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From ‘glue pot to hot spot’: The Renaissance of the City of Kent

KENT, Wash. - Back in the 1920s, the city of Kent was known as the Lettuce Capital of the World. It was largely a farming and industrial community, that made good use of its proximity to the rail line, transporting goods through the Kent Rail Station.

Nearly a century later, those railroad tracks are playing a huge role in transforming the city into a new era.

Borden Chemical owned the land adjacent the railroad tracks for over 40 years, but when the company shut down in the 1990’s, the city snatched the land up after Sound Transit designated Kent as the site for a south end bus and rail station. Kent Station now connects Kent to Tacoma and Seattle. And downtown Kent has been transformed into an area where people are moving from the nearby hills and valley to live and work in the city’s core.

“We like to say internally it was a glue pot which is now a hotspot,” says Michelle Wilmot, Kent’s economic development manager.

A hotspot which includes the sprawling Kent Station retail complex. The 6200-seat Showare Center is across the street.

“The third leg of the stool, we like to say, is the downtown urban style residential living that way now see in Kent,” Wilmot says.

Borrowing a line from the film Field of Dreams, it was a case of “build it and they will come.” And they did.

“They had seen the highest lease rates that they had seen in any of their properties, even in the Seattle area. 70% of that was leased before it was even built so it proves that there was a demand for that type of urban living community,” Wilmot says.