As the International District begins to shoulder more of the burden involved in growing a city like Seattle, it’s important for those doing the building to remember the community that is giving up so much to make Seattle better.
The International District is a special place, and it’s imperative that the work that happens in it is approached with more understanding than what we’ve seen so far.
The ID is a neighborhood of small businesses operating on thin profit margins. Its permanent residents are older — most in their 50s — and mostly do not speak English. For many of them, this is the first time in their entire lives that they’ve seen this much construction, and they don’t necessarily know or understand what resources they have available to them. When large-scale development projects are planned, the special challenges involved with working with this community need to be focused on.
Many of the things that have become issues in the neighborhood lately could have been avoided with just a little more dialogue, more understanding, and more communication. As the International District begins to see more investment and growth, understanding and communication will only become more important to ensure that the least harm is done in the short term in the name of growth in the long term.
That’s not to say that the neighborhood hasn’t seen any benefits lately. Two of the vacant storefronts have been picked up by the McGinn and Steinbrueck campaigns, but that does little to stop the bleeding from the loss of business due to the construction that is currently ruining the ID’s image as an easy place to walk, an easy place to get dinner, and an easy place to visit.
People are learning. The Seattle Department of Transportation has committed to not doing work on the First Hill project during next year’s Lunar New Year, but developers — city, private, or otherwise — need to remember these lessons and to keep the community in mind before their projects start, not after. (end)