A walking tour of 12th Avenue

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.

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3 thoughts on “A walking tour of 12th Avenue

  1. This is a great example of an elected official that really wants to be responsive to what is happening on the ground in their district. Thank you Larry for joining us for what was a gorgeous afternoon.

    Bill Zosel deserves the most credit for putting this tour together, he is the “12th Ave Steward” – literally care-taking the neighborhood plan on 12th for the last 20+ years. He got us all together to take part in this walk, including residents, biz owners and institutional and developer representatives. We will post pics soon on our companion site – CD News, as most of the tour took place in the Central Area part of 12th.

    Thank you again Council Member Larry for your attention to the 12th Ave Business District. We hope you can come to the festival next year!

  2. It seems carving out neighborhood definitions is a political science project which contradicts real world perspectives.

    I liked the street festival weeks back, and indeed it was 12th. BUT squarely placed on The Hill, by any definition of Capitol Hill.

    !2th between Pine and Pike has not suddenly become something no longer defined as part of Capitol Hill. And it is a little strange to see the far south end of 12th, miles away carry its different nature all the way to the Hill to re define something called the 12th Ave. community.

    To wit, it is also VERY confusing to do this shell game with the geography.

  3. Curly: It is largely the City that does the shell game with geography. 12th below Madison is defined as the Central District. Historically, this has meant a lot of different things for this part of the neighborhood, including being red-lined by banks (affecting largely African-Americans) prior to the Fair Housing Act. Today 12th Avenue is a business district and for it to be healthy, it needs to be more cohesive. A bus isn’t going to be effective if it stops at Union. We need to connect the north and south ends of 12th (Cap Hill and the Central Area), so that shoppers, diners, students, elderly, etc. etc. can move within the district thus making it safer and more vibrant to be in. Business districts have their own geography that doesn’t always work within neighborhood plan boundaries. This vibrancy has just started to take shape on 12th in the Pike/Pine section of Cap Hill. But by no means is it ideal or finished. We can call 12th to Olive Cap Hill, 12th between Pine and Madison Pike/Pine and 12th from their to Yesler 12th Ave Urban Village, but unless we all continue to work together to make 12th a better place, the distinctions will just be lines on a map.