WHEN WE ASKED five local real estate experts to identify the next hot neighborhoods, every single one of them named Columbia City. The residential enclave bisected by Rainier Avenue South has quietly nurtured its small-town charms for over a decade, drawing young families who are attracted to its respectable stock of modestly priced housing, parks and playgrounds, and 52 registered day care centers close by. One real estate observer likened the neighborhood to the old Ballard before it became the new Ballard. Now, with the advent of light rail, commute times just got shorter, and development and amenities are expected to follow. A tipping point is at hand.

Speaking of places on the verge, there’s the ongoing extreme makeover of South Lake Union. Formerly a sort of derelict nowhereville with a few crumbling houses, what we now call SLU seems to have just plopped down and sprung up in the Cascade neighborhood overnight. (It didn’t of course, and it will be torn apart by construction for some time to come.) Still, the place is crawling with tech brainiacs who work at PATH, Group Health, and Amazon—and it may soon be crawling with even more Amazonians, when the company fills those 1,900 jobs listed on its website. And no one will go hungry. Seattle restaurants such as Flying Fish, Tutta Bella, and a constellation of Tom Douglas enterprises will be on hand to feed them all. (Note to city zoners: Maybe it’s time to officially change the name to South Lake Union.)

Looking even further into the future, we can expect to hear more about Bothell, which has partnered with SLU’s Vulcan Real Estate to update its downtown; or Pioneer Square, where a movement to revitalize the city’s oldest neighborhood is being led in part by an East Coast transplant whose blog champions the cause. In the meantime the best way to track ongoing shifts in King County is to follow the numbers. In the interactive chart at seattlemet.com/realestate, you can compare fluctuating home prices, demographic shifts, walk scores, miles of bike lanes, and more for 107 neighborhoods, all updated for 2011.

But mostly, this issue celebrates the places we live now in the words of people who know and love their quiet residential streets or the bustling pedestrian scene or the hopping nightlife or the genuine friendliness of the people next door.

Katherine Koberg
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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