On September 19, 2009, the Inter*im Community Development Association (Inter*im CDA) will celebrate its 40th Anniversary at the Waterfront Marriot. Formally incorporated in 1969 as the International District Improvement Association, Inter*im is the oldest neighborhood organization in Seattle’s International District (ID).
Forty years ago, the International District had deteriorated into an area of urban blight, abandoned buildings, and a decaying infrastructure. In the 1960s, what had once been a thriving neighborhood for Asian immigrants had been physically torn apart by the construction of the freeway. Because of increasingly stringent fire and housing codes, many hotels were closed and abandoned.
In the late 1960s, a group of International District civic-minded business people, including Don Chin, Ben Woo, Tomio Moriguchi, and Shigeko Uno, decided to form an organization to improve the economic conditions of the area. Funded and staffed under the City’s Model Cities Program, the International District Improvement Association or Inter*im opened an office in a storefront in the NP Hotel. In its first two years, Inter*im lobbied successfully for better lighting and increased police patrols to help minimize crime. Staffing for the agency was sporadic; Inter*im went through two executive directors and two coordinators in three years.
In November of 1971, King County officials decided to build a multi-purpose domed stadium at King Street. At about the same time, Bob Santos was recruited by Shigeko Uno and Tomio Moriguchi to become Inter*im’s Executive Director. Santos accepted the job. Almost immediately, Santos took on the impacts of the proposed Kingdome on the very existence of the International District. Bolstered by an influx of young Asian American activists, Santos took Inter*im in a new direction. Inter*im sponsored a series of public meetings to identify problems which the stadium would bring to our community. Santos testified frequently at city and county council hearings about the need for decent housing and social services in the International District.
Consequently, in the 1970s, Inter*im sponsored, developed, and provided seed money for needed social services programs such as mental health counseling (the Asian Counseling and Referral Service); child day care (the Denise Louie Education Center), community health services (the International Community Health Services), and tenant advocacy services (the International District Housing Alliance). Inter*im also offered a meal voucher program, a legal referral service/clinic, a nutrition program, and affordable parking under the freeway. Thanks to the generosity of Danny Woo, Inter*im built a community garden on Woo’s property so that elderly could grow their own vegetables. Inter*im staff also played a major role in the creation of the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority.
In the last twenty years, Inter*im assumed the role of housing developer which led to the creation of a new entity, the Inter*im Community Development Association (Inter*im CDA). Inter*im CDA provided technical assistance in developing low-income housing projects including Gee How Oak Tin Apartments and Rex Hotel. ICDA also served as its own developer in such projects as the Eastern Hotel, NP Hotel, Highland Gardens in Issaquah (co-ownership), Nihonmachi Terrace, and its latest project, Samaki Commons.
Under Executive Director Hyeok Kim, Inter*im CDA continues to represent the community when addressing potential impacts from government action and private development and has been a leader in advocating for and allocation of green space within the International District.