People priced out of Seattle have long turned to South King County. But things are changing. Amid Tukwila’s dreams of transformation, penthouses at one new development go for $6,000 a month, while immigrants who invested in the city when few would may be pushed out.
Ten years ago, Abdi Mohamed Adan saw opportunity in a patch of vacant land just off Tukwila International Boulevard. It was not generally considered a nice area.
The boulevard was so plagued by drug-dealing and prostitution that hundreds of police and federal agents eventually raided and closed several motels there.
Yet it was also known for cheap rents, attracting wave after wave of immigrants and refugees — most recently, from Somalia, like Adan — who were reclaiming the area.
With loans and help from family members, the former Seattle Public Schools interpreter and airport parking valet settled into one of several clusters of immigrant-owned businesses, blocks from what is now the Tukwila International Boulevard light-rail station. He expanded a former bank building on the lot and put in shelves and refrigerators, filling them with Lebanese olive oil, Algerian dates, cardamom and halaal goat and lamb meat.
“We’re doing good,” said the 42-year-old proprietor of Fresh & Green Produce Market. Until recently, he hoped to buy the property he rents.
But now the city of Tukwila wants him and a number of other small-business owners to move so it can build a new justice center on the boulevard.
It’s part of a makeover the city envisions as it attempts to ride the region’s development wave, improve its infrastructure, and overcome negative impressions that sometimes make it the butt of jokes about sex and crime.
Many business owners facing displacement see themselves as collateral damage.
“A whole community will be crushed, ” said Mohamed Sharif, whose family owns the Tawakal Mini Mart, also on the site where the city plans a courthouse, police department and emergency-operations center.