Abstract Urban neighbourhoods are home to complex social interactions, cultural traditions and historic built environments that have accrued over time. Many community development corporations (CDCs) in the United States work in older, inner-city neighbourhoods, setting the stage for a possible alliance with historic preservation. This paper explores the intersection of community development and historic preservation, asking: In high-growth contexts, how do community developers working in neighbourhoods with strong cultural and ethnic identity use historic preservation? What are their motivations? And, how do they define, use, and/or adapt preservation to address the needs of their target communities? The article chronicles the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation Development Authority’s (SCIDpda) efforts to reverse neighbourhood decline while preserving the International District’s significant history, fostering its continued future as a Pan-Asian community, overcoming persistent barriers to development, and mitigating high growth pressures. The findings show that for community developers, preservation can serve as an oppositional strategy to demolition and incompatible new development, helping to attract outside financial resources, and providing a means to assert local symbolic ownership over neighbourhood space. Introduction Urban neighbourhoods manifest complex social interactions, cultural traditions, and built environments that have accrued over time. Community development corporations (CDCs) have a variety of goals including stabilizing neighbourhoods, empowering residents and providing affordable housing. CDCs often work in older, inner-city neighbourhoods, setting the stage for a logical overlap with the tools and strategies of historic preservation. Yet, there is minimal scholarly research about the role of preservation within community development practice. This research begins to fill this void, broadly asking: In inner-city neighbourhoods, what is historic preservation’s role in community development? Specifically, in high-growth contexts, how do community developers working in neighbourhoods with a strong cultural and ethnic identity use historic preservation? What are their motivations? How do they use and/or adapt preservation tools and strategies to address the needs of their target communities? To explore these questions, I use a case study of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation Development Authority (SCIDpda). Seattle’s International District (ID) has a long history as an immigrant enclave and contested space for Asian Americans. In the early twentieth century, the neighbourhood housed single, male, immigrant labourers in single room occupancy (SRO) hotels. The ID grew into a vibrant Asian-American neighbourhood, with Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Vietnamese residents, but was also home to negative aspects of US immigration history. The neighbourhood’s Immigration and Naturalization Services and Assay building was a prison for Chinese immigrants until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943 and, during WWII, the ID’s Japanese residents were forcibly relocated to internment camps. By the late twentieth century, the ID was losing population and sliding into disrepair. In the 1960 and 1970s, portions of the neighbourhood were demolished for highway and stadium construction. By the 1970s, the ID’s population had dropped by nearly 65% (since 1940) and at least half of its residential units were vacant. To counter decline, local activists formed SCIDpda in 1975 and adopted a preservation-centred approach. SCIDpda has achieved notable successes, but has not spurred a complete turnaround in the face of persistent obstacles and continued development pressure. This research chronicles the history of SCIDpda’s historic preservation work, which began with adaptive reuse and building restorations. Over time, SCIDpda expanded its definition of ‘preservation’ beyond these traditional activities to include supporting traditional uses (ethnic businesses, affordable housing, cultural and social practices), building compatible infill, and facilitating other entities’ preservation initiatives. SCIDpda embraced preservation because it was an oppositional strategy to demolition and incompatible new development, it brought outside resources and funding, and it was a way to assert the Asian-American community’s symbolic ownership of the ID. Preservation and Community Development Preservation gained traction as an urban revitalization strategy throughout the twentieth century. Charleston, South Carolina adopted the nation’s first local historic district in 1931 in an effort to revitalize the city’s historic core. In the 1960s, preservation grew in popularity as a counter-movement to demolition-heavy urban renewal, resulting in the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act (Hurley, 2010). And, during the 1960 and 1970s, private-sector investors capitalized on the unique architecture of urban neighbourhoods to generate profit from gentrification-based restorations (Fusch, 1978; Kasinitz, 1988). In the late 1960 and 1970s, the local community development movement also took hold in an effort to shape neighbourhood futures through grassroots control. A few organizations such as Pittsburgh’s Manchester Citizens Corporation and Cincinnati’s Mt. Auburn Good Housing Foundation used historic preservation to benefit low-income residents (Ryberg, 2011). Zhang (2011, 536) argues that preservation ‘has been adopted by resource-poor communities