Standing on the corner of 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street, Tam Nguyen can picture the changes that he fears may be coming to Seattle’s Little Saigon, whether the City Council approves a proposed upzone of the neighborhood or not.
Nguyen sees shiny high-rise buildings, chain restaurants and cookie-cutter cafes — a neighborhood missing the Vietnamese-American businesses and people that have made it unique, and he wants to know if the council sees the same thing.
Northwest of the intersection — where utilitarian, low-slung buildings house Nguyen’s popular Tamarind Tree restaurant— an eight-story complex with 200-plus apartments, hotel rooms, child-care center and theater is planned.
To the southwest, a poultry warehouse may be bulldozed and replaced with more than 300 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.
Down South Jackson in each direction, developers are bidding on properties and preparing to break ground.
And just up the hill, Paul Allen’s Vulcan is transforming the Yesler Terrace public-housing complex into a mixed-income community.
“The developers are coming in and whatever they want to do with Little Saigon, they’re going to do it,” said Nguyen. “They’re buying the land. They’re making plans.”
Though such projects are allowed under existing zoning, Mayor Ed Murray’s upzone would permit even taller buildings in most of the Chinatown International District, including Little Saigon, and would trigger a new program requiring developers to help create affordable housing.
Nguyen isn’t set against the upzone. He says more affordable housing would be welcome. Indeed, some neighborhood advocates are asking the council to boost the requirements, which the city says would generate about 150 income- and rent-restricted units over 10 years.
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Originally written by Daniel Beekman