Helping Link
1032 South Jackson Street, Suite C
Seattle, WA


Helping Link is a grassroots, community based nonprofit organization in the heart of Seattle’s, Little Saigon. They seek to empower individuals and families in Seattle’s Vietnamese immigrant community through cultural, social, and educational activities.

The facility’s entry and approach pose problems that community members at Helping Link had long wanted to address. Hundreds of community members, including young children to seniors, enter Helping Link’s doors every year, via the entry area via a rickety, dangerous, non-code compliant stairway.

With the help of a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Washington’s Neighborhood Design Build Studio partnered with Helping Link to renovate their entry and terrace and improve its accessibility, safety and security, function, visibility, cultural relevance, and beauty – while working around the significant challenges of building upon an existing historic building and a site with uneven grading, retaining walls, and pits where topsoil had washed away.


During the first few weeks of the studio, Steve, Chad, and the students had multiple meetings with Minh-Duc and the staff at Helping Link discussing their needs and possible options. Back in the studio, the students broke into teams to design iterations and discussing their pros and cons. As the days went by the group’s work came together in a design that included a panelized deck spanning the existing structure accessed by a ramp and separate stair entrance, and enclosed by a bamboo fence.

After this design was presented to and accepted by Helping Link, the students developed a detailed set of working construction drawings before beginning construction.