Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

Region of Boom is a new series on KUOW.

Each of the stories below will begin with a place on a map, a place being reshaped by the booming forces affecting our region.

By examining those places and talking to the people we meet there, we’ll discover together what we’re giving up for growth – and what we’re getting in return.

Take a look at where development is happening now and make sure to tell us what is going on in your own neighborhood.

Follow the ongoing discussion at #regionofboom

This project is edited by Carol Smith. 

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.


Reporter Carolyn Adolph stands on a development site near Black Diamond, WA. Her fellow reporter Joshua McNichols is behind the camera.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW reporters Joshua McNichols and Carolyn Adolph about what they learned from their time reporting in Black Diamond for KUOW's Region of Boom team.

KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

If this ghost town had a mayor, it would be Don Mason.

Back in the 1970s, Mason was hiking when he stumbled on evidence of a town called Franklin. He’d never heard of it. Since then, Mason has been collecting proof that a town once sat on this hillside, high above the Green River Gorge. 

KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Kristen Bryant, Dennis Box and Johna Thomson about the controversy surrounding a planned development in Black Diamond.

Bryant is a member of Save Black Diamond, an organization that opposes the development. Thomson is a community volunteer who thinks the town would be better off if citizens worked with developers to make the best of inevitable change. Reporter Dennis Box has been following the development fight.

The Puget Sound region is growing fast, and King County is its engine. For now, the sun shines on us.
Flickr Photo/Tom Davidson (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dQVW4x

New Census Bureau data shows our metropolitan region is one of the fastest-growing in the US.

Seattle-Tacoma gained 88,000 people from July 2015 to July 2016, according to the Bureau’s estimates. That’s like gaining a whole new Bellingham or Federal Way.

Commander Brian Martinez of the Black Diamond Police Department.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Black Diamond is a small city on the verge of big growth.

It recently came through a budget crisis that threatened to shut down the city – including its police department.

Kara McDermott of KUOW's Region of Boom talked with Commander Brian Martinez about how the city is now moving forward.

Photo/Washington State Patrol

The Washington State Department of Transportation has confirmed what drivers have been suspecting: Crashes are causing more traffic delays.

State crews cleared more than 15,000 traffic incidents in the final quarter of last year, 20 percent more than in 2015.

Harold Nesland III owns Sahara Pizza in Snoqualmie and Black Diamond.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

A woman, a new resident of the huge Snoqualmie Ridge development, had called in for pizza.

It was the first pie order for one of those new shiny houses, and Harold Nesland III, owner of Sahara Pizza, drove it over.

Moon Bang, originally from Korea, owns the Black Diamond Bakery. She has periodically encountered racism since she bought the bakery 10 years ago.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region was built with immigrant labor. It’s part of the story of growth and development here. There are many ways to tell that history. How we tell it signals who belongs, and who is a foreigner.


KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

As we all know from living here, our region’s roads haven’t been keeping up with population growth.  If they were, we wouldn’t be sitting in so much traffic.

It’s a longstanding problem coming soon to Black Diamond, which is embarking on one of the largest developments in King County.

Johna Thomson attends a meeting hosted by KUOW to talk about the development that is coming to Black Diamond, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Black Diamond resident Johna Thomson about a planned development that will quadruple the size of her town and why she thinks Black Diamond should stop fighting over the development and start focusing on getting the most out of it.

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