Landmark status for CD’s pioneering Black-owned bank up for consideration amid affordable housing plans

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Landmark status for CD’s pioneering Black-owned bank up for consideration amid affordable housing plans
by Bryan Cohen

1968 To preserve and rekindle a piece of Central District history, or prepare for the current and future needs of residents in a increasingly expensive neighborhood. That’s the debate at the heart of a bid to preserve the former, and now empty, Liberty Bank building at 24th and Union.Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 5.44.51 PM

On Wednesday the Landmarks Preservation Board will decide if a nomination to save the bank building should move forward. The application (PDF) cites the building as the “first banking institution for African Americans in the Pacific Northwest region.”

Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the preservation petition. For Garrett, the fight to save the bank runs deeper than just preserving a building.

“Our children are not on the street shooting each other because they don’t have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the central area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.”

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