The origin of Salishan is closely linked with the attack on Pearl Harbor. When that particular war began for the United States, the Federal Government quickly realized two things. First, a lot of people and their families were headed for the Northwest. They were coming to work in the factories and shipyards that built the planes and ships that won that war. Second, when they arrived they would greatly worsen a shortage of affordable housing.
During the war, Salishan served its purpose. The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) managed Salishan until the war’s end and afterward. Salishan was one of the area’s first residential neighborhoods that was racially integrated on purpose. Diversity by race, language, ethnicity, national origin, and age has remained a signature and appealing aspect of Salishan into the present day, including the redevelopment of New Salishan.
Salishan also struggled with more than its share of crime. Its reputation, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, became quite unsavory. Salishan was showing what happens when the nation does not invest adequately in the capital needs of the nation’s public housing portfolio. The housing became like an old car; it ran well enough but it was no longer worth the repairs it required. It was also unsightly.
Starting in 2001, THA started a demolition and reconstruction project in a $225 million effort that would be the largest residential development in the history of the City. It was completed in 2011.