May 10, 2023 - News

Seattle's Chinatown among most endangered historic places

An image of the Historic Chinatown Gate in the Chinatown International District.

Businesses and light traffic seen here in Seattle's Chinatown-International District. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Seattle's Chinatown-International District one of the 11 most endangered historic places for 2023.

Why it matters: This is the first site in Washington state included on the list since its inception in 1988.

Context: Established in the late 19th century, the CID is the only area in the continental United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, African American, and Vietnamese people settled together and built one neighborhood, according to the Wing Luke Museum.

Driving the news: In its explanation for the CID's inclusion on the list of threatened locales, the National Trust said cultural preservation could be affected by where and how Sound Transit, the area's regional transit agency, chooses to build an expanded transit station.

  • The neighborhood was designated a City of Seattle special review district in 1973 and placed on the Washington Heritage Register and National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The Grand Pavilion with its red columns and pointed roofs is shown in Hing Hay Park, along with trees and an open plaza.
Hing Hay Park in Seattle's Chinatown International District. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Details: As part of the third expansion phase of the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project, Sound Transit is proposing options for train line alignments and new stations within the CID.

  • Originally, Sound Transit posited two possible locations, one on 4th Avenue and one on 5th Avenue, but recently added the possibility of stations north and south of the CID.
  • There is no current consensus among residents about which option is preferable, Pham said, but the community is pushing back against a sense that they are being told what will happen rather than being asked.
  • Among groups pushing for a more transparent and responsive selection process are Transit Equity for All, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wing Luke Museum.

What they're saying: "Chinatowns and other communities of color across the country have been heavily impacted by transit infrastructure, and now is the time to shape a new path forward," Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a written statement.

What's next: At its March 23 meeting, the Sound Transit board identified the option to have stations north and south of the CID as the preferred alternative project, said Sound Transit spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham, but also voted to continue studying various station options.

  • The agency's Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which informs final construction plans, is slated for release in early 2024.

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