Crunchy – But in a Good Way

Wallingford

When Jordan Schwartz moved to Wallingford from the East Coast in 1993, he found a neighborhood overrun by felines. “You couldn’t walk down the street without seeing cats,” he says. “They were all over.” Nearly 20 years later, he still feels outnumbered by animals, but the predominant species has changed. “What I see now are chickens,” he says with a laugh. “There are like two chicken coops per block.”

You could chalk up the fowl frenzy to the fact that Wallingford is home to the sustainable-gardening nonprofit Seattle Tilth. But it may also say something about the brand of progressive, civic-minded, earth-friendly people who live there. “There’s something very Main Street and homey about Wallingford,” Schwartz says. “There are people out in their front-yard gardens talking to neighbors as they walk by. You’ve got the crunchiness of Fremont without quite the acid twist.”

Falling in Love with Itself All Over Again

Burien

Ten years ago, you couldn’t walk a block in Burien without hearing someone mutter, “We need more restaurants. I’m tired of driving to Seattle to eat.” It’s not that West Seattle’s southern neighbors had an aversion to the big city; most would have told you that they loved how easy it was to hop on State Route 509 and scoot down to the Pike Place Market. No, the problem was that they saw potential in their own sleepy downtown and pined for an excuse to stick close to home.

Well, a lot has happened in the last decade, not the least of which was a mini explosion of restaurant and nightlife options along Southwest 152nd Street, Burien’s main drag. Now, instead of trucking up to Seattle because they don’t have a choice, the locals head downtown to take a break from the activity in their own backyard. “The city has fallen back in love with itself,” says Debra George, Discover Burien’s event coordinator.

And in just the last two years, that love affair has been heating up. With the completion of a new mixed-use city center that includes a town hall, a library, and space for a bustling farmers market, B-Town’s residents are feeling downright bullish about their city’s future. “We’re four minutes from the airport, but we don’t hear the planes,” George says. “We have great water views. We have private parks. It’s like this hidden little secret.”

Urban Living in the Heart of Suburbia

Issaquah Highlands

You don’t move to the Issaquah Highlands to spread out. You practically need a shoehorn to shimmy between houses, and most lots are the size of a postage stamp. “No one moves there to be isolated,” says five-year resident and Issaquah City Councilmember Mark Mullet. “They move there because they want to interact with their community and they like to have a lot of shared park space instead of big backyards.”

Building a dense, walkable, retail-rich community was developer Port Blakely Communities’ objective when it broke ground on the New Urbanist enclave nearly 15 years ago. And although two recessions have slowed the commercial component of that plan—restaurants and coffee shops have only just begun popping up in the last couple years—buyers searching for an intimate relationship with their neighbors got exactly what they wanted. “Because of the proximity of our homes to each other and the centralized parks, people are encouraged to get out and get to know each other,” says Erick Zimmerman, who moved to the Highlands in 2000 with his wife, Renee.

And when they do get out and interact, it’s at a kidcentric function. Within a month of opening a Zeeks Pizza location in the neighborhood last year, Mullet scrapped Monday karaoke nights in favor of a kids-eat-free promotion. “That’s been like 10 times more successful,” he says with a laugh. “It’s like a breeding colony out here.”