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Seattle’s Asian Plaza International District Redevelopment Approved

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Seattle International District Chinn Investments Little Saigon Seattle Housing Authority Yesler Terrace

By Kristin Bentley

With over 60 years of ties to Seattle’s International District (ID), the family-owned Asian Plaza was unanimously approved by the city’s design board on Wednesday to move forward with its redevelopment proposal. The redeveloped plaza, located at 1032 South Jackson Street, is a two block project that will offer 240 apartment units, 180 hotel units, 100,000 square feet of ground level commercial space, a grocery store, theater, childcare facility, 17,000 square feet of restaurant space, 600 underground parking stalls and a pedestrian connection.

The next move for Chinn Investments, LLC, a family-owned firm focused on the redevelopment of Seattle’s ID and its Little Saigon neighborhood, will be a design recommendation meeting. The firm’s president, Dennis Chinn, expressed deep passion for this project due to his and his wife’s family roots to the community. “The Asian Plaza was established in 1985, we were here in the beginning of Little Saigon,” said Chinn.

What we’ve seen so far is that this will be a great complement and will provide a further integration of the two neighborhoods, improving both our work and theirs

The ID is a neighborhood rich in all Asian histories and has become home to many Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Vietnamese Americans. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese immigrants were drawn to Seattle’s ID because it felt like home. As the Vietnamese population grew so did businesses such as Asian Plaza located in the area of 12th Avenue and South Jackson Street, on the edge of the ID in the Little Saigon neighborhood.

Because the Asian Plaza has been a place of meaning to Seattle’s Vietnamese community over the years, several Little Saigon residents attended Wednesday’s meeting in order to voice their concerns about its redevelopment. One speaker who identified herself as a board member of the Vietnamese community group Friends of Little Saigon, said, “One of the reasons my family goes to Little Saigon is because of the look and the character, as well as the food. So, I ask that this project maintains this feel of Little Saigon and can support the local businesses, because that is what it means to us.”

One of the important aspects of the project is the pedestrian walkway that will connect the existing hill climb on the northwest corner, which was recently built by the Seattle Housing Authority, to public transportation access on the east side. The project will also affect the city’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood, as it borders the project site on the northside. Yesler Terrace is an area that the city has been focusing on for redevelopment. “I am delighted to support this project,” said Stephanie Van Dyke, the director of development for the city’s housing authority. “Dennis and I have talked a lot about connecting this to the Yesler Terrace project. Main Street is a very poor environment right now. What we’ve seen so far is that this will be a great complement and will provide a further integration of the two neighborhoods, improving both our work and theirs.”

The board acknowledged the public’s concerns and reiterated to the design team that the project needs to uphold the integrity and character of the neighborhood. According to the board there is quite a bit of work that needs to happen in order to continue forward with the project, and Seattle’s Senior Land Use Planner Lindsay King said the city is doing all that it can to help with the process. “We’re working closely on the necessary points, but there’s a lot that needs to be done still,” said King. “This is a very exciting project,” added board member Natalie Gualy.

Hewitt is the Seattle-based architecture firm on the project, led by David Hewitt. Some of the firm’s other projects include ten of the Link Light rail stations throughout the Puget Sound region, Bell Street Pier at Seattle’s waterfront, Bell Harbor and the Port Headquarters Building.