2nd ‘West Seattle: We Have That!’ report: We have change; what about its effects?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier this year, WSB started a series of stories about independent local businesses and why they matter more to a community like ours than you might realize. Then, the West Seattle: We Have That” campaign launched at midsummer. Now, we’re continuing to publish stories as part of the series – and inviting you into the conversation. Many of the reports, including this one and the one we published four weeks ago, are being underwritten by the West Seattle Junction Association, but not as ads – it’s their contribution to an issue of importance from Alki to Westwood, Fauntleroy to Highland Park, and all over WS.

By Keith Creighton
Special to West Seattle Blog

This past month, my wife and I moved from a hill atop Morgan to that same hill a mile south in Gatewood. One of the biggest considerations we faced was trading more space for less view and giving up the easy walk to the Morgan and Alaska Junctions.

We’re not the only family facing big changes in West Seattle.

How will the surge of demolition and construction (California/Alaska, above), store closures/moves (Sweetie, Coffee to a Tea, Alki Arts) and chain introductions (including Fatburger on Alki and plans for Whole Foods Market, LA Fitness) affect the values of your home and the quality of your life? I asked several Junction-area residents and real estate pros to share their expertise:

Dawn Leverett of Windermere Real Estate
Katie Hildebrand and Kirsten Donovan of The Usonia Group/Keller Williams Realty
Jill Campbell of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate

Can you put a price tag on the concept of walkability? What will happen if the big chains push mom and pop shops out of West Seattle? Is White Center becoming the new West Seattle? Read what the pros have to say and weigh in with your comments.

We Have That:
Does the hometown charm of the three junctions (Morgan, Alaska and Admiral) affect the property values for homes around those areas?

Kirsten Donovan:
Buyers have become more and more concerned with preservation, public transportation and walkability scores of the neighborhoods where they purchase. Around the Alaska Junction, you’ll see a property-value bump that extends south of Genesee, north of Hudson, west of 40th Ave SW and east of 45th Ave SW. Today, there are 15 homes on the market in this area (7 condos, 8 homes) compared to 360 homes available in all of West Seattle.

Dawn Leverett:
The Junction certainly is a magnet and known to be a positive selling factor. Many buyers want walkability. That could mean proximity to parks or beach or schools, but more often they want proximity to village-style shops and restaurants, the farmer’s market, etc. Entertainment options like ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery make the Junction a highly desirable neighborhood, therefore increasing nearby home values. It’s hard to put an actual number on it, but if you look at two very similar houses in size, condition, and view, one is within 5 blocks of the Junction and the other is a mile or two away, you could easily see a 10 percent difference in price.

Katie Hildebrand:
In early 2010, a young couple bought a refreshed craftsman bungalow three blocks from the Junction and ended up selling their car. They wanted a community with character, where everything was in walking distance and close to a bus line. They wanted to be close to the city, but in an area that wasn’t citified. The home they purchased for $265,000 in 2010 would sell in a heartbeat today for $375,000.

Jill Campbell:
West Seattle is similar to an island in that outsiders [generally] do not drive through our neighborhood to get to somewhere else. Walkability to West Seattle’s three Junctions seems to be a big deal, especially for buyers 40 and under. Young professionals want to live in and near the center of activity rather than drive to the Junctions. For those who cannot necessarily afford a view, walkability to the Junctions scores second in popularity.


We Have That:
Would real estate values change if the locally owned restaurants and boutiques gave way to giant chains?

Growing up, most of the retail areas in West Seattle were mom and pop, including Westwood Village. Now that Westwood consists mostly of national retail stores, residents can buy just about everything they need without having to cross the bridge. If the Junction remains boutique, ‘coming to the Junction’ will remain a unique experience. My friends from Issaquah and Wallingford like to hit the Farmers Market, grab a latte at Easy Street, and shop up and down California Ave.

This topic is a double-edged sword in most small communities. All big changes have an effect on home values. Giant chains come with the promise of more jobs but typically at a cost of community. If we wanted to live in a metropolis of big business, we would live downtown. People adapt, but that does not mean they like it. Nobody knows who the owner of Home Depot or Target is, but they can personally meet shop owners like Jack Miller of Husky Deli.

This is a tough one. I’m not sure that I would say values would change because variety would give way to convenience. After conversations with many buyers over the years, independent businesses and boutique shops are still highly desirable over big box stores. Sure, it’s nice to be able to go to Target for toilet paper and toothpaste, but we can also buy specialty items at Pharmaca. All the big box stores sell wine, but boutique wine shops like Bin 41 and West Seattle Cellars provide the personalized expertise of the shop owners.

I think people who love the small-town charm of West Seattle will tend to support local businesses and make the giant chains feel less welcome, but over time, most of us have grown to appreciate what Westwood Village has to offer.