as a strategy of economic growth and community revitalization,’ but minimal research explores the intersection of community development and historic preservation. Recent urban preservation literature finds strong connections between preservation and economic development, although the connections with community development remain under-explored (Ryberg-Webster and Kinahan, 2014). Evaluations of economic and property value impacts abound, making a strong case for preservation (Mason, 2005). The economic benefits of preservation include job creation, income and wealth increases, and tax revenue (e.g. Listokin, Lahr, and Heydt, 2012). Historic district designation can increase property values and catalyse spillover effects (e.g. Coulson and Leichenko, 2004; Coulson and Lahr, 2005; Ijla et al., 2011; Shipley, Jonas, and Kovacs, 2011). Property value increases are good for municipal coffers and homeowners who can afford higher taxes, but may lead to gentrification. Coulson and Leichenko (2004), though, conclude that preservation ‘does not lead to gentrification, or any other kind of neighbourhood turnover’ (1598). More recently, McCabe and Ellen (2016) study the impacts of historic district designation in New York City, finding no racial turnover, but significant increases in socioeconomic status (McCabe and Ellen, 2016). Addressing issues of diversity and inclusivity is a continuing challenge for historic preservation. Past practices such as urban renewal, highway construction and disinvestment decimated inner-city minority communities. These communities lacked resources for routine maintenance, reducing the material integrity required for official preservation designation (Kaufman, 2009; Lee, 2012). Historically, preservationists have not emphasized ‘preserving the history of women; working class and poor people; and social, racial and ethnic communities’ (Buckley and Graves, 2016, 153), which includes immigrant neighbourhoods such as the ID. The scholarship that exists in this area focuses mostly on public-sector actors, not CDCs (Reichl, 1997; Elliott, 1999; Newman, 2001; Saito, 2009; Zhang, 2011). African American communities dominate the discourse about preservation in minority areas (Dwyer, 2008; Hurley, 2010; Kaufman, 2009; Leggs, Rubman and Wood, 2012; Ryberg, 2011). A few studies explore preservation in Asian American communities, focusing on the politics of preservation and the intersection of preservation and planning (Dubrow, 2000; Buckley and Graves, 2016; Umbach and Wishnoff, 2008; Saito, 2009; Jenks, 2008; Wilson, 2015). These authors emphasize the importance of collective organizing, asserting cultural identity, and connecting intangible cultural heritage and preservation of built fabric. Methodology This article uses SCIDpda as a strategically selected case study to explore preservation’s role in community development within an Asian American neighbourhood. The case study provides transferable lessons to other communities about the benefits and limitations of preservation in an immigrant neighbourhood within a high growth context. The qualitative case study draws on open-ended interviews with key stakeholders, archival and document research, and field observations. Interviewees include SCIDpda’s staff and key partners, who provided expert insight into the organization’s decision-making, preservation projects, and neighbourhood needs and conditions.1 Archival sources such as public records and internal documents, provide additional documentary evidence. Seattle’s Chinatown-international District The ID includes over forty city blocks southeast of downtown Seattle and has a nationally-significant history as a Pan-Asian neighbourhood home to Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Vietnamese immigrants (Figure 1). The ID developed in the early twentieth century as a mixed-use neighbourhood with SRO hotels housing single, male immigrant labourers. Residents settled in smaller enclaves, with King Street as the heart of Chinatown, South Main as the center of Nihonmachi (Japanese), and Vietnamese residing further east in Little Saigon (Santos, 2002; Sullivan and Woo, 2004). Chinese family associations built many of the ID’s buildings, passing ownership to each of their heirs. Today, vast associations, some with over 200 shareholders, control many structures, making maintaining, renovating or investing in buildings particularly difficult (Higgins, 1997; City of Seattle, 2008). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Map of the international district and key sites Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Map of the international district and key sites The ID began to decline during WWII. In February 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing thousands of Japanese Americans, including those living in the ID, into internment camps. Most of these residents never returned, leaving large portions of the neighbourhood vacant. By 1965, Interstate five divided the neighbourhood, with Chinatown and Nihonmachi to the west and Little Saigon to the east. In the 1970s, the City of Seattle required all residential building owners to install sprinkler systems and instead of making this upgrade, many owners evicted tenants and vacated residential spaces. Changes to federal immigration policy allowed families to settle in the United States, reducing the demand for SRO housing. By the end of the 1970s, at least half of the ID’s residential units were vacant and its population had fallen nearly 65% since its peak in 1940 (Higgins, 1997; Chin, 2001; Santos, 2002; Sullivan and Woo, 