A Lasting Commitment

The Sundborg Center for Community Engagement, Seattle Housing Authority and the Seattle Foundation form partnership to launch Yesler Legacy Commitment.

Seattle University’s Sundborg Center for Community Engagement (CCE) has been named lead partner for the Yesler Legacy Commitment, working in close collaboration with the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) and the Seattle Foundation. The longtime partnership and commitment of CCE’s Seattle University Youth Initiative to the children and families of Yesler and nearby Bailey Gatzert Elementary School made it natural for the center to lead administration of the effort.

Throughout the redevelopment of the former Yesler Terrace into a mixed-income community with new and expanded affordable housing and amenities for low-income and other residents of the new Yesler, SHA has maintained a commitment that access to opportunity is embedded in the community. A unique element of this setting is that where other development funding often sunsets post-construction, the Yesler Legacy Commitment is the result of a sustainable partnership model that will benefit residents for years to come.

To ensure academic success for children, positive youth development, job opportunities and advancement, overall health and strong social networks continue to be supported for its residents, SHA reached out to longtime partners CCE and the Seattle Foundation, who have been engaged in the Yesler community.

This innovative collaboration will create long-term, sustainable opportunities and life-changing outcomes for current and future Yesler residents, many of whom live on less than 30 percent of area median income. 

The Legacy Commitment is designed to be community-driven and a powerful way for residents and community partners to collectively influence goals, decision-making and outcomes. There will be wide community engagement with guidance by a committee comprised of four Yesler residents plus one representative each from SHA, CCE and the Seattle Foundation, mirroring strong community-building programs in other SHA communities. 

“From the time it was apparent that the deteriorating housing and infrastructure at Yesler needed to be replaced, redevelopment has been guided by many visionary residents and partners,” says SHA Executive Director Rod Brandon. “Their engagement has modeled community-centered leadership and equity-based design. The broad participation in determining Yesler Legacy Commitment investments will continue that tradition and help fulfill the promise of a vibrant, healthy and strong community.”

CCE Executive Director Kent Koth says of this partnership, “The Yesler Legacy Commitment’s focus on youth and education closely aligns with the goals of the Seattle University Youth Initiative, which provides a birth-to-college and career pathway of support for young people in central Seattle. Programs will function as an amplifier for change, supporting youth development, improved education and positive health outcomes for the nearly 800 children and their families who reside at Yesler.”

“This fund deserves to be celebrated,” says Seattle Foundation Chief Philanthropy Officer Mary Rennekamp. “This multi-sector partnership, driven by a majority of community voices, is an exciting step toward a new paradigm for philanthropic impact. We are shifting the decisions about how resources are deployed into the hands of the community being served.”  

Learn more about the Yesler Legacy Commitment.

Written by Robin Lesh

Monday, June 24, 2024