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Rainier Vista – A Look Back


Starting in the late 1880s, the Rainier Valley Neighborhood of Southeast Seattle attracted both settlers and immigrants who were newly arrived and looking for a bright future. What started out as forest gradually became dotted with farms and, eventually, grew to become the city itself. The first residents after the native populations were transplants from the East Coast and the South, along with newly arriving workers and families from Europe, Scandinavia, China, Japan and the Phillipines. The growing city created a network of streetcars, with lines extending into Rainier Valley, just as the LINK LightRail line does today.

During the 1940s Rainier Vista was built to accommodate an influx of defense workers coming to town to build airplanes, ships, trucks and to provide other much needed support for the war effort. Similar communities were created at Holly Park, at bit further South along MLK Boulevard, and at High Point in West Seattle. After the war, Rainier Vista helped house returning veterans and low income families, giving them a place to call home and a fresh start. That would continue for the next five decades. As years of use and weathering took its toll, the units at Rainier Vista became expensive to maintain and less effective as public housing.

In the early 1990s, a vision began to emerge where Holly Park, High Point and Rainier Vista could be rebuilt as mixed-income, mixed use and mixed-ethnicity communities, with narrow streets to slow traffic, parks and playgrounds, and a wide variety of services. A community planning process engaged residents and neighbors to bring this vision into play. With the impetus of special HOPE VI funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, construction began on these three neighborhoods. What you now see at Rainier Vista is one of Seattle’s (and the nation’s) most successful urban renewal efforts. It is a community rich with diversity, amenities and a commitment to healthy, sustainable and neighborly lifestyle.

Rainier Vista Then

For over 60 years, the Rainier Vista neighborhood served thousands of Seattle families, from wartime workers in the 1940s to recent times serving low-income populations wanting to get a fresh start.


Rainier Vista Now

Rainier Vista’s Columbia Station location and diverse architecture invite an active lifestyle and foster connections among neighbors in this new, award-winning, mixed-income community.