By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
May Xie was working in her herbal store on Jackson Street, Yuan Sheng Heng, when she was stunned by an immensely loud boom. She wondered if a woman cooking on the top floors of Jackson Apartments had accidentally set off some kind of gas explosion.
What actually happened was “the masonry on the facade failed on the Jackson Street side” at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, stated Paul Mar, acting executive director of Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), the organization that owns/manages the Jackson Apartments.
On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of red bricks lined the sidewalk below the building in a dusty heap at the corner of South Jackson Street and Seventh Avenue South. The area below the collapse was taped off by the Seattle Police Department. The area of South Jackson Street in between Maynard Avenue and Sixth Avenue South was quarantined off from incoming traffic. Fire engines and aid vehicles lay askew on the city block. After evacuating the Jackson Apartments tenants, Seattle fire fighters lingered in the streets, examining the face of the building.
At 91 years old, the three-story building was a mix of commercial and residential with businesses on the first floor and apartments on the top two floors. The store underneath the falling bricks was thankfully vacant.
A crowd and several news cameras gathered quickly. The murmurings along Jackson Street revealed people’s confusion over what exactly happened.
“No one was injured,” Mar said, focusing on what is most important about the accident. “We evacuated all commercial and residential residences.”
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the extent of the damage of the building was still unknown, something that Mar said they wouldn’t be able to fully ascertain for a few more days.
“We’re currently assessing the damage,” Mar said. “Right now the building is declared uninhabitable. We’re working with the fire department right now.”
“We’re probably not going inside until we have stabilized the outside,” he added.
The damage to this building will undoubtedly raise concerns for many other buildings in the International District. The ID contains other older brick buildings dating back to the early 20th century.
Founded in 1975, SCIDpda has played an important role in revitalizing the ID. The organization fosters renewed growth by bringing new projects to the neighborhood that fit the existing historical and cultural characteristics as well as increasing the economic viability of the neighborhood.
As the cost of living in Seattle continues to rise, SCIDpda provides opportunities for low- to moderate-income individuals, families and seniors to afford a safe and decent place to live in the heart of the Chinatown/International District. The organization takes advantage of low interest loans and federal grants and tax incentives, as well as package partnership agreements that serve to revitalize flagging neighborhoods.
Mar’s first priority, however, is not the building itself, but the residents of it. “Right now we’re focusing on placing residents into other buildings – some of them we own – temporarily.” ♦
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.