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. 

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.


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.

Bill and Cindy Wheeler have lived on Lake Sawyer for 30 years, but they don't know the weir master.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region’s rapid growth is straining our lakes, especially little lakes on the fringes of urban areas. When growth approaches, the communities around them aren’t always prepared to protect them from pollution. 


Vancouver, British Columbia
Flickr Photo/Andriy Baranskyy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/68ttdz

Like Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., also has a housing shortage. At the same time, many new homes in Vancouver sit vacant. Vancouver’s experience could hold lessons for Seattle.


Black Diamond City Council was mired in disagreement over the city's 2017 budget. Council member Brian Weber ended that by making a gesture of 'good faith'.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The city of Black Diamond has a 2017 budget at last.

The City Council voted to approve the budget Thursday night after being divided for months.

For this map, we combined a map from 1919 with Google maps to approximate modern roads and living areas. We then took satellite maps from the City of Black Diamond showing proposed new developments and sketched those out as well.
KUOW Graphic/Kara McDermott

A mega housing development is going up in Black Diamond outside Seattle, and some of those houses could be built on top of old mine shafts.

Bill Kombol, manager of Palmer Coking Coal, which is still in operating in Black Diamond, though it hasn’t mined in the area for years.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Ours is a region full of hazards, including earthquakes and slides.

It’s also a region where the rising cost of housing has been pushing people to the edges of the region to look for homes. But as people go farther out, they encounter a hazard not seen in the city: abandoned coal mines.


The Oakpointe development in Black Diamond has already cleared land.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Dennis Box, editor of the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, about what he's learned in his years covering the struggle over development in Black Diamond, and why he thinks the story of this small town "goes to the very core of who we are."

"One side is a developer with this vision, it's a remarkable vision, of creating this town. But on the other hand you have a story of people living their lives in a place that they expected to stay one way. And suddenly it's not staying that way," Box said. 

In a company town, says Leonard Garfield, 'you spent your whole day, and all of your night, working for the company whether you knew it or not.'
Courtesy of MOHAI, 1978.6585.30

Bill Radke speaks with Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History and Industry, about what it was like to live in Black Diamond, Washington, when the Pacific Coast Coal Company ran the mines — and also rented the homes, sold the groceries, hired the doctors, and brought in the entertainment.

For a laborer in that kind of environment, Garfield says, "you can imagine that you could build up some resentment."

Mine #11 in Black Diamond supported a workforce of 400-500 people, underground and on the surface. This mine operated from 1896 to 1927. Photo is from 1904.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection Negative No. UW-23734.

The hill at Palmer Coking Coal Company in Black Diamond is smoldering. 

A vacant lot in Black Diamond, Washington
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Do we have enough land for all the people moving to Washington state? There’s a bill working its way through Olympia that would change how planners would answer that question. It’s backed by builders and realtors.

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