Across the Puget Sound region, as real estate values and rents rise, cities large and small are struggling to preserve existing lower-cost, market-rate housing. This week, Mayor Murray joined state Senators Joe Fain (R-Auburn) and David Frockt (D-Seattle), Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg, and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus in support of a bipartisan plan to enact a local-option property tax exemption for existing rental homes, which aims to preserve lower rents and prevent the displacement of long-time tenants, even as landlords seek to make building improvements.
The Preservation Tax Exemption proposal sponsored by Sens. Fain and Frockt has earned the support of property owners, tenants, and a dozen urban and suburban mayors across the region. The legislation to grant cities the right to offer the tax exemption will be introduced in Olympia on Monday.
Mayor Murray signed legislation today creating the Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District, the second Seattle neighborhood to be named a designated Arts & Cultural District. The Central Area is a center of African-American heritage and history as well as a neighborhood undergoing rapid change. The Arts District designation recognizes the culturally rich neighborhood and seeks to preserve its character.
“With this designation, we recognize the importance of the Central Area and the contributions of African Americans to Seattle’s rich and diverse cultural traditions as we seek to both honor and shape the legacy of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We also seek to build a vibrant arts environment and opportunities for creative industries to thrive in the Central Area for years to come.”
“The idea of an arts and cultural district in the Central Area actually predates the recent efforts to establish these districts,” said Steve Sneed, Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District co-chair. “We’ve talked about and dreamt about something like this for more than 20 years, and now we’ve been able to turn that into action.”
The Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District designation is dedicated to:
- Preserving an African and African-American legacy in the Central Area.
- Sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for Black cultural relevancy.
- Establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability and artistic vitality.
“The heritage of African-Americans in the Central Area has served this city in so many ways and now we have an opportunity to bring new life and meaning to a sacred past, and to be a force that helps to shape the future,” said Stephanie Johnson-Toliver of the Black Heritage Society of Washington. “The arts offers unlimited opportunity to stand firm in the present while giving honor to the past, and creating new paths to the future.”
The arts district designation creates access to the Creative Placemaking Toolkit, a suite of tools designed to preserve, strengthen, and expand arts and cultural places. The district will have access to $50,000 to be used towards the toolkit’s programs: signs to identify neighborhood borders and provide directions to significant places and landmarks; music and art in public places; pop-up activation; and parklets. The toolkit was designed by the Seattle Office Arts and Culture to support artists, art spaces, and neighborhoods in maintaining and investing in their cultural assets.
The Central Area is Seattle’s historically African-American neighborhood and in a rapidly changing environment remains the nucleus for black art, business and culture. The Central Area has been home to some of the world’s most respected artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Theaster Gates, James Washington, Vitamin D, Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Art Chantry and numerous others.