by Will Sweger
The Filipino Community Center, almost demolished by the trail of the light rail tracks nearly two decades ago, is now hosting meetings about the future of the neighborhood as a new light rail station is planned to go in two blocks away.
Saturday afternoon, about 30 Rainier Valley neighbors met in the ballroom, a former bowling alley, as facilitators showed them pictures of a vehicle-based intersection framed by run-down businesses and a trendy urban sprawl of multi-story buildings complete with pedestrians and cyclists. The green-boxed caption on the slide read “What do you like here? What don’t you like?” The community center at one time led the resistance to the light rail’s surface route through Rainier Valley.
The meeting is part of a series aimed at bringing together residents to discuss what they would like to see happen in their community after the addition of a new light rail station at South Graham Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The meeting’s facilitator, Puget Sound Sage, is a Seattle-based, non-profit organization aiming to ensure all people have an affordable place to live, good jobs, a clean environment, and access to public transportation.
In an effort to get long-time residents used to the idea of change, facilitators from Puget Sound Sage invited participants to create collages of the things they would like to see in the neighborhood in the future, then allowed the attendees to take turns explaining their own creations. Translations of the proceedings played on headsets distributed at the event for people with different native languages.
The new stop would reside between the Othello and Columbia City light rail stations already in place. Former Mayor Ed Murray favored adding the facility previously. Sound Transit anticipates the project costing between $66 to $71 million with a projected completion date of 2031, though that date could move up with pressure from the Mayor’s office.
Giulia Pasciuto, a Lead Policy Analyst and Researcher with Puget Sound Sage, was present at the event and explained that ever since light rail came online in Seattle, the planning around its development hasn’t been “for the express benefit of communities of color and low-income communities.”
She said the effort is part of a coalition called SouthCORE, made up of more than 20 South End based organizations including Got Green, Homesight, the Tenants Union, and El Centro de la Raza among others. “We want to prevent the kind of gentrification and displacement that’s happened in the other parts of the Rainier Valley here at Graham Street,” she explained.
Billed as the Graham Street Community Visioning Workshop, the meeting Saturday is the first in a series of four public meetings. The next will take place from 12-4 PM Saturday, March 24th at the Filipino Community of Seattle located at 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
Will Sweger is a contributor at the South Seattle Emerald and a resident of Beacon Hill. His work has appeared in Seattle Weekly, Curbed Seattle, The Urbanist, and Borgen Magazine. Find him on Twitter @willsweger