03:18′ 25/07/2006 (GMT+7)

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VietnamNet – The Ho Chi Minh City’s Committee for Overseas Vietnamese recently submitted to the city authority a proposal asking to offer overseas Vietnamese full ownership of land and house, Vice Chairman of the Committee Nguyen Viet Thuan announced on July 24.

The proposal said overseas Vietnamese who were allowed to purchase and possess houses must have full rights of ownership in accordance with the laws. Accordingly, they must be allowed to trade in real estates in their homeland, transfer land use rights, and sell or rent land or houses instead of being allowed to buy houses only for living as under the existing regulations.

Currently, there are four groups of overseas Vietnamese allowed under the Land Law to purchase properties, effective since 2003. They are investors, who must obtain an investment license, scientists and experts, who must have invitations from Governmental agencies, and people having contributed to the country’s development, who must show certificates of merits signed by the Vietnamese Prime Minister.

The law pointed out in item 1 of clause 121 that the Standing Committee of the National Assembly (NA) will release criteria under which other overseas Vietnamese would be allowed to buy housing. However, there has not been any directive from the NA regarding this matter yet.

Thus, Mr. Thuan said that the proposal also included his request for a regulation from the NA that would allow other overseas Vietnamese individuals not included in these groups to purchase housing.

July 24, 2006, 10:41PM

Area businesses, many immigrants differ on support for WTO status

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Exports of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, cattle and wine could soar if Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization, Karen Bhatia, the deputy U.S. trade representative, recently told the Senate Committee on Finance.

More than three decades after the U.S. withdrew from the bloody war in the communist-run Southeast Asian nation, Congress is considering granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations status — a move that will help clear the path for the country to join the World Trade Organization.

The effort pleases officials at several Houston-based businesses but disappoints some Vietnamese immigrants in the Bayou City, the home of the nation’s largest Vietnamese community outside of California.

Supporters of the nation’s bid to join the global group are predicting increased sales for large companies and farmers in both countries, from Houston to Ho Chi Minh City and Hartford, Conn., to Hanoi.

Nations want to join the World Trade Organization because membership confers a special status and lets other nations know that they adhere to certain standards and are less risky to trade with, said Sheng Zeng, who is in charge of business development for the Asia Pacific region for Shaw Stone & Webster, a Houston-based division of Baton Rouge’s Shaw Group.

“The Vietnamese market is a hot market right now — one of the best emerging markets in the world,” said Andrew Tran, president of Asia Link, which helps facilitate corporate investment in Asia. “Maybe with the entrance of the WTO and agreement with the U.S., in five more years it will be a much different Vietnam, a much better Vietnam.”

Corporate benefits

He may be right, if China’s experience is any indication.U.S. agricultural exports to China soared to $5.2 billion in 2005 from $1.9 billion in 2001, when the nation joined the World Trade Organization, according to the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-Vietnam Trade, and supporters expect similar increases if Vietnam joins the global trade organization.

“This legislation represents another milestone in a process that began over 15 years ago, when the United States restored diplomatic relations with Vietnam,” Bhatia told Senate members. “We believe that WTO accession for Vietnam will benefit the United States economically, will promote reform in Vietnam, and will support broader American interests in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia as a whole.”

Energy companies, retailers and technology firms were some of the 135 U.S. businesses, associations and farm groups that recently signed a letter urging Congress to grant the nation permanent normal trade relations, stating that the nation is “one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is the fastest growing market for U.S. products in Asia.”

ConocoPhillips, Chevron and BP America are some of the companies that support the move.

“We believe these actions will further strengthen the excellent relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam and will provide benefits for U.S. companies and workers,” said a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips, which has invested more than $1 billion in Vietnam in the past decade.

Immigrants’ hesitation

But textile groups such as the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, National Council of Textile Organizations and National Textile Association urge Congress to ensure there are textile safeguards before endorsing Vietnam’s bid to join the WTO. The textile industry faces competition from clothing made by low-paid Vietnamese workers if import quotas are dropped.In Houston’s new Chinatown district, some Vietnamese immigrants are quietly grumbling that their homeland should not be allowed to join the international organization until they stop committing what they view as human rights violations.

