Urban League Village at Colman School
a community cornerstone

2300 S. Massachusetts St. |  Seattle, WA 98144

Designed and built by Canadian James Stephen, the building was approved for construction by the city of Seattle in 1907 and opened its doors for the first time in 1910. 

Owned by the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS), the Urban League Village at Colman School is home to 36 units of low-income affordable housing, the Northwest African American Museum, an outdoor artist’s studio, a public sculpture garden and park. Since 2003, the property has served as a vessel for community empowerment, helping to rejuvenate the neighborhood and tie its deeply rooted history within the Central District to the present day.

As one of ULMS’s most ambitious projects in its now 90 year history, the Urban League Village remains a cornerstone for the Central District’s African American community, culture and connectivity.  

Community
Affordable, Low-Income Housing Support

At the time of its ideation, one of the most troubling economic barriers facing the community was a need for affordable housing. To address this, the top two floors of Urban League Village were renovated to establish 36 studio, one bedroom and two bedroom units of affordable housing for low-income families.  

Each tenant/family has access to the following property amenities:

  • Controlled Access
  • Elevator Assistance
  • On-Site Parking
  • On-Site Laundry
  • Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Each unit has access to the following property amenities:

  • Dishwasher
  • Washing Machine
  • Sewage Included
  • Water Included
  • Fully Equipped Kitchen

Households who occupy the Urban League Village must earn less than 50% or 60% of the area median income to qualify. Rent in these units is capped at a maximum of 30% of the set-aside area median income (adjusted for unit size). 

A shining emblem of unlimited potential for the future.

Support for local black businesses and organizations has always been an important pillar of purpose for the Urban League Village. The museum portion of the property has served as a hosting location for numerous events, exhibits and community gatherings. By 2021, our plans are to expand on this support for continued community empowerment, engagement and support. More to come!

CULTURE

Renovations for a new multi-cultural museum began in 2003 upon purchase of the building. In 2007, the Colman School reopened its first floor as the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM).

Decades of Impact
A history of the property
Early Beginnings

In 1910 the property first opened its doors as the Charles Colman School. With more than 15 classrooms, 500+ students and a small team of faculty, the school provided educational and community support to families who occupied nearby housing districts established by the city during World War II. In the 1940’s the city purchased surrounding properties to extend the school’s lawn. By the late 1970’s, the primary purpose of the Colman School’s programming shifted and an alternative learning center was established in its place. By 1985, the construction of Interstate 5, as well as other community expansion impacts, resulted in the building being closed altogether.

Conflicted Interests

Upon the school’s closing in 1985, a group of local protesters demanded that it be established as a cultural museum for the community. However, while the property remained unoccupied at the time, it was still under the legal ownership of the Seattle Public School (SPS) district. In an effort to claim control of the building, the protesters broke into the property and staged a sit-in that lasted eight years — the longest ever recorded in the city’s history. While the group ultimately made an attempt to legally purchase the property, negotiations with the city fell through, leaving the building’s future in a state of continued uncertainty. 

A New Era

By 2002, the building remained unused and unoccupied. In the fall of that same year, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle — led by President & CEO, James Kelly — stepped forward with a proposal that would quickly end the turmoil surrounding the building’s fate and finally put the property back into the hands of the community. The goal was to establish a new connection to the roots of its original purpose, address the current economical needs of families in the community and incorporate some of the new possibilities of potential brought fourth by the protesters. With the support of local partners, ULMS galvanized to purchase and renovate the building, embarking on a new course of hope for the property’s future. On March 27, 2003, then SPS Superintendent, Joseph Olchefske, officially handed over the keys of the building to James Kelly (pictured), cementing the shift in legal ownership to the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. In 2007, the property finally reopened as the Urban League Village. Since then, it has thrived as a symbol of contribution to the public and continues to be a place of culture, connectivity and support serving the Central District, as well as neighboring communities.