Byrd Barr Place reopens newly renovated food market

Byrd Barr Place has served the Central District with a food bank and other services for decades.

SEATTLE – Seattle’s Central District is celebrating a homecoming of sorts.

Byrd Barr Place is celebrating a return to the building it previously operated in, complete with renovations to help the organization advance its mission.

Byrd Barr Place has served the Central District since the 1960s and despite some name changes, the mission remains the same.

“The ultimate mission is to ensure a fairer future for all Washingtonians, and we have many programs to help do that,” said Safari Maynard, director of operations.

Originally known as the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP), the organization focused on helping individuals make the transition from poverty to self-sufficiency. CAMP changed its name to Centerstone in 2012 and expanded support services. It was 2018 when the organization was rebranded with a culturally significant name that pays tribute to civil rights activist, educator, CAMP supporter and journalist Roberta Byrd Barr.

The new Byrd Barr Place building is built on history.

“Because the building is a registered historic monument, we didn’t really change much on the outside,” Maynard said.

It took nearly a year and a half to complete the renovations on Firehouse No.23, built in 1908. The project is the result of a 10-year negotiation with the City of Seattle and raised nearly $13 million for the renovations.

The space just reopened its doors this week and the plaque has been renamed “The Market”. No more lines of people and pre-designated bags of amenities. The organization wanted to break the traditional stigma of food banks and offer diners a dignified place to actually shop.

Rudy Ziemba is a volunteer at The Market and said he appreciates the new friendly design and the incredible food offerings.

“I drive a truck to collect produce from local partners and often we even get donations from farmers markets and it’s really fresh produce. It’s really a pleasure to be able to offer that,” said Ziemba.

Fresh produce, baked goods and even fish are available for locals in need. The market has a grocery store feel with rows of items for people to pick and take away.

“We really come from a mindset of abundance,” Maynard said. He spent the morning stocking up on items like cucumbers, zucchini, fennel, radishes, and kohlrabi. Maynard says the diversity is intentional and inclusive.

“We have such a diverse clientele here that it’s really nice when we can provide them with food that’s culturally meaningful to them,” he said.

Byrd Barr Place is now reopening with a new community gathering space and continues to provide food, energy, housing and financial resources to more than 1,100 homes weekly.

If you need resources or would like to volunteer, visit the organization’s website.

CLOCK: Chris Cashman’s stories on YouTube Byrd Barr Place reopens newly renovated food market

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