Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

Demolition in Bremerton, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton is pursuing growth, and that means demolition. Developers have been  buying old buildings and replacing them with apartments and condos.  Carolyn Adolph of KUOW's Region of Boom team went to one demolition on the edge of the city’s downtown. She found several residents who were cheering the redevelopment, including Brian Kelley.

War boxes visible in a Bremerton alley.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Tiny, affordable houses line some of Bremerton’s alleys. They’re called “war boxes,” remnants of the massive building boom that transformed Bremerton during World War II.

Studying that boom and the housing it left behind offers clues on what it would take to truly meet our region's current housing needs.


Maggie Conyer of Strategy Real Estate shows what's for sale now. They're pretty good if you're from the Seattle side but getting up there if you're from Bremerton.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton is a place where people of many income levels live beside one another. It’s been that way for decades. People here were brought together by the military, and they could stay together because of low housing prices.

Kenny Wayne Gunner plays guitar in downtown Bremerton at lunch time
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Earlier this year, the Navy scraped the hull of the U.S.S. Independence to prepare it for dismantlement. That likely released heavy metals into the waters of Puget Sound, which is bad for salmon and orcas. The Navy didn’t get a permit for the work, so environmental groups sued this week.

But in Bremerton? It's going to take more than that to shake this town's love of the Navy.


Passengers on Kitsap Transit's Port Orchard -Bremerton ferry. Soon a modern vessel will take on a new route - Bremerton to Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton hopes to be the next bedroom community for Seattle. The mayor is promoting the city, and developers are building places for people to live.

The crew of an unidentified 'sturgeon class' submarine like the U.S.S. Parche, in 1980
PHC Robert K. Hemmerly/Dept of Defense Still Media Collection,

Bremerton, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, is a military town. On the ferry ride over, you can sometimes see aircraft carriers and submarines. But there’s another kind of defense industry set to grow in and around Bremerton, too. An industry that defends us against cyber warfare, and it benefits from the area’s military expertise.


Vietnam Vet Steve Gardener at the Drift Inn remembers Bremerton's rough and rowdy past
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bremerton's mayor wants people who've been priced out of Seattle to move there. But there's been something holding Bremerton back: the town's reputation. Bremerton used to be known less for its beautiful water views and more for its bar fights and prostitution.


Downtown Bremerton.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the country, which means bad traffic and increasingly unaffordable housing.  

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Auburn police officer Aaron Williams furrows his brow as he reroutes his patrol car to a 911 call.

“Yeah, you can send me,” Williams responds to the radio dispatch.


Photo courtesy of The Fung Bros

The Fung Bros, Andrew and David Fung, have more than a million followers on their YouTube channel. (And yes, they're real biological brothers.) 

Jeremy Chirinos of Renton was in middle school when Jimi Hendrix's house arrived. The failure of a museum project that would have surrounded the house meant he had an affordable place to grow up.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The body of musician Jimi Hendrix lies in a Renton cemetery. Across the street is the Hi-Land Mobile Manor Park, which looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was built in the 1950s.

A few years ago, a 900-square-foot house showed up to the mobile home park on a flatbed truck trailer. It was Hendrix’s childhood home. It rolled up to the mobile park because of a dream. A dream that would not come true.


The view from the back of an apartment complex in Skyway, in unincorporated King County
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Nathan Phillips is an executive of the YMCA in South King County. He says poverty looks different in the suburbs than it does in the city. He took Region of Boom reporter Carolyn Adolph on a tour of the Kent Valley and beyond. They stopped in Skyway, in unincorporated King County. It's home to many newly-arrived immigrants.  

Jockey Javier Matthias on McDove. McDove and Distinguishable are the Green Bay Packers of horses, being owned collectively by owners of the Emerald Racing Club.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Distinguishable, a 4-year-old fillie, sucked a carrot from Vince Bruun's hand. 

"I find she's got a bottomless pit of a stomach," Bruun said. Which brings us to the heart of the problem: Owning a racehorse is really expensive. And the people interested in spending a fortune on racehorses are disappearing. "We're losing the whales in our industry," Bruun told me. 

Emerald Downs has a plan to save the whales.


Gwen Allen Carston in her store, C & G Hair & Beauty Supply, which has become a center of black life in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Gwen Allen Carston is the owner of a beauty supply shop in Kent. She is also a founder of the Kent Black Action Commission. Region of Boom reporter Carolyn Adolph visited her to ask how life in Kent is evolving as people from so many backgrounds move in. 

Ronnie Schmidt once volunteered for Food Lifeline. Then he saw a posting for a job driving a truck for the organization. 'You see a lot of seniors that need this help. So it's nice doing it.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

Most of the poor people in our region live in the suburbs. That can create problems for organizations like Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food distribution center. One solution for getting perishable food to needy people spread over a large area? A truck.

