The following is an announcement from Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda)
For over a decade, the area housing former Korean restaurant Han Il in the Bush Hotel sat abandoned as a vacant fixture in the CID, its large bay windows looking out onto Hing Hay Park and revealing nothing more than empty space inside.
Flash forward a little over ten years, and what was once a deserted restaurant is now a newly renovated coworking space ready to be inhabited and teeming with possibility. The space is intended to provide a collaborative and flexible workspace for local freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. According to Quang Nguyen, SCIDpda’s Senior Economic Development Specialist and Manager of Hing Hay Coworks, “Hing Hay Coworks is going to build a community of people who hopefully will be not only about creating new businesses, but also about caring for the neighborhood-people who could potentially give back in different ways to the community and who want to not only preserve the culture but also to reimagine it, to see it as an innovative place.” Hing Hay Coworks finished with construction at the beginning of 2015 and officially opens in May. Four different membership levels will be offered: seven days per month at $165 per month; three days per week at $255 per month; five days per week at $375 per month; and 365 days of access with fixed desks at $475 per month.
The journey of Hing Hay Coworks from a shut-down restaurant in the early 2000s to a budding coworking space today was an extensive one that spanned roughly fourteen years. “Around 2009, we had an initiative called the King Street Task Force, and [as a part of the task force] there was a subcommittee [that] I was facilitating. We were talking specifically about the space upstairs and looking at how to activate that space . . . and I realized that [coworking] really aligns with what we’re doing as a community development organization, promoting freelancers and entrepreneurs. The idea was basically a space where freelancers or small boutique agencies would come in and not only feel like they belong in a community, but could share resources and bounce ideas off one another,” Nguyen said. “Bringing in more office space into the neighborhood as a whole would be complementary to the businesses here. We saw it as a way to not only bring in more customers, but as a way to catalyze demand for that type of space in the future, therefore activating a lot of vacant upper stories [of buildings within the neighborhood].”
To analyze the potential of the coworking space, Nguyen, under the oversight of Executive Director Maiko Winkler-Chin, Director of Real Estate and Property Paul Mar, and Deputy Director Vern Wood, enlisted the assistance of Cara Bertron, SCIDpda’s Real Estate Lab Coordinator, to conduct a feasibility study. After seeing its possibility, Nguyen, with the help of Michael Yee, SCIDpda’s former Director of Development and Property, officially proposed the idea in 2012, pitching the idea through the state legislature and receiving funding support from the Washington State Department of Commerce. Ching Chan, SCIDpda’s Design Lab Coordinator, provided support during the construction phase of the space, and the architecture firm, Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young, planned the design.
For the logo and other design elements, SCIDpda enlisted the help of graphic designer Allison Iguchi, who formerly worked at SCIDpda and currently works for T.D. Wang at their Los Angeles office. Furniture, lighting, equipment, and signage were provided by Weld & Glue, Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young, MRJ Constructors, Pride Electric, Inc., I-Miun Liu, and Miller, Nash, Graham & Dunn LLC. Most recently, Comcast has granted SCIDpda sponsorship to provide $10,000 worth of furniture for the space. In addition to design and furniture support, Hing Hay Coworks also received legal support from the University of Washington. “We’ve been very fortunate to find a great partner and resource in the UW Entrepreneurial Law Clinic” said Nguyen about the pro bono legal consultation received from UW law school students and their supervising attorneys from Perkins Coie and Amazon.
Three years later, with the space completed, hopes are high for the future of Hing Hay Coworks. “One of the main things that I hope Hing Hay Coworks will become is another ladder of opportunity for the community,” said Nguyen. “Five years from now, I hope that it becomes a thriving entrepreneurial space that is attracting a lot of entrepreneurs from around this region as well as across the Asia/Pacific Rim region. I think we have an opportunity as a neighborhood-because we have the cultural assets and knowledge of how to interact and build relationships among communities from different countries of the Asia/Pacific Rim region-to exchange ideas and to make this region even more vibrant.”