Boom High Point Looking Up?
posted by October 16 at 16:38 PMon
Last night, while hanging out in South Seattle, I came across a glossy brochure advertising “one of Seattle’s most lively neighborhoods.” Here’s the front of the flyer:
A designer boutique! A smiling blonde! What could this up-and-coming neighborhood be?
Most people don’t think of High Point, a landlocked chunk West Seattle just north of Seattle’s southern limit that was once dominated by subsidized low-income housing, as “the kind of neighborhood you’ve been looking for” (as the brochure describes it). Most people probably think of it as either (uncharitably) one of Seattle’s last remaining ghettoes or (more charitably) a part of Southwest Seattle that has resisted gentrification. It has a failing elementary school; a high crime rate; and one of the highest poverty rates in the city. It has also long been dominated by renters (69 percent as of the last census) and, in 2000, had a population that was 70 percent minority. As of this past summer, homes for sale there had a median selling price of nearly $150,000 less than the Seattle median.
High Point’s boosters hope all that will change when the “green” townhomes and high-end houses that replaced razed low-income housing sell to middle- and upper-income buyers. The High Point brochure includes ads for all of the new developments, including the Lanham Place Townhomes (two- and three-bedroom homes with attached garages, from the high $300,000s), the 31st Street Collection (two- and-three-bedrooms townhomes and cottages from the mid-$300,000s), and Polygon Northwest (single-family homes with one- and two-car garages). (No mention of bus routes anywhere in the materials promoting the development’s “green” credentials, although the area has good service to downtown.) There’s even a bouncy, upbeat web site: The High Point.
Of course, most of the “vibrant” shops, restaurants and arts centers advertised in the brochure aren’t actually in High Point. Instead, they’re mostly in the West Seattle Junction—a ten-minute ride by bus, but not in the neighborhood. Another thing the high-gloss promotional brochure and web site don’t portray is the challenge of integrating a whole new group of (mostly white, middle-class) people into an area that has traditionally been diverse and lower-income.
A community blog maintained by a High Point homeowner hints at what the newcomers want to change about the neighborhood. On it, residents list “low-income housing,” “loitering/gang-related disturbances,” and violent crime among their top concerns with the neighborhood. The blog, written by a recent homebuyer in the area, is full of barely veiled racism and openly classist hysteria. For example: “Weíve all been poor at some point. We all just didnít pimp out our rides and jump our neighbors when we were poor. … Nevermind the fact that many a weekend afternoon Iíll be sitting in my living room with the window open listening to the sweet sounds of Baghdad. Has anyone else heard the Islamic music wafting through the streets??”
Good luck, High Point. You’re going to need it.