“There’s a group of us a while ago who lobbied against Vietnam joining the WTO unless they stop repression of religious freedom and freedom of speech,” said Binh Nguyen, a community activist and news producer for the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network in Houston.

More than 55,000 Vietnamese immigrants live in Houston, although leaders believe the figures are closer to 80,000. Vietnamese restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores line Bellaire Boulevard, catering to the burgeoning community.

Immigrants began to settle here because the hot weather was reminiscent of Vietnam’s climate, and because they could work as shrimpers, as many did in their native land, said Tran, who is also president of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.

“Because of the background they have, it’s very, very hard for them to accept anything that enhances the strength of the Vietnamese government,” said Tran Van Hien, director of Vietnam Programs at the University of Houston’s Clear Lake campus. “It makes it difficult for them to accept a new Vietnam.”

jenalia.moreno@chron.com

the film is Khoa Do's second feature.No dummy run: the film is Khoa Do’s second feature.
Photo: Bob Pearce

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Garry Maddox
July 26, 2006
THE list of Australian sports films is short. Fresh from winning Young Australian of the Year, director Khoa Do and his comedian brother Anh decided to add to it.

Not only did they want to tell a rugby league story, they wanted to set it where they came from, in the western suburbs of Sydney. And, unashamedly, they wanted to make it a positive film.

Footy Legends premiered last night, before its release next week. It’s a feelgood drama about six battling friends who enter a footie comp to get some respect in their lives.

Among them is Luc, a Vietnamese-Australian played by Anh Do, who is trying to find a job while bringing up his little sister alone.

The film also features Claudia Karvan playing a social worker and Peter Phelps as a coach, as well as cameos from such former rugby league stars as Brett Kenny, Brad Clyde, Cliff Lyons and Matthew Johns.

“It’s kind of an antidote to negative headlines about rugby league, about Sydney’s west, about people from different backgrounds,” said Khoa Do yesterday. “We live in a sports-mad country yet we don’t have many sports films.”

How the 27-year-old came to make Footy Legends is a feelgood story in itself.

Brought up in Yagoona by parents who fled to Australia from Vietnam, Do was an unknown actor and director whose life changed when he went to teach filmmaking to troubled youths in Cabramatta.

One was facing a jail sentence for armed robbery, another was on parole, a third was making daily visits to a methadone clinic. “I thought the best way for me to teach filmmaking was to go out and make a film together,” he said.

Without a script, crew or money at that stage, they collaborated to make The Finished People. It was such a raw account of life on the streets that it was released in cinemas and nominated for two Australian Film Institute awards.

“Guys who had not finished high school were now all AFI award nominees,” said Do. “I still remember walking the red carpet with these guys, next to people like Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett.”

The film’s success led to Do being named Young Australian of the Year last year.

“Lleyton Hewitt or Ian Thorpe – really well-known people – normally receive the award, so you’d never think someone like myself could receive it,” he said. “I spent the entire year travelling around the country and met a lot of young people – a lot of guys who’ve gone through tough times …

“That was one of the best things of the award – having the opportunity to travel round Australia and kind of inspire young kids.”

When it came time to make a film with a real budget – $2.9 million instead of $20,000 for The Finished People – the Do brothers drew on their experience playing junior rugby league for a perpetually hopeless team.

“I hope every kid from Yagoona to Penrith to Kalgoorlie will watch this film and think that all his hopes and his dreams are possible,” Do said.

 
08:06′ 15/07/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet – More and more overseas Vietnamese (viet kieu) are coming back to live in Vietnam. But settling down means adapting to life in a culture that they haven’t called home in a long time.