2004, 2007). The City of Seattle established the International Special Review District (ISRD) in 1973 to ‘preserve the District’s unique Asian American character and to encourage rehabilitation of areas for housing and pedestrian-oriented businesses’ (City of Seattle, 2017). The ISRD board includes community members who approve changes to historic buildings, including demolition. In 1986, the city’s Office of Urban Conservation nominated the Seattle Chinatown Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places, providing minimal protection against demolition but facilitating the use of federal rehabilitation tax incentives (Kreisman, 1986).2 By the 1980s, gentrification pressure increased, with reports that ‘property prices have more than doubled, in some cases tripled, over the past decade’ (Iritani, 1988) and that …the area’s retailers and restauranteurs are small, family-owned businesses that have been in the area for 50 years or longer, and they pay as little as $50 a month for shop space… Rising rents could drive them out of business…eroding the essential character of the area (Erickson, 1989). At the turn of the twenty-first century, a flurry of development adjacent to the ID included the $100 million Union Station mixed-use development, two new stadiums, and a new Pioneer Square/International District light rail station (Higgins, 1997; Le, 2000). Yet, vacancy and building deterioration continue to plague the ID: While the street-level shops are bustling, some of the four- and five-story hotels and buildings are largely empty. Their streaked windows and faded signs advertising ‘chop suey’ and ‘low rents’ are a wistful reminder of bygone years. In February, the roof of the eighty-five-year-old Kokusai Theatre on Maynard Avenue collapsed, raising concerns about the safety of some of the district’s old and semi-abandoned buildings (Higgins, 1997). Today, the ID remains a cultural center for the region’s Asian American community (Abramson, Manzo and Hou, 2006). The neighbourhood is still majority Asian, with relatively high unemployment, poverty, aging residents, and a transient/renter population (Table 1). Table 1 Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the ID International district City of Seattle % Population Change, 1990–2010 77% 18% % Asian, 2010 Census 57.0% 13.8% Vacant Housing Units, 2000 Census 7.7% 4.4% Vacant Housing Units, 2010 Census 6.9% 8.1% % Rental Housing, 2010 Census 88.7% 47.7% Median Age, 2010 Census 50.9 36.1 Unemployment Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 10.8% 7.0% Poverty Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 40.6% 13.6% International district City of Seattle % Population Change, 1990–2010 77% 18% % Asian, 2010 Census 57.0% 13.8% Vacant Housing Units, 2000 Census 7.7% 4.4% Vacant Housing Units, 2010 Census 6.9% 8.1% % Rental Housing, 2010 Census 88.7% 47.7% Median Age, 2010 Census 50.9 36.1 Unemployment Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 10.8% 7.0% Poverty Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 40.6% 13.6% *Unemployment and Poverty are reported for the combined Pioneer Square/International District Community Reporting Area. (source: City of Seattle) Table 1 Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the ID International district City of Seattle % Population Change, 1990–2010 77% 18% % Asian, 2010 Census 57.0% 13.8% Vacant Housing Units, 2000 Census 7.7% 4.4% Vacant Housing Units, 2010 Census 6.9% 8.1% % Rental Housing, 2010 Census 88.7% 47.7% Median Age, 2010 Census 50.9 36.1 Unemployment Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 10.8% 7.0% Poverty Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 40.6% 13.6% International district City of Seattle % Population Change, 1990–2010 77% 18% % Asian, 2010 Census 57.0% 13.8% Vacant Housing Units, 2000 Census 7.7% 4.4% Vacant Housing Units, 2010 Census 6.9% 8.1% % Rental Housing, 2010 Census 88.7% 47.7% Median Age, 2010 Census 50.9 36.1 Unemployment Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 10.8% 7.0% Poverty Rate (ACS 2009–2013)* 40.6% 13.6% *Unemployment and Poverty are reported for the combined Pioneer Square/International District Community Reporting Area. (source: City of Seattle) SCIDpda In 1975, local activists formed SCIDpda to address population loss and vacancies. Politically, active residents had formed the non-profit International District Improvement Association (Inter*Im) in 1968, but under state law Inter*Im could not undertake development or receive public funds. When the State of Washington enabled cities to create public development authorities, the City of Seattle and Inter*Im collaborated to form SCIDpda (SCIDpda, 1984; Chin, 2001; Santos, 2002). SCIDpda’s mission prioritized preserving the ID as an affordable immigrant community with traditional uses and activities, cultural practices and historic buildings. SCIDpda’s work falls into three overlapping categories: (i) traditional preservation [1970s-present], (ii) property management and new construction [1980s-present], and (iii) facilitation [1990s-present] (Table 2). SCIDpda preserves the ID via an inclusive community development approach. For instance, its staff is diverse, reflecting the ID’s ethnic makeup, and its programming includes senior services that provide ‘culturally competent care’ and serve a ‘low-income, predominantly multi-Asian clientele, many of whom are first-generation immigrants who speak limited English’ (SCIDpda, 2017). Table 2 Summary of SCIDpda’s preservation and preservation-related initiatives Traditional preservation 1981, 1997, 