We Have That:
What is the commercial perspective for shop owners and tenants in these areas? Are their rents high or competitive compared to similar demographic areas in the city?

15 years ago, these numbers had a massive spread with West Seattle being far less expensive. Today, West Seattle is slightly higher than Ballard/Fremont. For a quick number comparison … active for-lease retail spaces in Ballard/Fremont, 2000 square feet or less, are averaging $22.45 per square foot per year, compared to $26.50 for West Seattle. That little difference really adds up and puts more pressure on these retailers to do steady and brisk business.


We Have That:
What will the impact be of all the new apartments going in around the Junction?

Something close to 1,600 new units are under construction or permitted. Developers and landlords are challenged to find anchor tenants such as national chains that can provide long-term financial stability versus a start-up mom and pop shop with no business history. It’s important that both the developers make lease rates realistic for small business and that our community gets out there and supports these shops.

We are seeing many local business owners go to White Center to start their business, as lease rates are far less there, as are the housing prices. In terms of small, family-owned businesses, White Center is becoming the new West Seattle. Naturally, businesses of all sizes are essential components of a thriving, stable, business community. West Seattle has those bases covered.

The new apartments will absolutely bring more business to the Junction-area retailers. One challenge will be parking in the Junction and surrounding neighborhoods. Because of this, living in a walkable distance to the core will be even more desirable and thus more lucrative for home sellers in this area.

The new density plan will impact us all. Of course it will be great for area businesses and service providers, but tough on traffic, checkout lines, and getting into our favorite eateries. Those of us who love the sleepy little community of West Seattle feel sad and upset this density plan is coming so hard and fast.


In Summation, What Can You Do?
If you’re interested in keeping West Seattle a thriving and unique community that’s filled with independently owned businesses, take some time to explore everything that West Seattle has to offer. The holidays are a critical time for local retailers. When you add up the advantages, it makes sense to shop in West Seattle:

√ Avoid the crowded malls, the bridge, and the traffic
√ Discover one-of-a-kind treasures
√ Engage the expertise of store owners and staff
√ Keep more of your money in your community!

Will you be shopping in West Seattle this holiday season? Share your thoughts and your discoveries here.

21 Replies to "2nd 'West Seattle: We Have That!' report: We have change; what about its effects?"

  • Service Dog Academy November 10, 2013 (4:14 pm)

    What most people dont know is most of the chain stores only require 2 weeks worth of dog training job shadowing to become one of their “certified” trainers. Would you trust your child to someone who only had two weeks worth of vocational education to teach your child to learn to read? That el cheapo $100 training class comes at a price people. http://www.examiner.com/article/english-bulldog-dies-during-training-class-at-petco

  • Joe Quinn November 10, 2013 (6:07 pm)

    Puhleeeeeezzzzz. We can make this way more lop-sided than this. You choose a panel of “experts” that make their living on volume and focus their efforts on maximizing the percentage of their fees selling the garbage being built all around us. C’mon.

  • Not a non-sequitur November 10, 2013 (6:59 pm)

    I detest the opportunistic, relentless often tragic self-promotion most small businesses are forced to pursue. It is millimeters away from desperation and that is somewhat of a repellant to many potential purchasers.

    Put on a happy face of success small businesses. Ever heard of fake it till you make it? Sttart your own positive whisper campaigns instead of shrill cries of despair.

    Toughen up and hang tough innovators and creatives because each of you will be wealthy in a couple years. Really. Nobody said self-employment was easy. Buck up.

    And South Deltidge/Highland Park real estate is projected for over 9% growth in 2014, and again in 2015 – largely due to, I surmise, the hard fight for economic bloom in White Center.
    The first wave of small businesses in WC are heroes. Lots of bldgs. – with character – are for sale in WC. Bldg owners control the destiny and density. Outside of business overlays, Chambers of Commerce and commercial realtors’ positive relationships, or lack there of, with property owners effect preservation of character and quality of tenants. My .02 cents.

    One other thing…the “new density plan” as referred to by this “expert” has been on the books since 1993 and the parking requirement escape clause was voted in by city council a couple of years ago.

    I am just going to say this now knowing few will read it or take heed, but have your facts straightened out before you go public. Revealing gaps in knowledge ain’t gonna’ get you clients and does NOT help the discussion for the easily influenced amongst the readers here.

    Just sayin’. We have a City Council position now and ALL need to turn their BS meters up. Way up. Game is on..

  • Peanut November 10, 2013 (9:10 pm)

    Very interesting read. Thanks for helping us see both sides of coin. Just because the big stores come to town, doesn’t mean we can’t choose to shop Mim and Pop. Love our West Seattle.

