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Urban League Of Metropolitan Seattle Acquires Prime Property For Affordable Housing And Future Headquarters

By Aneesa GrantThe Seattle Medium

On Mon., The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering African Americans and other underserved communities, announced the acquisition of a 1.19-acre site in Seattle’s North Rainier Urban Village for $14.35 million. This strategic move will not only serve as the future headquarters for the Urban League but also pave the way for the development of approximately 275-300 affordable apartment homes targeting low- to middle-income individuals and working families earning around 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

The prime property, located on three parcels near the Judkins Park Light Rail Station at 2001, 2009, and 2021 Rainier Ave South, is set to become “The Empowerment Center,” a project that exemplifies the Urban League’s commitment to fostering education and economic opportunities while addressing the pressing need for affordable housing in Seattle.

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle CEO Michelle Merriweather expressed her excitement about what this project means to ULMS and the communities that it serves.

“We are so excited and thankful for the opportunity to bring more affordable housing and community services to our Rainier Valley neighbors, as well as provide a future home for Urban League, through development of ‘The Empowerment Center,” said Merriweather.

The development will be managed by Seattle-based SRM Development, a company with a strong track record in affordable housing projects. SRM previously collaborated with the Urban League on the sale of six Blueprint Capital buildings dedicated to affordable housing, as well as a forthcoming 207-unit new construction project in north Seattle.

“The Empowerment Center” is planned to be a six- to seven-story building offering a range of family-friendly unit sizes, including one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom homes. The project will also include approximately 150 underground parking spaces for both commercial and residential use. In addition to providing much-needed affordable housing, the development will serve as the permanent headquarters for the Urban League, which is expanding its role to include low-income housing provision.

Construction of “The Empowerment Center” is expected to commence in the summer of 2025. The property, previously home to retailers such as Baskin-Robbins, 7-Eleven, and Burger King, will undergo a transformation to meet the community’s evolving needs.

This project will be made possible through a combination of financing sources, including support from the City of Seattle Office of Housing and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC).

The City of Seattle’s Office of Housing is contributing $2.5 million to support units affordable for renters with incomes up to 60 percent of AMI. This funding falls under the Office of Housing’s Acquisition and Preservation program, which focuses on strategic site acquisitions to expand affordable housing opportunities throughout the city.

Additionally, WSHFC is providing $12 million in funding through its Community Development Land Acquisition Program (CDLAP), a program partially funded by a $50 million commitment from Microsoft. CDLAP supports community-based organizations or developers from historically underserved or socially disadvantaged communities in accessing capital to build housing. The program prioritizes flexible underwriting and provides support for community-based and BIPOC-led organizations interested in housing development. Projects developed through CDLAP serve households earning up to 80 percent of AMI.

According to Merriweather, this project exemplifies the Urban League’s dedication to creating positive change and addressing both the housing and economic disparities faced by underserved communities in the Seattle area. As “The Empowerment Center” takes shape, it promises to be a beacon of empowerment and opportunity for generations to come.

“We look forward to engaging with the neighborhood and greater community to better understand how ‘The Empowerment Center’ can be a cornerstone for generations to come in the Central District, Rainier Valley and beyond,” said Merriweather. “Our work is just getting started on this project and there will be ample opportunity to connect in the years to come as this project is anticipated to start in summer 2025.”