2007 Adaptive reuse of the Bush Hotel 1983, 1986, 2004 Adaptive reuse of the New Central Hotel 1986 Rehabilitation of the Bush Annex 2007–2008 Failed effort to acquire INS building Property management and new construction 1984 Property manager for the Jackson Apartments 1995 Property manager for the Northern Pacific Hotel 1998 Property manager for the Eastern Hotel 1998 Built International District Village Square I (Legacy House) 2004 Built International District Village Square II (Domingo Viernes Apts.) 2006 Property manager for the newly constructed Nihonmachi Terrace Facilitation 1995–2008 Participated in CAP/Vacant Buildings Campaign 2007/2008 Partnered on the Vision 2030/Livable South Downtown plan 2008– Operates IDEA Space, a community development resource center 2008– Collaborates with Wing Luke Asian Museum to activate Canton Alley 2010 Neighbourhood revitalization and civic engagement (National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant) 2012– Facilitate improvements to historic properties not owned by SCIDpda 2015–2016 Creative placemaking and cultural preservation (NEA grant) 2015– Pilot projects for proposed city policies and ordinances 2016– Exploring a Cultural Ecodistrict Traditional preservation 1981, 1997, 2007 Adaptive reuse of the Bush Hotel 1983, 1986, 2004 Adaptive reuse of the New Central Hotel 1986 Rehabilitation of the Bush Annex 2007–2008 Failed effort to acquire INS building Property management and new construction 1984 Property manager for the Jackson Apartments 1995 Property manager for the Northern Pacific Hotel 1998 Property manager for the Eastern Hotel 1998 Built International District Village Square I (Legacy House) 2004 Built International District Village Square II (Domingo Viernes Apts.) 2006 Property manager for the newly constructed Nihonmachi Terrace Facilitation 1995–2008 Participated in CAP/Vacant Buildings Campaign 2007/2008 Partnered on the Vision 2030/Livable South Downtown plan 2008– Operates IDEA Space, a community development resource center 2008– Collaborates with Wing Luke Asian Museum to activate Canton Alley 2010 Neighbourhood revitalization and civic engagement (National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant) 2012– Facilitate improvements to historic properties not owned by SCIDpda 2015–2016 Creative placemaking and cultural preservation (NEA grant) 2015– Pilot projects for proposed city policies and ordinances 2016– Exploring a Cultural Ecodistrict Table 2 Summary of SCIDpda’s preservation and preservation-related initiatives Traditional preservation 1981, 1997, 2007 Adaptive reuse of the Bush Hotel 1983, 1986, 2004 Adaptive reuse of the New Central Hotel 1986 Rehabilitation of the Bush Annex 2007–2008 Failed effort to acquire INS building Property management and new construction 1984 Property manager for the Jackson Apartments 1995 Property manager for the Northern Pacific Hotel 1998 Property manager for the Eastern Hotel 1998 Built International District Village Square I (Legacy House) 2004 Built International District Village Square II (Domingo Viernes Apts.) 2006 Property manager for the newly constructed Nihonmachi Terrace Facilitation 1995–2008 Participated in CAP/Vacant Buildings Campaign 2007/2008 Partnered on the Vision 2030/Livable South Downtown plan 2008– Operates IDEA Space, a community development resource center 2008– Collaborates with Wing Luke Asian Museum to activate Canton Alley 2010 Neighbourhood revitalization and civic engagement (National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant) 2012– Facilitate improvements to historic properties not owned by SCIDpda 2015–2016 Creative placemaking and cultural preservation (NEA grant) 2015– Pilot projects for proposed city policies and ordinances 2016– Exploring a Cultural Ecodistrict Traditional preservation 1981, 1997, 2007 Adaptive reuse of the Bush Hotel 1983, 1986, 2004 Adaptive reuse of the New Central Hotel 1986 Rehabilitation of the Bush Annex 2007–2008 Failed effort to acquire INS building Property management and new construction 1984 Property manager for the Jackson Apartments 1995 Property manager for the Northern Pacific Hotel 1998 Property manager for the Eastern Hotel 1998 Built International District Village Square I (Legacy House) 2004 Built International District Village Square II (Domingo Viernes Apts.) 2006 Property manager for the newly constructed Nihonmachi Terrace Facilitation 1995–2008 Participated in CAP/Vacant Buildings Campaign 2007/2008 Partnered on the Vision 2030/Livable South Downtown plan 2008– Operates IDEA Space, a community development resource center 2008– Collaborates with Wing Luke Asian Museum to activate Canton Alley 2010 Neighbourhood revitalization and civic engagement (National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant) 2012– Facilitate improvements to historic properties not owned by SCIDpda 2015–2016 Creative placemaking and cultural preservation (NEA grant) 2015– Pilot projects for proposed city policies and ordinances 2016– Exploring a Cultural Ecodistrict Traditional Preservation: The Bush and New Central Hotels In its early years, SCIDpda focused on bricks-and-mortar preservation. They restored two prominent, mixed-use buildings: the Bush and New Central Hotels. This work is ‘traditional’ preservation as SCIDpda worked to identify historic structures, acquire them, and invest in rehabilitation, the core of US preservation practice. These properties were SCIDpda’s only large-scale historic restorations. SCIDpda targeted the buildings because they were not owned by family associations and easy to