A groundbreaking model for making developers accountable to community stakeholders.

In 2007, Dearborn Street Developers LLC proposed a $300 million regional shopping mall, with 565 units of housing on the corner of S. Dearborn and Rainier Ave on the Goodwill Industries property. The ten-acre site is at the crossroads of Seattle’s most economic and ethnically diverse communities – including Little Saigon, the Central District, the International District and North Rainier Valley.

The surrounding communities were concerned about likely impacts of the big-box development, including traffic, and negative effects on local Vietnamese small businesses. Sage joined neighborhood groups and Little Saigon small businesses in negotiating a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with the developer in order to mitigate the impacts. A CBA is a legal agreement between the developer and the community, ensuring that promises to the community are kept.

In 2008, after almost two years of negotiations, an agreement was struck between the Dearborn Street Coalition for Livable Neighborhoods (DSCLN) and Dearborn Street Developers LLC.

The unprecedented agreement included:

  • 200 units of low-income housing, including 50 family units
  • $1.8 million to support small businesses and non-profits in Little Saigon
  • Limitations on chain retail and business size 
  • $200,000 for traffic mitigations to be prioritized by local neighborhoods 
  • Family-wage jobs for construction, grocery/drug, janitorial and security workers 
  • A commitment to hiring low-income residents from local training agencies

The project was eventually canceled due to the economic downturn in 2009. While this meant that the CBA we won will not bear fruit, the CBA represents a groundbreaking model for making developers accountable to community stakeholders. For the first time in the Puget Sound region, community stakeholders, including neighborhood councils, Vietnamese small businesses, community organizations and labor unions negotiated and won a legally binding commitment from a developer to provide community benefits.

We believe that the community benefits model we've created together provides a template and a vision for what is possible in Washington.

The Dearborn Coalition

The Dearborn coalition was comprised of over 30 small businesses, labor, faith, and housing organizations.