Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has 28 arts venues, from galleries and performance spaces to indie movie houses and music clubs. But only one in five arts organizations in the city actually owns its digs, putting the Hill’s arts culture at the mercy of skyrocketing rents. It’s a cruel irony. Developers are drawn to the neighborhood for its vibrant culture, driving prices up—and driving artists out. 

To address the problem, nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing is pushing the city to designate the neighborhood an arts district, which would make it easier to preserve arts spaces. At CHH’s kickoff meeting at Oddfellows in May, city council member Nick Licata, a proponent of the idea, asked the crowd how many people were born somewhere other than Seattle. Nearly every hand in the packed room went up. His point? Capitol Hill has traditionally been a magnet for nationwide talent. 

As millennials flock to cities—and cities compete for them—Seattle would be smart to play to its strengths and find ways to preserve and hype Capitol Hill’s creative cachet.

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