 

Soạn: AM 836113 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
Le Trinh (middle) and her friends

Moving to America with her family when she was just child, Jacqueline Trinh’s memories of Vietnam are vague. To her, it was so far away, although she was asked to speak only Vietnamese to her parents and siblings back in the US. Vietnam in her imagination was a poor country, but she finally made the decision, initially just an experiment, to come back. As soon as she arrived at the airport, she says, she felt something of the home she once knew.

 

During the first trip, Trinh spent a lot of time visiting museums and relatives, and sometimes just walking along the streets of Saigon. All these things have helped her to understand more about living in Vietnam and the lifestyle. She then decided to settle there, a big change that required revisiting memories of the city form her childhood.

 

“Growing up in America, I was accustomed to American lifestyle, speaking English all day, eating Western food. Coming back here I had to change a lot, such as ‘scanty’ or low-necked clothes are put in mothballs, trying to speak Vietnamese colloquially, learning how to drive a scooter and so on. All of these things have helped me to adapt myself better,” Trinh recalled.

 

She is now director of Babi Company Ltd, running advertising campaigns and organising performances. She has organized many free performances for charity.

 

Elvis Phuong is a famous singer among overseas Vietnamese. Phuong and his wife, Le Hoa, decided to move to Saigon in 2001. “Though having better living condition in other countries, I still prefer to live here. Even if it is not a rich country or not as developed as others, it is my country,” he said. Now the couple live in a small house and every night they are busy singing to audiences.

 

Life for Dr Nguyen Chanh Khe in Japan and America was not as hard as it was for other Vietnamese. Khe used to work in the most modern research centres where he was provided with good working conditions. But he all that behind to work in a ten-by-ten metre office at the HCM City Centre for Hi-Tech Research and Development. The space isn’t large enough for his research documents and bottles full of materials.

 

After a long time living and working in other countries Khe says it is interesting to live an everyday life in Vietnam, eating Vietnamese food and speaking Vietnamese. His daily routine includes getting up early and exercising or going out to buy some flowers for the house. He says he has adapted the habit of going to market everyday. Ben Thanh Market, Ba Chieu market and many others are places Khe usually stops by. “It is wonderful seeing all the fishes like Ca Loc, Ca Tre and many more wriggling. In the US I could only see these fishes frozen,” Khe said.

 

Like a person who has been away from home for a long time, Khe has tried to visit many places in the Southern countryside, taking photos of the landscape in places he used to visit before leaving Vietnam.

 

According to Mr Nguyen Chon Trung, Chairman of the HCM City Committee on overseas Vietnamese, the number of people ‘repatriating’ is increasing. Most of them accept the more difficult conditions. The daily life here may be familiar to older overseas Vietnamese but totally new for many second generation viet kieu. Re-adopting old habits for the older crowd, and picking up new habits for the younger, though, still seem to be very interesting for many.

 

(Source: NLD)

 
17:40′ 13/07/2006 (GMT+7)

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Fashion designer Minh Hanh (photo: Dan tri).

Returning from Rome’s Viet Nam Week with her celebrated Dragon and Butterfly fashion collection, Minh Hanh immediately became a media interest as she was granted the title Knight of Arts and Letters by the French government.

From a 12-year-old girl dreaming of owning a new ao dai to the unspoken “ao dai ambassador” of Vietnam, Minh Hanh finds time to sit with Culture Vulture and talk about her lifelong passion.

• At the age of 12, you were deeply impressed by the image of a Vietnamese girl in a remodelled ao dai, leisurely riding a bicycle with her hair falling lightly to her shoulder. From that moment on, when did you decide to dedicate your life to the dress?

My first 10 remodelled ao dai came 15 years later, under the order of the Youth Studio. The idea of re-making ao dai came when I attended wedding ceremonies and realised that many women wore traditional ao dai of all the same style, which looks boring.

• Your collections have gained a reputation abroad. Do you have any secrets to creating such unique collections?

To have all collections bear the stamp of the individual, a designer must have the ability to expose his or her origin through creativeness and belief.

Before every fashion show abroad, I spend time learning about the history and culture of the place I visit to discover similarities and differences, so that I can work better.

