Seattle's Best Neighborhood-3

Balancing Act

• Beacon Hill •

In Beacon Hill, it’s not uncommon for doctors and lawyers to live side by side with neighbors who are receiving subsidies from the city to make improvements to their homes. Economic diversity may be the defining characteristic of the South Seattle neighborhood, and it’s the one that residents are desperate to hold on to. “It’s one of my favorite parts about this place,” says Dylan Ahearn, an environmental consultant who lives in North Beacon Hill. “We’re all out in the street playing together all day long.”

It’s also the characteristic that might be the most endangered. In the slender strip of land just east of I-5, character-rich homes are still affordable—by Seattle standards—the views of the Olympics and the Cascades are virtually unmatched, and commute times to downtown are remarkably manageable even by bike. But now that the area near the new light rail station north of Jefferson Park is attracting commercial developers, it’s just a matter of time before more urban professionals discover what Beacon Hill has to offer—and what it could have in the future.

So now locals are wrestling with how to keep improving their ’hood without destroying its everyone-knows-everyone vibe. “You have to balance new development with trying to keep the character of the community,” Ahearn says. “It’s nice to have more services, but you don’t want to change the neighborhood so much that you drive people out and turn it into just another neighborhood in Seattle.”

Beyond Borders 

• Phinney Ridge 
and Greenwood •

In case you haven’t heard, Phinney and Greenwood like each other. Like, they like each other. They started blowing kisses at each other years ago. Then they hooked up in July 2008 when Dale Steinke and Doree Armstrong launched the neighborhood blog. And this summer, well, they want to get hitched.

No really. Members of the Phinney Neighborhood Association and the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce are kicking around the idea of having the communities tie the knot August 12, as their third annual joint street party mobs Greenwood Avenue North. If it happens, it would be a mock civil ceremony to join the platonically involved neighbors; the city doesn’t have any plans to officially merge them. But the sentiment is real. “Our neighborhoods are too small to be promoted by themselves,” says Sheri Hauser, owner of the year-old Phinney-based art gallery and collectible store Tasty. “It would be a real shame not to unite and have a bigger voice.”

The union wouldn’t just be about promoting local businesses, though. It’s a planned public acknowledgment of what residents have felt for years. “If you go from Phinney down into Ballard, you’re leaving a core business area, driving through residential streets, and then hitting another business area,” says Lee Harper, the executive director of the Phinney Neighborhood Association. “But you don’t really feel that when you move from Phinney to Greenwood.” Instead, one business district along Greenwood Avenue blends into the next, flanked on both sides by tree-lined residential streets.

They’ve got their differences—Phinney’s older and more established, and Greenwood’s more affordable and culturally diverse. And they’ve got their issues—specifically encouraging the transient younger population that lives in both neighborhoods’ multifamily housing to feel a part of the community. But if there’s anything a stable couple should be able to weather, it’s the occasional spat and kids.