April 9, 2010
The economic fortunes of White Center, WA, an unincorporated community of 32,000 adjacent to Seattle, will be receiving a much-needed boost with the recently begun development of White Center Square. A project of local businessman, Con Vong and his family, White Center Square will be a commercial retail center on an infill site in the community’s commercial business hub, now home to nearly 140 businesses whose ownership reflects the great ethnic diversity of White Center itself.
Although the community suffers from both unemployment and poverty rates exceeding national averages and median household income significantly below that of its neighbors, it is a busy urban area whose strength lies in that ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. The economic downturn stalled White Center’s development and made business financing more difficult even for established companies. Con Vong and his family searched for a year without success for conventional financing to relocate and expand their grocery business, a neighborhood institution for more than ten years,
Vong reached out to the White Center Community Development Association, who in turn sought assistance from long-time NDC client community King County. Because economic development of White Center was a high priority for the County, they turned to NDC and Field Directors John Finke and Michelle Morlan to identify, secure and structure a unique financing package including New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) and a HUD Section 108 loan from King County. Using NDC’s leveraged NMTC financing model, the $6.25 million Section 108 loan is being used as leverage for a NMTC investment of $11 million.
The new development will provide much-needed shopping and basic services to the White Center community, including the expanded 10,000 square foot Vong’s Market. Other tenants will include a restaurant, jewelry store, mortgage broker and salon. With the promise of 60 new permanent jobs in the local businesses signed on to occupy the new space, and the project’s 50 construction jobs the residents and business owners of White Center have many reasons to welcome this investment in their community at a time when they need it most.