Design review: The Central District’s Acer House and its Afrofuturist plans at 23rd and Cherry

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(Image: CHS)

Imagine this: five-and-a-half stories of apartments in an Afrofuturist design on 23rd and Cherry with thousands of square feet of childcare and other retail spaces with a public courtyard. Of the 120 apartments, which range in size from about 400-square-foot studios to two-bedroom units between 700 and 800, 30% would be reserved for low-income residents.

Thursday night, the proposed Acer House project will move forward with its first pass through the Seattle design review process:

2210 E Cherry St

Design Review Early Design Guidance for a 5-story, 120-unit apartment building with 4 live-work units, childcare, and retail. No parking proposed. Project relies on a contract rezone. View Design Proposal  (23 MB)    

Review Meeting: June 10, 2021 5:00 PM

Meeting: Listen Line: 206-207-1700 Passcode: 187 663 1617
Comment Sign Up:

Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance

Project Number: 3037717  View Related Records


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Planner: David Sachs — Email comments to

Kateesha Atterberry, founder of the Urban Black commercial property management firm working on the development, says the team wants a childcare provider focused on “Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.” Commercial spaces will likely include the existing Flowers Just 4 U, which might be the only Black-owned florist in the Pacific Northwest, with Atterberry saying she would additionally like to see a recording studio and other artists in the five micro retail spaces for small businesses.

On top of the housing affordability, Atterberry also hopes the project, known as Acer House, can be commercially affordable.

“Creating vibrant communities where businesses can thrive and contribute to the local economy is dependent upon them being able to afford the spaces they are in,” Atterberry told CHS in an email. “Our goal is to provide affordable leasing terms and access to resources for additional support. We believe in partnering with businesses to ensure their success because their success is our success.”

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Existing businesses on the corner, including the Somali restaurant Dur Dur Cafe across the intersection from the Garfield Community Center, will get priority if they want to return with the new development, Atteberry said in a recent Central Area Land Use Review Committee meeting.

Atterberry notes there will also be community development funds to offer investment opportunities to people with historical roots in the Central District. One of the existing landowners on the corner, a CD native, is an investor in the project.

“We are creating a wealth-building mechanism and providing access to communities that are usually excluded from the commercial real estate industry as a means to build wealth,” Atterberry said.

The development will feature a U-shaped community courtyard facing E Cherry, which would include outdoor dining and shopping opportunities for the retailers, and a community porch extension to the south. On the roof, the developers are proposing a vegetable garden.

The project won’t include parking given its proximity to transit.

As for the development’s architecture, it will look to adhere to the tenets of Afrofuturism, which the developers describe as a “form, color and material design expression at the intersection of traditional aesthetics of the African diaspora and modernism,” adding that “in its programming and narrative, rather than simply in form or ornament, Afrofuturist architectural works contribute to the shift of the projected future.”

“This is not a trend that comes up and goes away. This is a growing idea and movement internationally for design,” said Schemata Workshop’s Donald King, the project’s architect. “Accompanied with the belief that the people of the African diaspora will be in the future, will have more power in the future, will also have more equity in the future and will not just be marginalized… Just having more power and control over their destiny.”

King said he couldn’t think of another Seattle building using Afrofuturism.

This is all part of a broader push for Acer House to be what Capitol Hill developer Ben Maritz calls the “first truly anti-racist private sector development here in Seattle.”

“We are honoring the historical and cultural significance of the Black/African-American community of the Central District, while laying out a vision for Afro-futurism and Black Excellence,” Atterberry said. “It was imperative that we pay homage to a community that has built their traditions within this neighborhood and greatly contributed to its success.”

But a lot of this remains up in the air with the project still in its early stages. The development will get some early guidance in the city’s design review process this Thursday and, in total, that process is expected to take 2-3 months, King said.

And perhaps the biggest outstanding question is if the project will be given a rezone of the property by the Seattle City Council to build up to 55-feet instead of the 40 currently allowed. The legislation for that rezone was transmitted to the council in late April. King expects that with this rezone process, construction could start in about a year and then it would take another 18 months for the building to open.

The project’s website estimates construction will start in 2023 and open in 2025.

King says a number of things bode well for this project in getting the council’s approval, whether it be its social equity lens or its commitment to some affordable housing.

“We need housing,” King said. “To make this housing work, we really need the rezone and it is not a very large impact on the neighborhood.”

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