicolored fists for her 20-foot-by-10-foot mural that will greet residents entering the building's lobby.

While working on the design of the mural, Hamer said she dug deep into the area’s history, learning more about her adopted city.

“To convey ideas on a visually appealing level was challenging, but something that was so rewarding too,” Hamer said. “I’m honored to be part of this group of people who are truly dynamic artists.”

After a 15-year tax credit compliance period, Centerstone—in partnership with Black Community Impact Alliance and Africatownwill have both a right of first offer and first right of refusal to acquire the building.

“We are marketing our residential units to people who have been displaced from the community or who are at risk of being displaced,” said Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons. “We can put a stake in the ground for the African-American community at this very important historic site.”

To honor the legacy of the site, artist Troy Miles is mixing glass and metal to create life-sized images from scenes of the bank’s past. His colorful pieces mix abstraction with realism.

“The piece is going to be big enough that people are going to feel they can actually get into the bank,” Miles said.

The piece is one of his two works that will hang on either side of the bank vault, an item saved before the building was demolished.

“Any time you can represent your community is an awesome opportunity,” Miles said.