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Image: Amber Fouts

It was 1985 when Maiko Winkler-Chin first visited Chinatown–International District with her University of Puget Sound roommate. They’d go out dancing to Prince and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam at the Nippon Kan Theatre or grab a Japanese meal. It’s no wonder this neighborhood is as much a second home for Winkler-Chin as it is a place of work—work that bridges its cultural history and continual growth.

She started volunteering for the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, a 43-year-old organization otherwise known as SCIDpda, in the ’90s. SCIDpda helps the area’s most vulnerable, with services and affordable housing for elderly first-generation immigrants, commercial property management, and economic development for businesses. In 2009, Winkler-Chin became the executive director. She’s led the org ever since. 

Winkler-Chin acknowledges SCIDpda’s seeming dichotomy of preservation versus development. “There’s always room for development, but how do we make sure that development benefits the community?” When there’s construction, she wants to make sure it’s not obstructing access to businesses or homes. If a hotel is going up, she wants to make sure it’s hiring locally. Looking ahead, there’s still much to do—new buildings befitting the cultural character, influencing projects that may otherwise displace residents or small shops—but every once in a while, she takes a moment amid the project juggling to pause. 

 “I love seeing the old ladies playing cards out in Hing Hay Park.” That, she affirms, should be preserved. 

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