Goodwill unveils new ID facility 6 years after protest, building finally opens

By Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Designed by Seattle- and San Francisco-based Mithun, the new building replaces a nearly 90-year-old facility. (Photo by Charles Lam/NWAW)

Goodwill Seattle now has a new building to match its sophisticated clientele, which includes the mayor and many successful professionals.

The organization debuted their new job training, education center, and administrative support building June 1 at the site of an earlier planned commercial development that saw community protest and resistance.

The new building, which replaces a nearly 90-year-old facility that had no natural lighting or air conditioning, will help Goodwill nearly double the size of their local job training program, budget willing.

“This is the largest of 10 job training centers in the area and now it can support twice as much staff. By the end of this fiscal year, we’ll have helped 8,000 people. Next year, we’re aiming for 9,000,” Goodwill Seattle President and CEO Ken Colling said in a phone interview. “We’re very excited about the future.”

“Our old buildings date back many years,” Colling continued. “There was no air conditioning and no windows. They didn’t provide a good learning environment. Now, our students are very happily shocked.”

The 49,600-square-foot facility is located at the intersection of Dearborn and Rainier and began construction in spring of 2012. Plans to develop the area and construct a new job training and education center have existed since 2006 but saw major pushback from the community, delaying any construction.

Originally, Goodwill planned to give some of the 10-acre property to a developer to build a commercial complex featuring 550 apartments and 600,000 square feet of commercial space anchored by a Target as well as other smaller retailers. In return, the developer would build Goodwill a completely new facility. Fearing higher rents and gentrification, the surrounding community organized a coalition committee made up of over 30 organizations.

The coalition wanted to see development happen, but wanted to make sure that it was responsible to the neighborhood around it according to Quang Nguyen, former executive director of the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, in a 2007 interview with the Asian Weekly.

Following three years of negotiations and a protest, the community coalition and the developer reached an agreement that would provide $200,000 for a Vietnamese community center, $600,000 to train Little Saigon entrepreneurs, subsidized rent to existing businesses, union-wage jobs, and 200 units of housing for below-median income families.

But, despite the agreement, fissures developed in the community coalition, and some members of the coalition lodged complaints with the city council. After nearly three and a half years of negotiation, the developer decided not to go ahead with the project due, in part, to the declining economy.

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Goodwill Seattle Board of Directors Past President Wayne Lau (rear center) and President and CEO Ken Holling (front right) during the ribbon cutting. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Goodwill then decided to fund the complex themselves through a low-interest loan with help from a capital campaign.

The building finished on schedule and under budget, costing approximately $14 million from design to construction.

The three-story building includes classrooms and computer labs, a Worksource drop-in center, and a student lounge on the first floor with two levels of instructor and administrative offices above. It is expected to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designation through energy efficiency, use of daylight, water conservation, and storm water retention and treatment.

The Goodwill property at Dearborn and Rainier still features the original job training and education center as well as a retail thrift store and warehouse. There are currently no concrete plans to redevelop any of the other buildings in the area.

In the meantime, Goodwill will use space freed up by the move to augment their online business. In order to maximize the value of their donations, Goodwill Seattle lists some items for auction on the Internet.

“We’ve always been interested in replacing our buildings,” said Colling.

“We have no plans at this time,” he added. “But we’re always looking for opportunities, and we’ll see.” (end)

Northwest Asian Weekly Staff can be reached at

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