Although public housing in Seattle has always been maintained to be livable, elsewhere in the country public housing has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that people can no longer live in many thousands of units. In the early 1990s, a national commission found that about 100,000 public housing units in the U.S. were “severely distressed” and proposed a national action plan to address this problem by the year 2000.
In 1992, Congress authorized a new program called Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, or HOPE VI, to carry out the commissionâ€™s recommendations.
In August 1999, the Office of Housing and Urban Development awarded Seattle Housing Authority with a $35 million HOPE VI grant to redevelop Rainier Vista, a 481-unit World War II-era garden community in Southeast Seattle.
The Seattle Housing Authority created a unique partnership with local builders to build not only low-income and rental housing, but market value housing for members of the middle-class.
Most of the builders who have bought and developed the lots are huge experienced general contractor/builder titans with years of experience.
One group that entered the fray is not a big builder, and that is the “George P. Riley Group”.
The original “George P. Riley” came to the NW territories during the Gold Rush. In 1869, Riley along with 14 other folks, 11 African American men, two African American women, and one white man–formed a group and the members pooled funds to purchase real estate. Mr. Riley searched for suitable land and ended up purchasing 20-acres in the present-day Beacon Hill neighborhood for $2000.00. This was the beginning of Seattle’s black neighborhood. He also did the same thing in Tacoma, and that was the beginnings of that cities black neighborhood.
Fast-forward to today.
A group of African-American men, lead by local architect the late Mel Streeter, got together and decided to do the same thing, pool their money to buy real estate in the same Beacon Hill neighborhood.
The group is made up of several African-American architects, including Donald King, a lawyer, an insurance broker (David Tyner), a couple of real estate brokers, the owner of Ezell’s restaurant, an athlete (Lenny Wilkins), and several other prominent African-American gentlemen.
One of the investors is well-known African-American historian Quintard Taylor and he wrote about George P. Riley on his website Black Past.
They thought it would be interesting, a good story, an honor to Riley’s accomplishment, a good example, all those things and more, if they could pull this off, a modern-day group of black men working together to build something worthwhile in the community in Rainier Vista.
And it is a good story, a story that Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Aubrey Cohen expanded upon in his article “Housing group continues mission of pioneering black developer” published last week in the Seattle P.I..
Fusion Partners have created a general Rainier Vista website, but I’ve been assisting the George P. Riley group on sales and marketing so have made them a website specifically for the George P. Riley Group townhomes. I’m so honored to have had this chance to meet and work with these gentleman, to learn first-hand about their story, and I’m looking forward to assisting them in getting these townhomes sold in 2008.