Arisa Nakamura presents her masters thesis project on how people perceive community and belonging in the International District. Places marked with a red dot are seen as unsafe by community members, green dots represent important community spaces, and blue dots represent important community spaces that no longer exist. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson
Arisa Nakamura presents her masters thesis project on how people perceive community and belonging in the International District. Places marked with a red dot are seen as unsafe by community members, green dots represent important community spaces, and blue dots represent important community spaces that no longer exist. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson

The Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) hosted a second annual CID Kickoff on February 18 at Hing Hay Coworks. Representatives of several projects pertinent to the International District neighborhood presented displays to the public.

“We really just wanted an opportunity to get information out about the neighborhood that folks maybe didn’t know about,” said Jamie Lee, SCIDpda’s IDEA Space program manager.

“When I thought about what projects we wanted to showcase here, it was about the projects people ask us the most about with the exception of one maybe, which is under I-5,” she added. SCIDpda often receives questions about neighborhood projects such as the status of Hing Hay Park or construction happening in the neighborhood, Lee said, and the purpose of the kickoff was to let people in the neighborhood meet the people behind these projects and have their questions answered.

Matt Auflick from the Office of Emergency Management prepared a table with information about two projects. One was the city’s new notification system, ALERT Seattle, which is set to send emergency notifications directly to people’s phones. The other was unreinforced masonry buildings—brick buildings usually built before 1945.

“They just have a much greater risk of collapse or damage during an earthquake,” Auflick said. “So because of our earthquake risk here in Seattle, that’s a very important thing, and the International District is one of those neighborhoods with a higher concentration of older brick buildings, URMs, just because it’s one of the historic districts.” Building owners should retrofit their buildings to make them stronger, Auflick said, and building residents should be aware of the possible risks of living in such a building.

Ethan Malone from the Seattle Department of Transportation presents information about the Seattle streetcar, unveiled in January this year, which will connect the International District with Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson
Ethan Malone from the Seattle Department of Transportation presents information about the Seattle streetcar, unveiled in January this year, which will connect the International District with Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson

Ethan Malone with the Seattle Department of Transportation had a display about the new Seattle streetcar, which opened January 23. One of its routes connects Pioneer Square and the International District with Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s going to be really positive for the International District, because some people have a perception that the International District is hard to get to,” Malone said. “I don’t think that’s true, but each time we add something that makes it easier it makes this area feel connected to other neighborhoods.”

Malone speculated that putting the ID on the route might make more people explore it, and decide to move or start a business there.

Arisa Nakamura presents her masters thesis project on how people perceive community and belonging in the International District. Places marked with a red dot are seen as unsafe by community members, green dots represent important community spaces, and blue dots represent important community spaces that no longer exist. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson
Arisa Nakamura presents her masters thesis project on how people perceive community and belonging in the International District. Places marked with a red dot are seen as unsafe by community members, green dots represent important community spaces, and blue dots represent important community spaces that no longer exist. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson

Arisa Nakamura, who is studying landscape architecture at the University of Washington, had a display with information about her master’s thesis, which focuses on perceptions of community and safety in the ID.

“I chose this site because it has been receiving communities for more than 150 years and I was wondering what has fostered people’s sense of belonging in such a diverse cultural area,” Nakamura said. “I’m trying to know in terms of sense of belonging, where was an important place or what community and in terms of public safety where do people feel and why?”

Nakamura invited people to fill out surveys to help her map out how people feel about the different places in the neighborhood. Based on these surveys and previous interviews she’s done, Nakamura put dots on a map with red representing places perceived as unsafe, green for places of community, and blue representing community spaces that no longer exist.

The area underneath I-5 was often considered unsafe, and Uwajimaya was often cited as a place of community, Nakamura said. An example of a community place that no longer exists is the Nippon Kan Theater. Nakamura is hoping to conduct two interviews with each ethnic community in the neighborhood for her project.

Jessa Timmer, who recently became executive director of the CIDBIA the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), said it was important for the neighborhood “to get everyone in the same room under the same roof talking about the same things—economic development, projects happening in your community, how it’s going to affect the entire community.”

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