• In ao dai shows in Japan, some viewers burst into tears. “So gentle, so beautiful..,” they said. Recently, you introduced your new collection dubbed Dragon and Butterfly in Italy during Viet Nam Week in Rome. How was the reaction there?

Much of Japan’s youth has dedicated itself to the alternative movement, with wild hair and clothes. When a pure while ao dai – a contrary image – was put in front of their eyes, they suddenly felt moved.

In Rome, the audience also liked ao dai. They admired its gentle, light and flowing beauty; they saw it as a good combination of East and West.

Why do the foreigners like ao dai? Do you think it’s because Vietnamese ao dai helps accentuate female beauty?

Many women in other countries dare to show off their beauty in more obvious ways. They dress in mini-skirts because they like their legs or low-cut gowns to expose their chests. But they are still fond of ao dai, because it helps them to boast their beauty more discreetly, as if they did it unintentionally. In ao dai, they find themselves playing the part of the exotic Asian.

• There are many young designers following you, but sometimes their “enovated” ao dai is not very creative. ln your opinion, how do you remodel an ao dai to catch up to international fashion trends, but also keep its traditional charm?

A renovation always requires knowledge. To renovate the ao dai, one should thoroughly understand its sacred role in Vietnamese culture.

A designer should understand that he or she is going to preserve the values of the dress but also develop it into a more modern and beautiful one. If you renovate something, but it is not welcomed by the public, specifically the younger generation, then protecting the traditional values becomes a difficult work. It is also the matter of how to preserve cultural identity in the field of fashion.

• For long, you have been known as “ao dai ambassador”. You received one more title, Knight of Arts and Letters, last week. How did you feel when you were informed of the title?

At the time I was busy preparing for Hue Festival 2006. Truly speaking, I was very surprised at the news.

• What are your future plans? Anything in the works?

I will just continue with my usual work, waiting for Viet Nam Collection Grand Prix 2006, which will be held in Hanoi, and preparing for Viet Nam Fashion Week – Autumn-Winter 2006.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

 
15:52′ 21/04/2006 (GMT+7)

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Trung Dung.

VietNamNet – “This is a talented and very special man!” That’s the first thing I heard about Trung Dung, and it made me curious.

 

As a habit, the first address I search to satisfy my curiosity is Google. Surprisingly, the first search result I saw was the Wikipedia page, the most popular electronic encyclopedia in the world.

 

Apart from a photo of Trung Dung is brief information: born and grew up in south Vietnam and migrated to the US at the age of 17; the founder and managing director of two big software companies in the US, On Display Inc., and Fogbreak Software; earned the Gold Torch award for outstanding Vietnamese-American at the annual congress of the Vietnamese-American community held in Washington D.C in 2004.The story of Trung Dung’s life and career has been published in many famous newspapers: Forbes, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is also one of the 17 examples of success for immigrants in the US listed in Dan Rather’s book “The American Dream”.

 

I also found a series of results on Google about this young man: one of the most successful young Vietnamese-American businessmen in the US, the founder and member of the management board of the DICentral Software Company, the outstanding person of the legal organisation on immigration and an honourary member of many Vietnamese-American associations in the US.

 

“I have a dream…”

 

The road to success for Trung Dung was up and down. He came to the US with only $2 in his pocket and did not know any English. At that time he was only 17.

 

More than 20 years later, sitting in the living-room of VietNamNet, he is a ‘big boss’ in Silicon Valley. He owns two big software companies worth billions of US dollars. Before our eyes is a simple and calm man, who has a deep, warm voice and humble manner. These may be the characteristics that have not changed much since he came to the US.

 

“Luck is a very important factor. But the more important factor is one must have a real dream and know what he wants to do. Martin Lurther King had a famous statement – ‘I have a dream’. I think all of us should have a dream and try to pursue it, and hope that one day we can realize it.”

 

The greatest dream for Trung Dung, the 17-year-old student, at that time, might have been escaping from poverty by getting a university diploma.