  • Kels November 10, 2013 (9:48 pm)

    Way to keep it classy peanut gallery, well everyone except Peanut. I’m not crazy about high rises going into the junction, but I’m also not one to leave crazy, mean-spirited rants in the comfort of anonymity. I love living here and shopping here and nothing’s gonna change that.

  • Junctionneighbor November 10, 2013 (11:20 pm)

    I love that i walked to Curious Kidstuff today to do my Christmas Shopping, got some books from Fred at Pegasus, shopped at the farmer’s market and had lunch at Great Harvest. Another car-free day.

  • VB November 11, 2013 (8:28 am)

    This is a great topic! & the panel format is useful to get perspectives.

    (1) It’s interesting to see development cluster around the junctions. To a certain extent this is probably inevitable, but this tends to make WS more of a driving community & less of a walking community. No one who lives in Admiral takes the bus to Morgan and vice versa.

    (2) Transportation within West Seattle is not so great. It would be really nice to see some energy focused on that. Easier said than done in the time of incessant budget cuts, but I find it very hard to get from one end of West Seattle to the other, particularly during “dinging out” hours.

    (3) I love the quirkiness of West Seattle, but there are so many of certain things (groceries, nail places, pet places, hair salons). Wonder what development dynamic contributed to this.

  • evergreen November 11, 2013 (9:01 am)

    Thanks for the reminder to support the small businesses. They are what makes the junctions charming, and without them we would be another generic stripmall. Read in the paper last week that at last some of those plastic halloween decorations we buy from China are made by slave laborers. We buy all those Chinese goods cheaply, but without thought or knowledge about the working/living conditions of the manufacturing population. I don’t want to be responsible for the suffering of kids on the other side of the globe. I have also likely contributed more than my fair share to landfills. My plan is to dramatically cut down on buying unnecessary junk and pay a little more for local goods. These are found more readily in our small shops.

  • Carol O. November 11, 2013 (9:43 am)

    I go to Burien for the majority of my shopping. Lots of easy parking and store choices. Very affordable too.

  • sam-c November 11, 2013 (10:27 am)

    I am ‘all-for’ shopping locally. We’ve bought many gifts at curious kidstuff, click!, capers, city mouse, antique mall, and sneaker. buy all our cards, stickers, and etc at NW art and frame. eat at about 50% of the places there. BUT .. I know the junction has a bookstore, but I wish we had one like Elliott Bay books. realistically I know you probably couldn’t replicate that, but Bainbridge has an awesome bookstore too.

    the background of my comment: I was on a hold list for a library book to read during a summer road trip. wasn’t going to get it in time for the trip (because the book was in high demand), so I wanted to buy it instead. called the bookstore in the junction to see if they had it, and they had never heard of it. resorted to stopping by B&N on the way out of town and I found my book in 20 seconds, featured on the ‘best-sellers’ shelf right up front. would LOVE to have an awesome bookstore. maybe it’s a dying breed but we DO have easy street for music. (oh, yeah, we shop there too)

    • WSB November 11, 2013 (11:11 am)

      Sam, do you remember Square One Books? It was a full-fledged, independent, locally owned bookstore focused on new books and related items. Closed three years ago after its owner worked for eight years to make a go of it.
      I can’t help but expect someone will follow up this comment with something that they felt made it hard to support that store. But as an independent bootstrapped small businessperson myself (co-owning WSB with my husband – no investors, no financial partners, no grants, no side jobs, no loans, no savings cushion, etc.) it IS important to cut them a little slack if you value what they (and we) bring to the equation. As we wrote in some earlier “We Have That!” coverage – unlike many corporate chains, small businesses also donate to PTAs, sponsor community events, etc. (And we follow in that tradition, giving thousands every year to local schools, nonprofits, etc.). Of course, that doesn’t mean shoppers should patronize them as if they were a charity. Getting value for your time and money, and the goods you’re looking for, is important too.
      Anyway, that’s not all targeted at you – sounds like you DO shop local indies, a lot, which is great. And thank you for participating in this discussion – I just wasn’t sure if you knew that the community DID have a bookstore closer to what you mention, until three years ago. – TR

  • sam-c November 11, 2013 (12:07 pm)

    oh dear, I am very embarrassed to say I didn’t know about that bookstore. I guess features like this and me being on the junction’s email list will keep that from happening again… maybe?

  • G November 11, 2013 (1:08 pm)

    Metro could facilitate getting around W. Seattle by introducing zoned fares (say within W. Seattle) or fares based on distance traveled. If you’re paying $2.25 to go only from Admiral to the Junction, many figure it isn’t worth it – and they’ll just stay on and do their shopping downtown.