acquire. The mixed-use Bush Hotel has 95 low-income units, including 50 studio apartments to continue the ID’s tradition of SRO housing. Of the 95 units, 73 are for residents making less than 40% of area median income (AMI), as defined and reported by the US Census, and 22 are for residents below 50% AMI, while 19 units are fully accessible. The Bush Hotel also has fifteen retail and office units, including SCIDpda’s offices and community and social service spaces. The New Central Hotel is 50,000 square feet with twenty-eight senior housing units and sixteen retail spaces (Sullivan and Woo, 2004; SCIDpda, 2008). In 1978, SCIDpda acquired the six-story historic Bush Hotel (c. 1915), which was prominently located and deteriorated. Rainier Heat and Power built the Bush Hotel to house Asian American businesses on the ground floor and cater to visitors arriving in Seattle via train with hotel units above. During WWII, six Japanese-owned businesses located in the Bush Hotel were forced to close. After the war, the upper stories became SRO units and were mostly vacant by the 1970s (Sullivan and Woo, 2007). By the 1970s, Rainier Heat and Power wanted to dispose of the property, making it easy to acquire (Higgins, 1997; Santos, 2002; Sullivan and Woo, 2007). The Bush Hotel retained much of its original interior and exterior features, including the lobby, main entrance and painted exterior wall sign. In 1981, SCIDpda renovated street-level retail spaces for Asian-owned businesses (Sullivan and Woo, 2007) to return the building to productive use. SCIDpda repaired historic windows, but added an incompatible sunroom, opened new entrances, removed the front door’s original metal canopy, and installed an Asian-themed mural on the back of the building (Figure 2). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The Bush Hotel’s Entrance (left) and SCIDpda-Installed Mural (right) (Author, 2008) Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The Bush Hotel’s Entrance (left) and SCIDpda-Installed Mural (right) (Author, 2008) In 1997, SCIDpda rehabilitated the Bush Hotel’s residential areas, combining federal historic and low-income housing tax credits. This time SCIDpda demonstrated a heightened concern for preserving physical fabric by reconstructing the metal canopy (Mooney, 1996; Sullivan and Woo, 2007). The 2001 Nisqually earthquake cracked the Bush Hotel’s stucco and using grants from FEMA and Historic Seattle, SCIDpda undertook an exterior renovation. The organization restored the Asian-themed mural installed in the 1980s, which it now considers a historic cultural identifier for the neighbourhood (Chin, 2001; Gilmore, 2006; Sullivan and Woo, 2007). In 2007, three of the Bush Hotel’s commercial tenants moved out, providing an opportunity to rehabilitation the building’s non-residential areas again. Using historic photographs, SCIDpda restored the lobby and reconstructed an entrance that was closed sometime before the 1970s (Sullivan and Woo, 2007). In 2015, SCIDpda created the Hing Hay Coworks to support entrepreneurial Asian-affiliated businesses in a storefront of the Bush Hotel that was vacant for more than a decade. SCIDpda acquired the three-story, mixed use New Central Hotel (c. 1908–09) in 1979. The New Central is one of the neighbourhood’s oldest structures, a typical SRO that was vacant when acquired (Figure 3). During the first rehabilitation (1982–1983), SCIDpda de-densified the building from 127 SRO units to 28 senior apartments and made a number of historically inappropriate alterations, including installing aluminium windows and adding exterior seismic ties. Three years later, the organization took a more traditional approach in renovating the commercial areas, designing ‘traditional wood-frame storefronts with…recessed entrances and wood-framed glass doors’ (Sullivan and Woo, 2004). Figure 3 View largeDownload slide New Central Hotel (Author, 2008) Figure 3 View largeDownload slide New Central Hotel (Author, 2008) Acquiring and financing the renovation of the New Central was extremely complex. When the original owner (the Boulder Realty Company) dissolved in 1947, title to the land and building were separated and the Nishimura family purchased both. In 1979, SCIDpda bought the building, signing a long-term land lease. To fund the renovation, SCIDpda had to partner with the New York-based Urban Group who purchased the building and provided funds for renovation, with an agreement that SCIDpda would oversee the property’s development and management (Sullivan and Woo, 2004). When SCIDpda initiated a third renovation of the New Central in 2004, it purchased the building back from the Urban Group and extended the ground lease. The Nisqually earthquake caused the New Central’s parapet to collapse, leading to the 2004 renovation. Again demonstrating an evolving preservation sensibility, SCIDpda exceeded the requirements for federal rehabilitation tax credit projects (Sullivan and Woo, 2004; Jones, 2007; SCIDpda, 2008), as described by the project’s preservation consultant: At New Central, the cornice was removed at some point, we don’t know when. In a previous renovation metal windows were put in. When doing this rehabilitation they chose to put wood windows back in. They also replicated the cornice. That was not an inexpensive feature to put back. They didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to put wood windows in or replace the cornice because those features were already gone. As individual projects, the Bush and New Central Hotels are successes. SCIDpda developed quality affordable housing and retail