Derek Chinn and Asian Resource Center manager Mark Nakagawa. • Courtesy Photo
Derek Chinn and Asian Resource Center manager Mark Nakagawa. • Courtesy Photo

The Asian Resource Center (ARC), the multi-purpose gymnasium at 1025 South King Street, last week closed its doors after two decades of operation, making way for development of a new public charter school at that site, supported by a $4 million grant from the Gates Foundation.

Derek Chinn—whose sister Karen Wong originally spearheaded the fundraising efforts to build the ARC in the late 1980s, said last week, “It was time to give it up. For the last three years, we had been looking seriously at selling the building. It’s just falling apart, and we didn’t want to put the energy or resources into something that has never made money.”

According to Mark Nakagawa, ARC manager, the facility needs a new roof, gym floor, heating and cooling system, and repairs to the parking lot surface. “Everything just wears out after 20 years,” he said. Nakagawa had served as manager for the past three years.

The 13,700 sq. ft. ARC facility first opened in September 1994 on the site of the old Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. Chinn, who attended the school as a child, said the site was once the school’s playground. He recalled that his sister Karen spent six years earnestly raising money for development of the ARC under the aegis of the Robert Chinn Foundation, named in honor of their father, who founded the United Savings and Loan Bank as the first Asian American-owned savings and loan in the United States in 1960.

Over the years, the Asian Resource Center has served as a low-cost rental hall for many community events—including baseball games, pickleball matches, weddings, auctions, and receptions. Chinn said the ARC was designed by a local firm, Arai-Jackson Architects and Planners. Approximately $1 million went into purchase of the property and construction.

In 2004, after the opening of the City-operated International District-Chinatown Community Center, the Asian Resource Center lost much of its earlier allure. The Community Center, with its brand-new basketball court and ample space for other recreational activities, supplanted the ARC as the go-to facility for many neighborhood events. The opening of the new Wing Luke Museum in 2008—with its new community hall and story theater—further diluted the market for ARC.

Earlier this year, the ARC and the adjoining property were sold to Summit Public Schools for $4 million. Summit was founded as a free public charter school in 2000 by a group of families in the Bay Area. “We are a completely free, public charter school without entrance requirements or exams,” said Malia Burns, principal of the new school.

According to Burns, Summit’s initial charter school, Summit Prep, was highlighted in the acclaimed documentary, Waiting for Superman. Newsweek also named Summit Prep one of the best high schools in the country. “Since then, we’ve created four other high schools and two middle schools which have had similar success thanks to our collaborative school model,” Burns said.

The Summit Sierra high school—the organization’s first foray into Seattle—will be an attempt to close the demographic achievement gap for students in South Seattle.

After renovation and expansion of the ARC facility, Summit Sierra will open in Fall of 2015 for an initial class of 120 ninth graders.

Chinn said the Robert Chinn Foundation will use some of the proceeds from the sale of the building to award grants to non-profit Asian Pacific Islander organizations.

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