The Birchcrest, a motel in South King County. The motel serves as a low-rent solution for people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Emily Fox speaks with Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, co-author with Alan Berube of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

Kneebone and Berube chose five locations to study for their book. South King County was one of them, Kneebone told Fox, because it demonstrates so many national trends. 

Cross this log bridge to reach an island in Auburn where some homeless people live.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

There's an island in the middle of the White River in Auburn.

To get there, you cross a log bridge and follow two separate trails. That’s when you see them: Semi-permanent shelters people have built. One looks like a big family tent but made of logs and sticks all woven together — whatever people could find.


Jeffrey Basket is fighting the foreclosure of his home in Auburn. He is among the people whose wages never fully recovered from the Great Recession.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

South King County has long been a destination for working people seeking home ownership.

But prices have been rising and not people's ability to pay.

Tim Thomas, University of Washington

South King County has long been a place where people with modest incomes could find a home.

Blue Origin employees Devin Vezetinski (C) and Dan Cody (R) chat up Edward Matyasi (L), who just interviewed with the company. Blue Origin likes this brewery & taproom so much, it sent a postcard from Airways Brewing Company up in one of its rockets.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Lots of industrial jobs are coming to the Kent Valley, south of Seattle, businesses that make everything from ice sculptures to airplane parts. But workers today don’t want to carry a metal lunch pail to work everyday. They want to go out.

Restaurants and pubs are trying to capitalize on those hungry workers with money in their pockets. But it’s tricky in Kent, because the modern city was laid out to keep industry and restaurants far away from each other.


Osman Mohamed, of Somalia, and his three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 5. Osmon hoped to find paradise in Seattle, but in his first year, his family witnessed a shooting and he was hit by a car.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

The Kent Valley — Renton, Kent and Auburn —  is best known as the biggest manufacturing center in the state. But it’s also a hub for the region’s immigrant community. 

Rockie Ward  may have a job for you to work at Omax. They make machines that cut metal using water.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

People call it the “silver tsunami,” for those currently in senior positions in Kent's industrial valley. A massive wave of older, experienced workers is considering retirement at around the same time.


Luke Muñoz overcame the obstacles keeping him from leveling up his skills thanks in part to the generosity of an uncle who gave him a quiet room to study away from his noisy siblings.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pat Pritchard stood before a group of students at Green River College in Kent. He told his students that he doesn’t train them to be grunts, because what we need from workers is changing. 


KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Kent Valley keeps its surprises hidden away and out of sight. Nothing is more well-hidden than the Federal Reserve Bank’s giant vault of money, set far off an isolated corner in an industrial park in Renton.

Joseph Roth in the Puget Sound region's new IKEA. The store now contains model homes to showcase compact living. The smallest is 860 square feet.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

IKEA has been in the Seattle area since the 1990s, but until recently its store here has been an anomaly.

Justin Cox and Matt Andersen work at Creative Ice in Kent, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

When you think about the Puget Sound Region’s boom, where do you think it’s coming from? Many people would answer Amazon, in South Lake Union. Or the Eastside, with its band of glittering tech companies. 

Few people would think of the Kent Valley, but there too a boom is underway.

A worker at the Washington Shoe Company in Kent, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

There are a lot of names for the the communities south of Seattle including Renton, Kent and Auburn. What name you use really depends on how you see this area - which happens to be the second-largest distribution zone on the West Coast, a place where recently-arrived immigrants get their start in Seattle, and where the Green River twists and turns. 

Hops pickers at Titus Farm, on the site of modern-day Kent (formerly known as Titusville). Titus farm and Titusville were named after the same prominent family of settlers. Everett E. Titus in white shirt.
White River Valley Museum Collection, Gift of Erle Titus.

When Kent, Washington, was first settled by Europeans, it was called Titusville. So why the name change? Because of beer.

Or, to be more precise, because of hops.

Or, to be even more precise, because of western Washington's great 19th-century hops craze.


The spillway doors at the Howard Hanson Dam. A red mark on the left door indicates the highest water the dam ever saw, in 2009. This revealed weaknesses in the dam that have since been fixed, but storms could bring higher water someday.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The Green River hasn’t flooded in more than half a century.

It used to all the time. Every other year or so, the valley filled with water and turned into one long lake, from Auburn, Kent, and Renton up to Seattle.

Now the area holds the largest collection of warehouse and manufacturing jobs in the state, worth billions of dollars. Someday, it will probably be under water again.


A couple Kent farmers known as the Johnson brothers and an unidentified hired man stare down the photographer from a raft during a 1910 flood in what we today call The Green River Valley.
White River Valley Museum, Clark Collection

This is a story of a war between farmers. Farmers in Kent and Auburn were frustrated because their valley was constantly flooding. And that made it difficult to farm in their beautiful, very fertile valley.

That led those farmers to do some naughty things.


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