Rendering of Hirabayashi Place. Designed by Mithun, to be built at 424 South Main Street (corner at 4th Avenue South).
Rendering of Hirabayashi Place. Designed by Mithun, to be built at 424 South Main Street (corner at 4th Avenue South).

Located in the Seattle International District, Hirabayashi Place is a public and private investment in affordable housing for working families and individuals. Non-profit developers InterIm CDA said the affordable housing will revitalize the historic Japantown.

InterIm CDA will break ground on Hirabayashi Place on Saturday, January 25. When it’s completed, 96 apartments, affordable for moderate income workers, and a childcare center, will transform a currently vacant building and parking lot into an active, vital space, according to planners.

“This housing project fills in an important gap for low/moderate wage individuals and families who want to live and work downtown,” said InterIm CDA Acting Executive Director Andrea Akita in a statement. “It will create housing with long-term affordability in a key location—within walking distance to transit centers, the vibrant and culturally rich International District, and other downtown neighborhoods.”

The $30 million project will transform a block in Seattle’s historic Japantown (Nihonmachi) and bring much needed affordable housing to this important transit oriented location adjacent to the downtown core.

To honor the history of the neighborhood, and its revitalization and re-emerging cultural identity, InterIm CDA named the project after the late, Gordon Hirabayashi, who was a student at the University of Washington when he defied the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Hirabayashi was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in May of 2013. This is the highest civilian award presented in the United States.

This site and name for the project has additional significance for the local community. When the U.S. Government required incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the west coast during WWII, Nihonmachi was all but emptied. It has never recovered its pre-WWII vigor.

“Naming the project after Gordon Hirabayashi brings us full circle. It’s a meaningful statement for the community and we are very excited,” Akita said.

Financing for the project is made possible through the Seattle Housing Levy—City of Seattle Office of Housing, the Seattle Human Services Department, Washington State Housing Trust Fund, King County Housing and Community Development Program, Impact Capital Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., Washington State Housing Finance Commission, North Lot Development, LLC, and Chase-Community Development Banking.

InterIm CDA has been planning Hirabayashi Place for over 5 years, bringing public and private partners together, and engaging community members to make the project a reality:

• Public art in, on, and around Hirabayashi Place is planned, that will educate the public about and celebrate Gordon Hirabayashi’s story and legacy.

• InterIm CDA has established the Gordon Hirabayashi Legacy of Justice Committee, which brings together interested community members, to steward activities and public art at Hirabayashi Place. Represented in the committee are the Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Nisei Veterans Committee, University of Washington American Ethnic Studies, and Gordon Hirabayashi family members, among others. The American Civil Liberties Union, who supported Mr. Hirabayashi’s Supreme Court case, is interested in supporting the project as well.

• Over 100 volunteers folded the 3,000 origami cranes that now adorn the decrepit vacant building on the project site. They spell out, “STAND UP FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE,” in the spirit of Gordon Hirabayashi’s courageous stance for justice during WWII.

• High school students participating in InterIm CDA’s youth program, Wilderness Inner City Leadership Development (WILD), painted murals inspired by Gordon Hirabayashi’s story.

Hirabayashi Place is designed by Mithun and will be built by Marpac Construction. The childcare center on the ground floor will be operated by El Centro de la Raza.

InterIm Community Development Association (InterIm CDA) celebrates the groundbreaking of Hirabayashi Place on Saturday, January 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the project site at the northeast corner of South Main Street and 4th Avenue South.

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