The Bakaro Mall was an unassuming suburban strip mall in King County outside of Seattle. Step inside, however, and you would have discovered a bustling collection of small East African businesses and community spaces. You could buy Somali foods, textiles, clothing, or furniture, get your hair cut, or stop for a cup of coffee
In 2019 these entrepreneurs and community leaders were displaced when the land was slated to be developed into new housing. After this painful setback, three leaders from the Somali community joined to create new retail and community spaces in a leased building that would become the SeaTac International Mall. Unable to obtain bank financing to build out and improve their building, they were referred to Craft3 by the City of SeaTac.
With a $200,000 construction loan, partially guaranteed by Loan Loss Reserve grant funding from the Communities of Opportunity (COO) Commercial Affordability Pilot, this project moved forward, creating spaces for 26 small businesses, a community center, and a larger market and deli. Craft3 provided technical assistance to the owners of the SeaTac International Mall, helping these first-time commercial borrowers understand and feel comfortable with the process. Craft3 also referred them to apply to the Pilot, which provided them with a real estate development grant and project management support and advice.
The ribbon cutting ceremony on May 4, 2021 was a festive event drawing local politicians, businesspeople, and community leaders. There was a sense of joy and relief that while the Bakaro Mall had closed forever, a new space was opening that would serve this dynamic community. Abdirashid Hersi, the most social and talkative of the three owners, spoke in Somali and got a big round of applause. It was clear he knew just about everyone, was proud of their collective accomplishment, and ready to open for business.