Tukwila may buy buildings to transform 'blighted neighborhood'

TUKWILA, Wash. -- The City of Tukwila is working to reduce crime in areas where it's highest, and city leaders say a block full of businesses may have to move elsewhere.

Uncertainty abounds inside Sam Smoke Shop on Tukwila International Blvd. Owner Sunny Minhas has been in business for four years, but two months ago he finally purchased the property.

Now, with a proposal from the city, the shop's future is uncertain.

"It's a really hard step for me and my family," Minhas said. "So this is a little bit hard step right now."

That's because the city is considering a proposal to buy seven businesses in what it calls a "a blighted neighborhood" in order to make the area safer and more pedestrian friendly.

"We want to improve the image of that whole area," said Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton.

The land in question was designated an Urban Renewal Area in 2000, and by law the city is allowed to purchase land whether or not the owner wants to sell.

"That area is in need of dramatic improvement to meet the standards that we expect in the city of Tukwila," Haggerton said.

Pending City Council approval, the city would buy five motels, a pawn shop and the smoke shop. New businesses, restaurants and a pedestrian-friendly area would be installed.

"We're in a position if we have to we'll buy the property at an assessed value," Haggerton said. "We're not going to pay a lucrative amount for any of those properties."

Current business owners would have to go elsewhere, and for many it would mean the end of their livelihood.

"I'm all for safer neighborhoods, but this place in no way poses a danger to anybody," said one business owner.

The Tukwila City Council will consider the ordinance at its Monday night meeting. The project is expected to cost the city $5 million.