 

Though Dung’s English was modest, his knowledge of mathematics and natural sciences helped him get into Massachusetts University. Not squandering the opportunity, he studied very well though he had to do many jobs – he was a waiter in restaurants, a cleaner at hospitals, etc. –  to have money to pay school fees, to maintain his life and send money to his family in Vietnam.

 

Graduating from Massachusetts University, Trung Dung continued his studies and obtained a Doctorate of Computer Sciences, and then found a stable job in a software firm in Massachusetts.

 

He could have been satisfied with what he had, but realizing that there was an opportunity to develop his idea on network business, Trung Dung gave up his job to follow his new dream – giving up an opportunity to have assets of shares worth US$1mil.

 

OnDisplay, Trung Dung’s first software company, was based on a very simple concept: producing a software product to process information from other websites, then re-clarifying the information to convenience users. As the first person to suggest the idea, and being inexperienced in the business world, Trung Dung was refused by many investors.

 

In its most difficult hour, OnDisplay caught the eye of an expert in e-commerce, Mark Pine, the managing director of an important division of Sybase, a big data management software company. “I see potential in Trung Dung and believe in him,” he said, after he met Trung Dung for the first time.

 

Mark Pine agreed to work as the managing director of OnDisplay. Two week later, the value of OnDisplay soared. This company quickly had over 80 clients, including the big e-commerce and e-portal service company, Travelocity. OnDisplay also cooperated with IBM and Microsoft and newly emerging firms like Ariba, BroadVision and CommerceOne.

 

In 2000, a group bought OnDisplay for $1.8bil.

 

However, Trung Dung’s dream wasn’t finished. Moving to California, the cradle of technology in the US, the young man invested in his second company, Fogbreak Solutions, which specialised in applications to optimise the production capacities of production lines. Fogbreak was invested in by big firms as Matrix Partners, Greylock and Sigma Partners.

 

Luck was an indispensable factor on the road to success for this overseas Vietnamese, but there is one thing that we can’t deny. This is the ‘luck’ of the ones who have broad vision, character, work hard, and know how to grasp opportunities.

 

This is the first time Trung Dung has returned to Vietnam since he left the country in 1984. “I’m very happy and really surprised. I’ve heard that Vietnam is developing very fast and has changed much but I couldn’t have imagined the extent of development and changes in the country”.

 

Seeing with his own eyes the changes in Vietnam, Trung Dung is not only proud but also has hopes and expectations. “This time I returned to Vietnam to determine the potential of the software industry, the Vietnamese market in general and investment opportunities. Though I am only staying here for a short period of time, I feel the energy of a busy and bustling life in Vietnam. Investment opportunities are not only in the hi-tech industry but in other fields,” he said.

 

“The issue that overseas Vietnamese businessmen like me attach importance to is the laws on investment and economics. The clearer they are, the easier it is for us. This is more important than preferential policies because preferential policies are temporary,” he added.

 

Trung Dung reads Vietnamese newspapers very often and pays special attention to economic issues, especially the equitisation of state-owned enterprises. “This is a very important move for our economy and it also creates opportunities for people like me”.

 

However, the road of return for this successful businessman is not limited to business. “There are many things I want to do to help Vietnam. In the future I will assist the education sector, especially primary and secondary education. This field of investment is not for profit. It is a serious task requiring serious thinking to change the social environment,” he said.

 

Trung Dung has begun investing in Vietnamese education by joining the management board of the Vietnam Education Fund (VEF).

 

When you left Vietnam in 1984, did you think that one day you would return like this? he was asked. Of course, he answered unhesitatingly. “I knew that I would return. I was just not sure when I would have an opportunity”.

 

Looking into his eyes, I understand his next dream is the dream of Vietnam, the dream of return.

 

Khanh Ngoc

 
21:29′ 02/05/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet – Two Vietnamese films, “Mua Len Trau” (Buffalo Boy) and “Nguoi dan ba mong du” (Sleep-walking Woman), were screened at  the opening day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) film festival in Mexico City on April 28.

