by Rod Lotter
– The Capitol Hill Times –
It’s been a busy week for the folks over at 12th Avenue Arts.
Last week, it was announced that the project is a finalist for a prestigious grant from a national agency. This week, they announced the official date for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the 12th Avenue Arts building, located near the corner of 12th Avenue and Pine Street, is scheduled for Feb. 21. The site of the future building has been a parking lot and compound area for the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department for decades.
Michael Seiwerath from Capitol Hill Housing, which is overseeing the operations for 12th Avenue Arts, said that the organization feels confident they will reach their funding goal of $4.6 million for the capital campaign. He said the organization still needs to raise $600,000 to meet the goal.
Last year, 12th Avenue Arts applied for a grant from ArtPlace, a public-private partnership which distributes grants and loans to support cultural institutions. Funding for ArtPlace is derived from 13 national and regional foundations, eight federal agencies and six of the largest banks in the world, including Chase and Morgan Stanley.
On Jan. 15, it was announced that 12th Avenue Arts was one of the 127 finalists for an ArtPlace grant. In total, ArtPlace will be awarding more than $15 million to organizations, businesses, non-profits and art groups all around the country.
“The grant would be a huge vote of confidence for what we are trying to do here,” Seiwerath said. “ArtPlace is a highly-regarded and well-respected group and having national support like that for 12th Avenue Arts would really be wonderful. We have had tons of local support, but that national push would be great.”
The groundbreaking ceremony will mark the first steps towards turning an eye sore of a parking lot into a 6-story home to two theaters, 88 units of affordable housing, an underground parking lot for the Seattle Police Department and space for retail, non-profit offices and community meeting rooms. Where there was once a rusted chain link fence and barbed wire, there will soon be an open invitation to local art in the heart of Capitol Hill.
Seiwerath said Capitol Hill Housing decided to apply for the grant because the vision of 12th Avenue Arts matched up perfectly with the mission of ArtPlace. In a press release announcing the finalists for grants, ArtPlace stated that the finalists, selected from a pool of more than 2,000 applicants, were “chosen for their potential to have a transformative impact on community vibrancy.”
“I think the fact that this development has a strong social equity aspect to it will help us make our case for funding,” Seiwerath said. “We are building affordable housing in a neighborhood that just keeps getting more and more expensive to live in. This building will make a significant impact in the community in that way.”
Representatives from ArtPlace will be touring the site of the building on Jan. 25 as part of the decision making process for grant allocation. Seiwerath said he thinks they will be sold when they see the neighborhood and the role the building will play in it.
“They will see how we are trying to revitalize that area,” Seiwerath said. “They will see that this area really is a very strong and organic arts neighborhood. They will see the neighborhood’s commitment to transit and they will see that it is possible to create innovative partnerships between police, the arts and affordable housing organizations.”