It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we report the passing of our dear colleague, trusted advisor and mentor, and lifelong advocate of the neighborhood, Paul Mar.

Paul Mar, born on June 24, 1940, lived the first two years of life in the back of the Excel Barbershop in a location now occupied by Purple Dot Restaurant in the Chinatown International District (CID). He attended Garfield High School and the University of Washington, earning a degree in engineering.

He was a self-described “native son” of the CID and would go on to work, for over half a century, on the frontline of the community nonprofit sector in the neighborhood, supervising major construction projects for the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), International Community Health Services (ICHS), and the Wing Luke Museum.

Paul Mar played a critical role in leading and shaping the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) and its key projects. Counseling the initial group that established SCIDpda in 1975 as a community-controlled public agency aimed at the revitalization and management of historic buildings, Mar later served on its board, and was instrumental to the realization of its first new development, International District Village Square I. This groundbreaking project, completed in 1997, represented the largest public-private development in the neighborhood, featuring 75 apartments for frail seniors, a childcare center, and shared space for social services.

Transitioning into a staff role at SCIDpda, Mar shepherded the completion of the intricate phase that followed at Village Square II. This phase encompassed the neighborhood’s community center, library branch, 56 units of low-income housing, and additional space for service providers and small businesses. Notably, he also assumed responsibility for the intricate task of restoring the Bush Hotel after it suffered extensive damage in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, which continues to stand as SCIDpda’s headquarter office and home to 96 low-income households, as well as many critical service providers that serve the neighborhood. Paul also served the organization as an interim Executive Director during one of its transitional phases in leadership.

In 2016, Paul Mar officially retired from his role as Director of Real Estate Development at SCIDpda but remained a steadfast resource, offering his wealth of expertise and wisdom to the organization’s leadership and staff.

Beyond his impactful tenure at SCIDpda, Mar’s influence radiated across various non-profits serving the Chinatown International District, including the Wing Luke Museum, International Community Health Services (ICHS), and International District Emergency Center (IDEC). He was part of the leadership team that converted the East Kong Yick Building into the permanent home for the Wing Luke Museum during a five-year $23 million fundraising campaign. He also completed the preliminary feasibility study and served on the steering committee to build a $25 million “aging-in-place” senior care facility (owned and operated by ICHS) on the north parking lot of the Pacific Medical Center on Beacon Hill — part of the larger SCIDpda mixed-use development, Beacon Pacific Village, currently under construction.

Paul will be missed by all who knew him, but his lasting legacy and memory will live on in the many places he built for the community, as well as the people he worked with, influenced, and taught. He will be remembered for his brilliance, kind attitude, and quiet leadership, as well as his stories and historical knowledge about the neighborhood. Needless to say, he was vitally important to the Chinatown International District and several generations of its leaders. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.


* Much of the information above was pieced together from two articles by Ron Chew for the International Examiner, one written about Paul Mar in 2016 and the other written recently announcing his death to the community.

Quiet community champion Paul Mar passes away at 83

Paul Mar retires after four decades of community building

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