Addressing the ceremony, Vietnamese Ambassador to Mexico Le Van Thinh expressed his belief that the festival will play a bridge role in deepening understanding of Mexican people about landscapes, people, culture and history of ASEAN countries in general and Vietnam in particular.

The week-long event, co-hosted by Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino and Thai embassies in Mexico, will air a number of motion pictures of Southeast Asian countries, which features their cultural diversity.

(Source: ND)



WEEKEND JOURNAL
Clip

By Ron Gluckman
555 words
Apr 28 2006
The Wall Street Journal Asia
W10
English
(c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. To see the edition
in which this article appeared, click here
http://awsj.com.hk/factiva-ns

HO CHI MINH CITY -- The world doesn't pay much
attention to Vietnamese cinema, and it's easy to see
why. The Communist government maintains strict control
over the movie industry, resulting in a flood of
state-funded films with nationalist themes. Finally, a
new law allowing for films made by private firms may
help put Vietnamese flicks on the map.

At least one promising director is seizing this
opportunity. Othello Khanh, the owner of a major
Vietnamese film-production company called CreaTV,
hopes to make homegrown cinema that will make a splash
overseas. Before recent changes in local law, this
wouldn't have been possible. Privately-made films were
only recently authorized, but a lack of investment and
scant possibility of profit in a country with few
cinemas has kept the industry grounded.

The real change came in November of last year, with
the announcement that local film companies could
partner with overseas entities to make films in
Vietnam, as long as the company making the movie was
majority-owned by Vietnamese or ethnic Vietnamese. The
Paris-born Mr. Khanh's Vietnamese background allowed
him to make the cut.

The curly-haired Mr. Khanh, seated atop a piano stool
in the swank new Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel, dreams of
using film to give the world a glimpse of contemporary
Vietnam. "We want to create a new Vietnam realism," he
tells me. "We want to show this country in the midst
of renewal, how it is now, how people live." His debut
feature, "Saigon Eclipse," will be mostly in English.
Shooting begins next week, and he plans for the film
to be in cinemas by Christmas.

A new "Vietnamese realism" is most sorely needed. At
the moment, the outside image of the country's cinema
is mainly limited to films produced by foreigners and
which focus on the Vietnam War. Films like "Platoon,"
and "Apocalypse Now," were all filmed outside of
Vietnam. "The Quiet American," was shot locally, but
is similarly mired in the country's past.

Saigon Moon focuses on problems facing contemporary
Vietnam, such as the movement to modernize the
country's film industry, and Mr. Khanh's personal role
in this endeavor. His script draws on personal diaries
dating back to 1995, when Mr. Khanh first arrived in
Vietnam. He was recruited by the Vietnamese government
to help modernize the local TV industry.

As part of his bid to make Saigon Eclipse appeal to
overseas audiences, Mr. Khanh assembled an all-star
cast of local and overseas Vietnamese actors. Brothers
Johnny and Dustin Nguyen hail from America, while the
hot young half-Vietnamese actress Marjolaine Bui comes
from France. Domestic stars include Nhu Quynh, whose
25-year career was launched by "Indochine."

The barely million-dollar budget for "Saigon Eclipse"
is all privately raised. While this may be pocket
change by Hollywood standards, it is still four times
what most local features cost, according to Cat Vu,
who writes for Lao Dong newspaper and has covered
Vietnam's film industry for 30 years.

For now, profits are not Mr. Khanh's main priority. He
says a deal is nearly complete for Saigon Eclipse's
international rights, which would make it the first
locally produced film to win wide release. "In
Vietnam, the only way for a film to be successful is
to export," he says. At the very least, such films
will better provide the world with a glimpse into
today's Vietnam.

--- Donny Tran <tran_donny@yahoo.com> w

 
   

Tourism officials from an Australian state visited Vietnam Wednesday hoping to sell their country as an attractive destination.

