By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Unexpected history was revealed July 30 at the groundbreaking ceremony for Aegis Gardens, which will be the first Chinese retirement home in Washington state.
Why was the city of Newcastle picked? Some factors might be that it is one of the highest-income areas in our state, ranked one of the best places to live in the U.S., and it is one of the fastest-growing cities on the Eastside.
The other obvious reasons are its pastoral environment next to Lake Boren, it is convenient for access to restaurants and shopping, and there is also China Creek in the area.
“China?” And what about Coal Creek Parkway outside Aegis?
Those factors are not coincidences. About 150 years ago, Newcastle had coalmines. There were Chinese labor camps established around coalmines and lumberyards.
Dwayne Clark, Aegis Living chairman, told the crowd of over 300 at the groundbreaking, that Aegis Gardens is in a rare, historical site. He was curious about “China” as in the creek’s name, so he asked his staff to do research.
“In the 1880s there was a movement against Chinese laborers (of mines and lumber) that culminated with the rock creek massacre,” he said.
“Following this tragedy a mob of people came and torched the barracks of 36 laborers in Newcastle. How ironic is it now we are claiming redemption for these that sacrificed so much.”
Aegis couldn’t have picked a better site to recognize Washington state’s Chinese pioneers. And the moment came in full circle when Aegis invited the first Chinese American governor and U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, to perform the groundbreaking ceremony.
Dream beats doubt
King County Executive Dow Constantine was one of the early doubters on the project years ago. He called the plan “audacious” and said of Aegis chairman, Dwayne Clark, who proposed the plan, “Oh my God, this man (Clark) is mad.”
Now Constantine said it’s wonderful as the King County baby-boomer population is aging, and the facility will provide “housing and community” for the aging sector, maintaining their dignity and health.
One-quarter of King County’s population (over 1.9 million) is over 65.
The Hon. Gary Locke praised Aegis Gardens as “super-high quality.” Locke noticed the explosion of the elderly population of Asian descent on the Eastside, and now feels they will have options with the addition of Aegis Gardens.
Clark said the project costs about $50 million, which is considered high for a retirement home. So far, all the capital has been raised.
When asked if there were any Chinese investors (as the Puget Sound area is popular for Chinese looking for opportunities to get their green card, permanent residency status through the EB-5 program), Clark said no. “All investors are US investors as far as we know. The overwhelming majority that invested in Newcastle have long-time Northwest roots and are friends of Aegis.”
Aegis Gardens will feature modern and Northwest-style architecture, including a Chinese cultural center and day care. The goal is to make elderly feel comfortable, not isolated. It will also serve Chinese and Asian food and will provide a Chinese-speaking staff. Aegis also welcomes non-Chinese who enjoy Asian culture as a way of life.
Already, 13 people have paid for their residency (of an estimated capacity of 100) in the new home. Clark said it is unusual in this business that people sign up even before they begin their marketing campaign.
Aegis Gardens will be open in the summer of 2017 Currently, Aegis owns 38 retirement homes.
Sometimes, audacious dreams yield bigger rewards. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.