space, while restoring two historic landmarks. SCIDpda’s evolving approach to the renovations demonstrates an increasing sensitivity to historic fabric. The Bush and New Central projects provided SCIDpda with rehabilitation expertise, the capacity to manage affordable housing and commercial space, experience with complex financing, and a reputation as a model developer. The Bush and New Central are the only two major buildings that SCIDpda has acquired and restored, reflecting locally high barriers to acquisition and the organization’s limited financial resources. The only other building that SCIDpda purchased was the small Bush Annex, a historic garage that has fluctuated in use over time.3 SCIDpda’s unsuccessful attempt to acquire the Immigration and Naturalization Services and Assay (INS) building sheds light on the limitations of completing additional historic projects (Figure 4). The five-story building is a nationally significant historic site with high cultural importance to the ID. It was formerly the first stop for new immigrants to the Pacific Northwest and a tangible memorial to the dark side of U.S. immigration policy as it was a holding facility for Chinese immigrants until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943. The federal government vacated the building in 2004 and SCIDpda developed plans to adaptively reuse it as workforce housing with commemorative spaces. A former SCIDpda staff member explained that ‘it meant so much because that building was built during the Chinese Exclusion. If it was built to keep people out, this was a way to have it give back to the community in the long-term.’ In response to a federal request for proposals, SCIDpda drafted a plan, expecting to pay just under $1 million for the building. Instead, the federal government rescinded the RFP and sold the building via auction with a starting minimum bid of $2.2 million. SCIDpda could not finance the higher asking price, much less the rehabilitation with the escalated purchase price. A private developer purchased the INS building for $4.4 million and, while preserving the structure was a condition of the sale, the level to which the new owners will interpret and commemorate the building’s cultural significance remains unclear (Goldsmith, 1991; Davila, 2001; Wong, 2006, 2007, 2008; Ramirez, 2007). Figure 4 View largeDownload slide INS Building (Author, 2008) Figure 4 View largeDownload slide INS Building (Author, 2008) Adapting to Remain Relevant: Property Management and New Construction By the mid-1980s, SCIDpda recognized that acquisition barriers severely constrained its ability to rehabilitate historic buildings. SCIDpda shifted to property management and new construction in its effort to preserve affordable housing targeted to low-income Asian and immigrant populations. As a result, it is now responsible for much of the neighbourhood’s housing and completed the ID’s first infill project in decades. While SCIDpda nor ID residents can guarantee that the neighbourhood will retain its Pan-Asian cultural identity indefinitely, having SCIDpda – an organization with intimate knowledge of the ID’s history and immigrant community – operate affordable units ensures strategies that cater to immigrant populations and provides some buffer against market-based change. Property management improved SCIDpda’s operational capacity, with real estate development providing supplemental income. In 2008, a former high-level staff member from SCIDpda explained, …if you are primarily a real estate development entity, that is what you live and die on. You plan your budget on being able to have two projects a year or one project a year or one project every two years. If you don’t do those, you really create hardship for the organization. Whereas if you do property management for your base, development is supplemental. It may sound like a minor thing, but it is very important for the survival of the PDA. In addition to its own properties, SCIDpda now manages three historic buildings – Jackson Apartments, NP Hotel, Eastern Hotel and the newly constructed Nihonmachi Terrace (Figure 5). Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Eastern Hotel (Author, 2008) Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Eastern Hotel (Author, 2008) Through property management, SCIDpda became the ID’s communal owner, operating a large number of buildings, building credibility via interaction with neighbourhood stakeholders, and gaining on-the-ground insight about the ID’s needs, conditions and challenges. SCIDpda serves a model for other owners who are wary of the costs associated with returning historic buildings to productive use: ‘We are saying to property owners who may own vacant buildings that we think it is possible because we have nine examples’ (SCIDpda staff interview, 2008). SCIDpda also worked to preserve the ID’s cultural heritage through two new construction projects. During the 1990s, it acquired a large vacant parcel and constructed International District Village Square (IDVS) I and II, otherwise known as Legacy House and Domingo Viernes Apartments, respectively (Smith, 1990; Santos, 2002). Through the mixed-use IDVS projects, SCIDpda rebuilt urban fabric, supported retail and community services, and provided affordable housing. At the 1995 groundbreaking, the organization consecrated the site by brining ‘three religious monks from the Southeast Asian community (one Cambodian, one Laotian, and one Vitenamese) to symbolically ‘purify’ the land and drive away evil spirits’ (Santos, 2002, 162). Legacy House (c. 1998) provides senior