By James Tabafunda
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Community leaders in Little Saigon and Jackson Place are glad their collective voices were heard and key issues have been worked out for the neighboring Dearborn Street Development Project. They have agreed not to oppose the construction of the $300 million multi-use commercial development before the Seattle City Council or in court.
After 30 meetings over the last three years, a group of community organizations — known as the Dearborn Street Coalition for Livable Neighborhoods (DSCLN) — and Ravenhurst Development signed a Community Benefits Agreement on Aug. 29 at Seattle City Hall.
Darrell Vange, president of Ravenhurst Development, said, “It was clear to us that the city wanted proof that we have listened to the community, worked closely with the community and come up with a project and project mitigations that address the community’s issues.”
With community support now in writing, Ravenhurst Development and partner TRF Pacific move forward in seeking building permits from the city’s Department of Planning and Development to create 45,000 square feet of office space and 600,000 square feet of retail.
The agreement for the commercial development — future home to 50 shops and a Target store — states the developers will provide the following:
– At least 200 units of affordable housing, including 120 units affordable at 50 percent of median income.
– At least 70 units of family housing, including 50 units of affordable family housing, including both 2- and 3-bedroom units.
– $2 million to support Little Saigon businesses, nonprofit organizations and neighborhood traffic improvements.
– Public use of plaza space for community events.
Quang Nguyen, executive director of coalition member the Washington Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce (WVACC), said, “When we went in and throughout the process, we wanted to get the best deal possible for the community, and I think that’s why it took so long.”
DSCLN members who joined WVACC in signing the 39-page agreement include Puget Sound Sage, Jackson Place Community Council, and Hod Carriers and General Laborers Union Local 242.
A few of DSCLN’s 42 member organizations oppose the agreement. David West, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, said, “It is a great achievement, but no agreement will make everyone completely happy.”
“We’re very pleased we finally reached agreement with them,” said Vange about negotiations with DSCLN. “It was a long, protracted, difficult process, but it was an agreement we both wanted to reach so, ultimately, after a lot of work, we got there.”
“Throughout this negotiation, we were looking for tools, for mechanisms that could help the commercial district in Little Saigon thrive beside us,” he added. “I think the process we went through and the education both for us and for community members is just as important as the agreement that we reached.”
Goodwill will remain in its present location, but will trade its land for a brand-new 120,000-square-foot facility and retail store.
“I was elated. I was thrilled that that happened because it was just really important to me that there be agreement,” said Ken Colling, Goodwill’s president and CEO. “I like to have people get along. This is a significant step.”
He added, “We will be able to get a new facility that will increase our capacity for serving the community through our job training and also a better environment for our customers. Target and our Goodwill services will wind up providing a lot more jobs right here for the local community.”
Nguyen acknowledges the contributions of one individual during the negotiations. He said, “Within the last couple of months, we got closer and closer to the common ground that we were seeking.”
Before the Seattle City Council conducts a final review of the Dearborn Street Development Project, public hearings on rezoning, an appeal and street vacation are scheduled.
Dearborn Street is expected to open in 2012.”
“I think that we have a fair deal,” said Nguyen. “No deal is perfect, but I think that we have an agreement that can be built on.”
To view the Community Benefits Agreement, go to www.jacksonplace.org. For more information about the Dearborn Street Coalition for Livable Neighborhoods, go to dearbornstreetcoalition.org. For more information about Dearborn Street Project, go to www.godearbornstreet.com.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.