The dominant element of the new Asian Plaza will be the sweeping retail corridor that will run from the Seattle Housing Authority Hillclimb on the west, through the new Asian Plaza all the way to Jackson Street on the southeast. The retail corridor will be sheltered by a glass paneled red structure that runs through whole project. That structure symbolizes the Chinese dragon, a symbol of power, strength and good luck. The red symbolizes wealth, prosperity and good luck. Together, the symbolism of the red dragon embodies our own cultural heritage and our desire that the project represent that heritage.
The original Asian Plaza was established in the 1980s and served as a destination retail center for the Vietnamese and Chinese community for many years. It was the original home of Viet Wah Supermarket, A Little Bit of Saigon, Saigon Bistro, New Saigon Deli, Thanh Vi, Sichuanese Cuisine, Lyn Hair Salon, Tamarind Tree restaurant, Pacific Travel, and many other well-known local Vietnamese and Chinese businesses, many of whom still remain. Over the years, much of the Vietnamese business community has moved east along Jackson Street and south down Rainier Avenue.
The redevelopment of the Plaza will bring the retail center into the 21st century, by creating a new and modern destination shopping center with a mix of small shops and restaurants, old and new, that reflects the flavor of the Chinatown-international District. The existing businesses will have the option of moving into the new retail plaza. A primary purpose of phasing the project is to allow the existing business on the phase 2 site to continue operating during construction in order to spare them the need to relocate during phase 1 construction.
At present in Asian Plaza there are 6 restaurants. In the newly redeveloped Asian Plaza there may be twice that number, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and others. With the right mix of restaurant offerings the Plaza will become an ethnic culinary mecca. A new Viet Wah Supermarket will anchor the retail center, which will also include service businesses, and retail outlets for all manner of things Asian. Our vision is that an Asian retail center with restaurants and shops will serve as an important amenity to hotel guests, condo owners, and our apartment tenants, as well as for the community at large.
At present there is no housing on the Asian Plaza property so no residents will be displaced by the redevelopment project. The project design includes approximately 60 condominium residences and 200 apartment units so we will add significantly to the small housing stock in the CID. We are looking at ways to address affordability concerns, including the mayor’s MFTE program that provides incentives for building affordable units, but simply adding to the housing stock will tend to reduce rental rates.
The project will include an Asian-themed boutique hotel that will serve to facilitate international business travel between Asia and the Seattle. By showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Chinatown-International District and placing a hotel in the center of a vibrant active retail center our goal is to facilitate investment in the CID from foreign investors. Because of its close proximity to the Mariners’ and Seahawks’ stadiums, and the downtown core, the hotel will also serve as a unique place for local fans to experience a “little bit of Asia” in their own back yard. The newly opened Seattle Streetcar passes in front on the hotel and will provide convenient public transportation for our hotel guests to the International District, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, the waterfront, and Downtown.
A hotel feasibility study that we commissioned by JLL Hotels & Hospitality recommended a 180-room upscale hotel for our location. The current design of the hotel provides 130 guest rooms including extended stay capability. The hotel is being designed as an integral part of the Asian Plaza redevelopment, as opposed to a stand-alone facility. The amenities available to hotel guests will include a spa/health club, banquet facilities, meeting rooms, a thriving retail center with shops and multiple restaurant offerings, a performance theater and entertainment venue, and close proximity to all that the CID has to offer.
The project will include a community theatre, possibly a hybrid of a live entertainment venue and a movie house. Our goal is to build a venue that is suitable for visiting theatre group performances, live music performances, showing films, hosting lectures, and anything else that would entertain, teach, or otherwise contribute to the quality of life in the International District.
As a live entertainment venue we hope to provide a venue for visiting theatre groups to present plays that are culturally relevant to the International district and the Asian-American experience. A prime example would be plays such as “Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi”, a play by Jean Sakata. Groups such as the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, whose mission is to connect people to Asian American cultures through theater, would be a valuable resource for developing this aspect of a community theater. But this would be only one possible kind of live performance. We envision being able to present anything from Taiko drumming to Chinese Opera, and everything in between. In addition, the International District has a deep Jazz tradition so it would seem natural to draw on that tradition and book jazz artists to perform.
On the film side, there are no currently operating movie houses in the International District. At various time they were four, but they have all closed. Our venue could fill that gap.
We have hired a consultant to help formulate a plan for establishing a community-based entity to handle programming the theater to help insure that the programming and events reflect that the CID community wants.
A multilevel parking garage underneath the project will provide parking for approximately 480 vehicles to serve apartment residents, hotel guests, theater patrons, and retail and restaurant patrons. In addition, the garage can serve as a daytime public garage for patrons who want to visit other parts of the CID, Pioneer Square and the sports stadiums, in order to help ease the current severe parking crunch in the area. We envision our project as becoming a regional center for things Asian and interested people from throughout the region, so adequate parking is a necessary and critical element for the success of the project.
The project includes a significant childcare center, both to provide for the needs of our own residents and retailers, and to serve the community at large. Quality, affordable childcare is integral to driving economic growth in communities but is also scarce in downtown Seattle. By establishing a childcare center for children from infants to kindergarten-ready, we hope to help address this issue in the CID. We are currently in discussions with established childcare operators.