I, Jmabel / CC BY-SA

September 24, 2020; Associated Press (The Columbian)

Black-led organizations in the city of Seattle are poised to take over ownership of three Central District properties from the city under an initiative that the mayor describes as aligned with but not a part of her pledge to commit $100 million from next year’s budget in programs specifically for communities of color.

On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to formally transfer ownership of an old fire station to Byrd Barr Place, which has occupied the building, running a food bank and housing-assistance programs, since 1969.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan unveiled legislation to formally transfer ownership of the Central Area Senior Center from the city to the nonprofit that has operated the center since 1975.

Durkan also proposed legislation to grant a long-term lease at the city’s shuttered Fire Station 6 to Africatown Community Land Trust, which has long planned to create a cultural innovation center there to boost Black-owned businesses.

Of course, we hope that the property transfers come with the promise of support for any added costs because, as we have discussed many times, buildings are not always blessings to nonprofits. Right now, the value of real estate is in wild flux, and it would be a sad unintended consequence to see these awards turn into burdens.

These transfers of physical spaces appear to be becoming more common as discussions of reparations is integrated into the public understanding of the effects of systemic racism on who owns and controls assets in this country. Readers may recall the case of the arts facility recently awarded to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and the 1,200 acres of property at Big Sur that was returned to the Esselin tribe, who had been driven from that land 250 years ago.—Ruth McCambridge