Food & Culture

Music By The People, For The People

Cultural Space Agency leads community acquisitions

By Rob Smith October 20, 2022

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Jovelle Tamayo

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

In what’s been dubbed a blow against gentrification and displacement, the Cultural Space Agency – a “mission-driven, values-based” development company chartered by the city of Seattle – and internet radio station RainierAvenueRadio world have acquired the Columbia City Theater and the connected Bourbon Bar for use as a community-owned cultural space.

The $3.2 million acquisition was among the first funded by the city’s Strategic Investment Fund.

Columbia City Theater was built in stages between 1920 and 1923 as a candy shop, vaudeville theater and early cinema. It was home to much of Seattle’s punk and early grunge scenes and also served as a mainstay of 1990s rave culture when it was known as The Lish House. It had been privately owned and operated until now.

The Cultural Space Agency is described as “a mission-driven cultural real estate development company, imagined and designed by a diverse group of BIPOC cultural community members. It is an intermediary between the worlds of commercial real estate development and community-based cultural operators.”

“Columbia City’s new gathering and cultural space and career-connected learning program will be a permanent home for cultural expression and education in the Rainier Valley,” says Rico Quirindongo, acting director of the city Office of Planning and Community Development.

The Cultural Space Agency, in partnership with community development group Cultivate South Park, had previously acquired 32,000 square feet in the heart of South Park. Included were cultural venue South Park Hall; the South Park Idea Lab for growing arts and cultural development projects; 15,000 square feet of outdoor space; and several micro-businesses that serve the neighborhood.

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