Last Friday, August 21st, I had the pleasure of joining 12th Avenue residents, business owners, and local developers on a community walking tour, led by Chris Persons and Kate de la Garza of Capitol Hill Housing. As your representative on the King County Council, neighborhood walking tours are a great way for me to get a first-hand understanding of the needs and concerns of community members. Tomorrow I will be taking a walking tour of Broadway organized by representatives of the Capitol Hill Champion.
The 12th Avenue neighborhood walking tour was an eye-opening experience. We started our walking tour at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School (12th Ave and E Yesler Way). Stops along 12th Avenue included:
- E Yesler Way, to discuss Seattle’s plans for a potential streetcar barn;
- E Remington Court to discuss redevelopment of the King County Youth Services Center site including plans for open space, parking, and retail;
- Zobel Ethiopian Restaurant, to talk with Ethiopian business owners about the 12th Avenue Festival and public safety around the area;
- E Jefferson Street to get a status update on Capitol Hill Housing’s plan already in motion for redeveloping the site;
- E James Court to look at the area planned to become James Court Park;
- E Marian Street to learn about Seattle University’s role in the surrounding community; and
- La Spiga Restaurant to talk to local business owners about the 12th Avenue Festival and the business climate on 12th Avenue in the Pike/Pine area.
The tour was an opportunity to see 12th Avenue’s continuing progress toward a healthier business district and more vibrant community. I appreciated hearing how community members like Enana Kassa, owner of Zobel Restaurant, and Tsedalu Ambassel, owner of Ethio Café, have worked together with Seattle Police to improve community safety. I heard about the success of the first 12th Avenue Festival, spearheaded by La Spiga Restaurant co-owners Pietro Borghesi and Sabrina Tinsley, in bringing the neighborhood closer together. I was excited to hear about the vision that local developers like Maria Barrientos have for renovating the south end of the 12th Avenue corridor.
It was also great to hear about Seattle University’s interaction with the community, working with community partners to bring events like “Groovin’ on the Green” (Aug. 28), sending student volunteers into the community, and ensuring that as their expanding campus—including the mixed-use building currently under construction at the corner of 12th Avenue and E Cherry Street—is walkable and open to everyone.
I also heard how King County can play a role in facilitating growth and increasing vibrancy on 12th Avenue. I know the community desires to work with King County to ensure quality redevelopment of the county’s Youth Services Center at Alder and to bring transit service to 12th Avenue. In these tough economic times, simply maintaining existing service is a tall order, but I will keep these priorities in mind as opportunities arise.
Overall, the tour brought into perspective the community’s priorities and goals for creating lasting vitality in this growing urban corridor. More work remains to improve safety, enhance the pedestrian experience, increase transit, and facilitate development. By remaining engaged and working together, this community has accomplished so much already and is on the right path moving forward.