  • highlandpark November 11, 2013 (4:43 pm)

    For the past several holidays, I have done a lot of my Christmas shopping in the Alaska Junction and have enjoyed interacting with owners and staff and being able to find unique gifts. Some faves are Easy Street Records (who doesn’t need a T-shirt?!), Capers (jewelry, home wares, decor, candles), Zamboanga (socks!), Click Design that Fits (cool stuff all around), and the Twilight Design Collective (unique art and clothing). I treasure the small business feel of the neighborhood!

  • Skye November 11, 2013 (4:53 pm)

    I am really worried about retaining the culture of our West Seattle neighborhood and I don’t know anyone that is really able to rely on bus service via no car. If we had continuous bus service all day like we did when I first moved here 14 years ago, that would be great, but instead these new apartment complexes are needing cars, most people that live here don’t have 9-5 desk jobs. Also, look at
    the lack of heigth restrictions like in San Francisco neighborhoods, to retain ambiance and house values. Why is the neighborhhood not requiring setbacks on the towering that is making our streets dark and where isvthe parking for retail in these new projects on California Avenue? No one on Beach drive or more than 10 blocks is going to walk in the rain, with their kids or a senior or blowing cold out….they will drive and then walk in the junctions. Why no retail parking for all the first level commercial space?

  • Skye November 11, 2013 (5:02 pm)

    Magnoila and Queen Anne went into action to protect their neighborhood with a design and livibility requirements for development and redevelopment, to retain their neighborhood from being bulldozed into a cookie cutter. Do we really want to be treated like just a parcel of land just for profit? Has anyone or is there a coalition group started in West Seattle for smart growth specific to West Seattle? I would very much like to be supportive to keeping our character, while we grow smart.

  • kgdlg November 11, 2013 (5:06 pm)

    For the amount of new development we have in WS, I continue to actually be really floored by the ratio of local small businesses to chain stores here (i.e. lots of local small biz). I think the usual fear is that new buildings will only bring chains, and while this has happened in some locations (PETCO, although they just moved weren’t new, and Bright Horizons) I think there are equal amounts of local places in the new buildings (Fresh Bistro and Chaco Canyon). This is important. My gut is that all these new residents do support our lively and thriving business district, and that is a good thing. I think WE as residents set the values of our community, so as long as people keep spending money at mom and pop stores, they will hopefully stick around. Now, the day that the Husky Deli decides to throw in the towel and sell their building, I will be bereft. PLEASE DON’T EVER LEAVE US.

  • CeeBee November 12, 2013 (9:11 am)

    Skye (and all others), please get involved in your local community group!!!! And if you do it now, before the next big,bad thing comes to YOUR neighborhood, then you will be ready as a functional group. Tracy provides links on her sidebar to all the neighborhood groups in WS, you just have to scroll down a lot now to get to it. Maybe a coalition is in the future, but most community groups have so few regular attendees that they would be hard pressed to also staff another coalition. Please, please, please get involved, there are many things that need to be done!

    • WSB November 12, 2013 (9:19 am)

      Thanks CB – that list actually needs to be updated, and there should be a separate story with it, but if anyone doesn’t know their neighborhood group, in the short term, I’d be happy to tell you if there is one – we answer tons of questions via e-mail all the time and after six years of doing this fulltime, it’s a quick answer. (Or ask in comments.) editor@westseattleblog.com … also watch our daily “West Seattle Monday” (Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) calendar highlights because if there’s a neighborhood meeting on any given night, it’ll be mentioned in that daily list … TR
      Tonight, for example, is the second Tuesday, traditionally a busy night. Fauntleroy, Admiral, and High Point have neighborhood-council meetings, in addition to, as already mentioned, the West Seattle Transit Coalition meeting. **and moments after posting this, I received a note that the Junction Neighborhood Organization is meeting tonight, too**
      P.S. The law that changed the parking requirements, setting up what is happening now, is three years old. I had to look it up last night and so if anyone is interested in reading it, here’s the link.

  • Zark November 12, 2013 (2:10 pm)

    VB – great point about intra-West Seattle transit!

    Can’t some enterprising young person start a little local taxi thing or something?
    Could something like Car2Go work as a micro-local transit solution? Just thinking out loud.

    Sneakery doesn’t get mentioned much, the staff is excellent, they’re great with kids, and the shoes I buy there last way beyond the kids growing out of them. They are seriously great with kids.

  • Kels November 12, 2013 (2:32 pm)

    I’ll second the love for the Sneakery. I’ve become a walking billboard for them — everyone asks where I got my bright kicks, laces and stripey socks and I send em there. They have all the traditional styles and the really fun stuff too. And for dress-up shoes, oh how I adore Edie’s.

Sorry, comment time is over.