housing with culturally-specific supportive services for the largely Asian, non-native English speaking residents, while SCIDpda provides housing specifically for first-generation immigrant families at IDVS II Domingo Viernes Apartments (c. 2004), reflecting the ID’s history and supporting its future as an immigrant community (Chin, 2001; Santos, 2002; Wong, 2005). Additionally, SCIDpda ‘honor[ed] the community-activist spirit of the district’ by naming IDVS II after Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, Filipino labour activists who were murdered at the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union in 1981 (Wong, 2005, 28–9). Facilitating preservation of the international district By the turn of the twenty-first century, the ID had notably improved from its dire conditions in the 1970s as a result of SCIDpda’s efforts, combined with other investments. But vacant buildings remained alongside escalating issues of affordability. A 2008 housing inventory identified six vacant residential buildings totalling 522 units (City of Seattle, 2008). SCIDpda took stock of these conditions and found ways to further its mission of preserving the ID by building coalitions, engaging the community, facilitating private-sector investment, and creating incentives to spur rehabilitation. For example, from 2006 to 2008, SCIDpda convened a group of ID stakeholders to develop Vision 2030, a community-based response to the city’s Livable South Downtown planning effort. The city targeted ‘South Downtown,’ which included the ID, for growth and was re-evaluating zoning classifications to increase density (City of Seattle, 2006, 2009; CSDPD, 2008). SCIDpda focused on taming development pressure and ensuring that the city’s plan reflected the ID’s needs and heritage. A letter dated August 15 2008 from the Vision 2030 group to the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, describes local stakeholders vision for the ID as a …neighborhood featuring a vibrant mix of residential and commercial activity [that] has maintained its significance as the historic cultural and social hub for the region’s Asian Pacific Islander communities. Through this neighbourhood planning process, SCIDpda creatively thought about how to spur revitalization and reuse historic buildings in a culturally-sensitive way. Because, the ISRD protects historic buildings from demolition, the Vision 2030 participants called for upzoning the area. This would give owners additional development rights, which they could sell via the city’s transfer of development rights program to generate resources for rehabilitation. In the end, the city increased height allowances in areas that were not designated historic districts (CSDPD, 2008). A SCIDpda staff member explained that the city’s ‘idea of preservation was completely different from how we viewed it. We thought this was a way to not just preserve the neighbourhood, but also continue developing it.’ In 2008, SCIDpda established IDEA Space, a community development resource center that engages residents around issues of design, safety, business assistance, commercial corridor improvement, and real estate development.4 IDEA Space epitomizes SCIDpda’s evolution from a direct developer of historic properties to a facilitator that builds connections between residents, businesses, property owners and funders, among others. IDEA Space has raised around $400,000 to facilitate building maintenance such as repairing roofs and fire escapes and improving accessibility. The long-term vision is that IDEA Space will help SCIDpda identify and partner on development projects and will provide a forum for community organizing around reinvestment in order to include the Pan-Asian residents in decision-making. To support community engagement in this immigrant neighbourhood, where many residents have limited English skills and are unfamiliar with US development processes and regulatory frameworks, SCIDpda has sought and received targeted funding, including a 2010 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support revitalization and civic engagement. Recently, SCIDpda has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at facilitating preservation. It has worked to activate Canton Alley (a historic alley adjacent to the Wing Luke Asian Museum), spearhead cultural preservation in Little Saigon, and explore the formation of a Cultural Ecodistrict. In 2015, SCIDpda/IDEA Space received a $75,000 NEA Our Town grant to improve the underpass connecting the Chinatown and Nihonmachi (west of I-5) to Little Saigon (east of I-5), lead a community engagement effort focused on Canton Alley, and support ‘public art that celebrates Asian-American history and heritage’ (NEA, 2016). The organization continues to partner with the city, particularly on two new policies that will impact the ID: the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance and the proposed Unreinforced Masonry Buildings policy.5 SCIDpda is overseeing a pilot project to determine the impact of these new policies, including necessary improvements to ID buildings, implementation cost, and available financing. Conclusion For more than forty years, SCIDpda has worked to integrate historic preservation with community development. The organization’s primary goal is to foster the long-term viability of Seattle’s historically significant Chinatown International District. SCIDpda devised a broad definition of preservation that blends traditional historic preservation (e.g. restoring buildings) with community development (e.g. affordability, quality of