Lim Mui Khim, the Tourism Authority of Queensland director in charge of South East Asia, said the agency would soon collaborate with a number of airlines and tourism companies to offer reasonable prices for Vietnamese people traveling to Queensland.

Reported by Trung Binh – Translated by Thu Thuy

Seattle Weekly.com

July 12, 2006

News

Goodwill has reached agreement with a developer on a plan that could transform the neighborhood.

By Mike Seely

A mini-Northgate proposed for Little Saigon.

Ryan Frederiksen

Extra Info

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By Rick Anderson

Goodwill Industries’ local chapter has wrestled with how to pay for desired multimillion-dollar upgrades to an increasingly decrepit thrift store, warehouse, and job training facility on 8 acres along South Dearborn Street west of Rainier Avenue South. That land straddles the Little Saigon wing of the International District and the Rainier Avenue commercial corridor. In 2000, local developer Wright Runstad purchased $3.75 million in adjacent parcels and announced a partnership with the charity. Goodwill was to receive upgraded facilities in exchange for allowing Wright Runstad to develop office space. Post-dot-com crash, however, the project fizzled, with Wright Runstad flipping the $3.75 million parcel back to Goodwill in 2005, as per their agreement.

Enter Darrell Vange of Ravenhurst Development, a local partner of TRF Pacific, who has reached an agreement in principle to develop a six-story, 700,000-square-foot mixed-use retail development with some 500 mixed- income housing units and underground parking for 2,300 vehicles—subject to city approval and rezoning from industrial-commercial to neighborhood-commercial. (For comparison, Northgate Mall is about 1 million square feet and has some 6,000 parking spaces.)

The deal, which is in environmental review, provides Goodwill with condominiumlike stewardship of 120,000 square feet in new educational, retail, and warehouse facilities. In exchange, TRF will be given control of the property, valued conservatively at $20 million.

Sounds like a win-win, right? Not for everyone. Earlier this month, the Vietnamese-American Economic Development Association (VEADA) began a signature drive among Little Saigon merchants and residents in opposition to the Goodwill redevelopment, citing traffic and compatibility issues in an area that is quickly becoming one of the city’s most surprising, organically growing small-business districts. “Essentially, it’s a suburban mall dressed up in a spiffy urban outfit,” VEADA Executive Director Quang Nguyen says of the project.

VEADA has collected more than 600 signatures, with a goal of 2,000. “It’s not in sync with what the neighborhood has been planning for a long time,” says Nguyen. “With Chinatown, we’ve been working on a neighborhood plan that tries to encourage transit-oriented development, and this project is certainly not transit-oriented. It’s auto-oriented and big-box retail. The arterials are already pretty congested, and if you add this extra element, you’re just going to clog up the streets, and it’s going to make our customers less likely to go to our business district.”

Counters Vange: “The city is reviewing our traffic study right now, and I do not believe traffic will be a problem. Where we do affect the behavior of intersections, we’re required to mitigate it, which we will do by redesigning intersections, widening streets, adding turn lanes, etc.”

Vange adds that he has presented a plan to VEADA outlining the new development’s intent to promote and offer space to existing small businesses.

Meanwhile, Goodwill Seattle CFO Michael Jurich is confident that the process is still fluid enough for all sides to come away satisfied. “We’ve had a number of community meetings and feel we have a good relationship with VEADA,” says Jurich. “Their concerns are concerns which we’re hopeful the developer and they can work out so this project is good for all the community.

“As a nonprofit, we don’t have a lot of capacity to spend tens of millions of dollars on new facilities,” says Jurich. “We were in a fortunate position that our forefathers had bought this property, so for years we’ve been trying to address our long-term facility needs by leveraging the value of this property. It turned out to be a fabulous plan from our perspective. We’ll have about a 20 percent increase in job training capacity with the new facility.”

“Obviously, this is an opportunity for us; otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it,” acknowledges Vange. “But this is also a fabulous opportunity for Goodwill to get new facilities for the future so they can continue to expand their mission of job training and education.”

mseely@seattleweekly.com

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