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Seattle’s King Street Station could host an immigrant-run market

The inside of Seattle's renovated King St Station (Photo by Robert Ashworth, CC Images)
LISTEN: The creation of a Seattle immigrant-run food market depends on 100,000 people donating a dollar each

Restoration of Seattle’s 112-year-old King Street Station concluded in 2013. Instead of modernizing the space, it was brought back to its old, beautiful bones. Travelers catching an Amtrak or Sound Transit train see beautiful white plaster moldings, columns, and marble walls. There are wooden benches and classic light fixtures.

But 10,000 square feet of the building has remained vacant; it’s 15 foot ceilings and exposed brick walls are closed off from public view.

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Philip Deng has big plans for the space. He’s the founder and executive director of MarketShare, a non-profit that aims to create community markets, for and by the people. Deng wants to create a public market with 8-10 food stalls run by immigrants who wouldn’t be able to afford the opportunity otherwise.

“Definitely looking for cuisines that are not already represented on restaurant menus,” Deng said. “Stuff that is really difficult for people outside of a given community to find. There’s a ton of really good Burmese food, and no Burmese restaurants in the region. I have a good friend from Iraq, she and a group of women in Kent have started a catering company. But it would be really great to have a restaurant where we can try Nadia’s food any day of the week. There are eastern Europeans, east Africans, South Americans, all kinds of cuisines.”

King Street Station campaign

On Wednesday night he launched a fundraising campaign called 100,000 Founders on Kickstarter.

“We’re raising $100,000 in project launch funds from 100,000 people. Each only donating $1 as a founder,” Deng said. “When one dollar equals one voice, funders become founders. That’s really the magic that separates a truly public market from a food hall that looks like a market. It’s the origin. Does it come from the people or does it come from a private source? That’s why we’re doing this big crowdfounding initiative. The vision is really born of the people.”

The project will cost millions of dollars, and investors will eventually be sought out, but Deng says it’s important that the community feels connected to the space, to know that it’s theirs.

“We really encourage people to only donate $1 because it’s about an equal platform. It’s about solidarity, it’s about oneness,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have, we want you to be able participate in the same way. If you do want to donate more, we are accepting donations through our regular donation page at marketshareseattle.org.”

Market organizer

Deng worked as a field organizer on the Obama campaign, organizing a diverse group of volunteers to knock on doors and make change.

“And then we all went back to our own lives and everything that we build became memories. I felt like we’d left something on the table; that wasn’t the limit of community organizing. So MarketShare is trying to apply the same principles of modern political-style organizing which is data driven, really disciplined messaging, getting out into the community, mobilizing volunteers, mobilizing youth.”

When Seattleites complain about the way the city is changing, they often blame big corporations for making the changes, for shifting the city away from its endearing aesthetics and culture. This is a way to have some control and contribute to building a community space that encourages diversity and culture.

To donate your dollar to make this food hall a reality, click here.

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