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Africa City relies on the city to help it acquire Kairo

Maron Meyer
Northwest Asia Weekly

The CEO of Africatown stated that his group will acquire Keiro, but the details are not yet clear.

“Africatown Community Land Trust (CLT) is currently completing the acquisition of the property,” K. Wyking Garrett told Northwest Asia Weekly. Garrett did not specify whether the purchase funds came from the city government or through transactions with private lenders.

Nevertheless, he revealed that his hopes are still pinned in this city.

“Africatown CLT has developed an innovative financing strategy for the Keiro acquisition, and we are currently formulating institutional policies that have been a mechanism to systematically exclude black developers,” he said. “For the City of Seattle, this is a very unique opportunity to lead and take a bold step to make social justice, fairness, and shared prosperity talk a reality.”

Keiro was sold to Shelter Holdings in 2019 for $11 million. Last year, after the Black Lives Matter campaign, City Councillor Kshama Sawant participated in a campaign that tried to get the city to buy Keiro for Africa City.

“The black community-led organization and advocacy created this unprecedented opportunity to restore a neighborhood that would be lost due to the type of speculative development, pushing Seattle into a first-class city, rather than a world-class city with a community. Come here and help build the world of this city,” Garrett said.

The following month, Sawant proposed a budget amendment to fund Africa City’s proposal to develop affordable housing at the site. At that time, Sawant made a $13.8 million proposal for the project. Sawant said that funding will be provided by reducing police budgets, slightly increasing new taxes on Amazon and other large companies, or by restoring a $30 million strategic investment fund to address displacement. Mayor Jenny Durkan told her The fund was cancelled in the proposed budget.

“Unfortunately, most committees disagree,” she wrote.

However, Sawant said she was able to win a budget amendment that provided funding for “pre-development costs” so that the project had a chance to “win future grants.” In theory, public funds can still fund the purchase of Keiro.

Rachel Fyall, an associate professor in the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, said the city can buy land from Shelter Holdings and provide it to Africa City. “State law allows the remaining land to be used for land transfer.”

As an example, she cited examples where Sound Transit had surplus land that was transferred for other uses.

Garrett said that for Africatown, the Keiro acquisition will be “a key part of Africatown CLT’s work to create an inclusive and fair future for Seattle.”

He said, “The long-term development plan is to create about 300 long-term affordable housing and community service commercial spaces.”

At the same time, according to the latest public records provided by the King County Evaluator’s Office, Keiro is still in the hands of Shelter Holdings.

When Keiro was first sold in 2019, after experiencing financial problems, some community members expressed frustration that the assets they and their families had built and maintained would be lost.

Fyall said there is still a chance to unite.

“If there is a particular building or property that has cultural value for multiple communities, there may be opportunities for cross-organization cooperation,” she said. “For example, InterIm CDA and SCIDpda have a record of developing and providing affordable housing to meet the needs of low-income residents in Seattle’s Asian and Asian American communities.”
Garrett expressed similar views.

“Africatown CLT is pleased to continue working with the Japanese/Pan-Asian communities and Aboriginal communities to envision and create a development project to commemorate our presence and journey in Central/Seattle,” Garrett said.

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