White Center history

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HISTORICAL PHOTOS

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White Center circa 1958 White Center circa 1969

 

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OUR RICH HISTORY

 

THE WHITE CENTER NEIGHBORHOOD

 

White Center is an extremely unique community of approximately 32,000 people located
now throughout 3 jurisdictions: unincorporated King County, City of Burien and the City of
Seattle. White Center has the distinct characteristics of an historic streetcar-era suburb, and
has retained most of the original buildings constructed during 1912-1933. (King County did
a Historic Survey of downtown White Center and is recommending that the CDA designate
47 buildings as local historic landmarks.) At the same time, due to a substantial amount of
inexpensive, small commercial spaces and the affordability of nearby housing, White Center has
become a welcoming gateway for immigrants and refugees who arrived, settled, raised families,
established businesses and grew social, cultural and religious institutions.

 

According to the 2010 Census, White Center is comprised of 60% communities of color, namely
Asian and Pacific Islander (24.4%), Latino (21.5%) and African American (8.6%). The top
languages spoken here include English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Khmer/Cambodian, Tigrinya,
Arabic, Somali and Amharic.

 

White Center’s commercial district is another example of diversity. White Center’s downtown
business district is comprised of approximately 137 businesses in a 9 block area. For instance,
businesses on the main street on 16th Avenue SW include a Mexican tortilla factory, the historic
SouthGate Roller Rink, several Vietnamese restaurants, the Salvadoran bakery, and Cambodian
fresh marketplaces.

 

In 2009, the City of Burien successfully pursued annexation of the southern portion of the area,
also known as North Highline. Residents approved the ballot measure with over 55% of the
vote favoring annexation. The remaining northern area remains unincorporated and represents
approximately 17,000 residents.

 

Today the White Center community is on the rise. A neighborhood renaissance has occurred,
engaging more residents, new businesses, and growing the capacity of local community based
organizations and civic groups to become active in the neighborhood. In recent years, White
Center has experienced significant attention and renewed investment from private and public
sectors: King County (White Center Enhancement Initiative), Annie E. Casey Foundation
(Making Connections Initiative), Gates Foundation/Thrive by Five (White Center Early Learning
Initiative) and King County Housing Authority (renovation of Greenbridge and Seola Gardens
HOPE VI housing complexes). These investments spurred residents’ engagement in their
community and core partners have harnessed residents’ renewed civic responsibility. Regularly
300-600 residents participate in the annual Spring Clean and Community Summit. Looking
ahead however, concerns about the continued disinvestment in our area infrastructure and
lack of economic opportunity, tied to the regional economy, will negatively affect this growth.

Challenges still remain. From various sources including Census 2010, the American Community
Survey 2005-2009, Making Connections/Public Health cross site data and others, we find that:

 

 

Indicator King County White Center CDP

High School Graduation

80%

73%

Unemployment
5.7%
10.2%
Children in Poverty
10%
31%
Inadequate social support
17%
25%
Median household income
$53,000
$40,000
Adolescent birth rate
11%
27%
Diabetes related mortality rate
63%
74%
Families living below 100% poverty level
9.7%
19.5%

Families spend more than 30% of their

household income on housing

48%
39%
Violent Crime per 100,000
338
440

 

Thus, the work of the White Center CDA and our partners and community members is still
incredibly important if our neighborhood is to achieve equitable economic opportunities
compared to nearby communities.

Link to History Link page

 

 

MORE HISTORICAL PHOTOS

 

THE WHITE CENTER NEIGHBORHOOD

 

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White Center circa 1937