life, commercial revitalization, resident engagement and empowerment). In its forty-year history, SCIDpda has sustained as a neighbourhood leader because it has continuously understood the ID’s changing needs and conditions and repositioned itself as such. The case study demonstrates that historic preservation is a useful community development framework, particularly in communities where history, culture and tradition are core values. Within a high-growth context, community development groups working for neighbourhood improvement or stabilization must be ever-cognizant of the potential for gentrification. Traditional narratives tend to frame preservation as an elitist activity that can spur gentrification, with the existing literature finding mixed results. Yet, in the case of culturally unique ethnic neighbourhoods with a well-defined heritage, such as the ID, preservation provides a framework for preserving not just buildings, but traditional uses, activities and people. Framing community development through a lens of cultural heritage preservation can provide an oppositional and defensive strategy against external development pressure. Despite the ID’s location and seeming ripeness for gentrification, complex and persistent barriers to rehabilitation have prevented rapid change. SCIDpda has thus had the space to provide affordable housing, much of which is targeted towards immigrants, shore up the traditional ethnic retail environment, and assert community ownership over the ID. While preservation is not a panacea for reversing disinvestment, it brings tools for preventing demolition and social disruption, financing mechanisms (e.g. federal and/or state historic tax credits), and a means of reinforcing communal ownership and neighbourhood identity of low-income, ethnic communities. Yet, preservation strategies must be carefully devised so as to ensure that benefits go to the existing community – via affordable housing, entrepreneurial assistance, improved living conditions, etc. It is essential to caution against the restrictive nature of preservation, which when unmanaged, can constrain supply and thus limit affordability in strong growth markets (Been et al., 2016; Glaeser, 2011). Since most ‘official’ preservation decision-making occurs outside of individual communities – cities regulate local historic districts, state and federal entities review/approve tax credit applications – it is essential for community development entities to both devise and advocate for locally-beneficial preservation strategies, while also building coalitions with the official decision-makers. Furthermore, historic preservation traditionally prioritizes physical interventions in the built environment. While SCIDpda’s work demonstrates how a preservation mindset can facilitate additional activities (e.g. new construction, community engagement), it is imperative to devise these efforts in an inclusive, culturally-sensitive manner. In this regard, SCIDpda has generally succeeded due to its long history and embeddedness in the community. Future research must continue to explore the human aspects of preservation, including how various community members define and value neighbourhood heritage, if and how preferences and cultural identity vary among residents and other stakeholders (e.g. newcomers vs. long-term residents, business owners vs. residents, between various ethnic groups), and the effects of SCIDpda’s restoration, property management and community engagement work on these various stakeholders. Since the 1970s, SCIDpda has worked to revitalize the Chinatown International District, completing a number of successful projects, managing and maintaining a stock of historic buildings, and launching creative new initiatives. The organization’s ability to positively impact the ID stemmed from its dedicated and local leadership, its double bottom line mission, willingness to tackle risky projects producing minimal short-term profit, and its ability to evolve as an organization to changing opportunities, needs and conditions. SCIDpda has embraced preservation as a way to ensure the protection and continuation of highly valued local cultural heritage. Today, SCIDpda continues to focus on the ID’s Pan-Asian heritage, while seeking creative ways to restore its physical fabric, serve its low-income population and ensure its continued relevance as a vibrant hub of everyday life for the Asian American residents who call it home. Footnotes 1 To preserve anonymity, all interviewees are referred to by general affiliation. 2 The Office of Urban Conservation is now the Historic Preservation Program within the Department of Neighborhoods. 3 When SCIDpda purchased the Bush Annex, they used it to house the Wing Luke Asian Museum – a Smithsonian-affiliated community-based museum. In 2008, the museum purchased and adaptively reused another building, moving out of the Bush Annex (Santos, 2002). 4 The organization adopted a phased approach to launching IDEA Space, working the first year on education and engagement, while offering limited conceptual design services. During the second phase, or first five years, SCIDpda increased the range of available design services and began addressing marketing and local business needs. 5 For more on the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, see: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/codes/rentalregistration/. 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Community Development Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 22, 2017
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