12th Avenue Arts

Community Roots Housing Foundation

Funding Received: 2013
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 5, 2013


Vibrancy is the buzzword in community development these days, and it seems to be the quality every neighborhood wants (or is supposed to want). Seattle’s Pike/Pine neighborhood has vibrancy in spades. The challenge is becoming how to preserve it, and keep diverse, affordable uses.

The center of the action is unquestionably 10th and Pike - three blocks from 12th Avenue Arts. At this one intersection are four bars/restaurants, two live music venues and a dance club. Walk another 100 feet, and you come across an event space, two record stores, a used music instrument store, a great coffee shop, high-end retail, a KFC turned taco truck heaven, a cosmetology school, and the city’s best bookstore.

Without any planning, this intersection has become the city’s late night street party venue. When Obama was elected (twice), gay marriage legalized, and pot legalized, the people poured from the sidewalks and into the street. The cops stood back, the mobile DJ cart magically appeared, and the dancing began.
No one comes to this intersection because the parking is easy, the neighborhood is quiet, or they want to get away from people. They spontaneously show up to celebrate. They show up because of the density of welcoming, locally owned businesses, because of the nightlife, and because it’s where their friends will be.

Recent Wins

The city has continued to realize this street activity is important. First came the improved sidewalks, curb bulbs and crosswalks. Hot dog stands, and then food trucks have been welcomed. Taxi stands and parking for touring bands followed. And now there is talk of shutting down a side street on a regular basis (there is not yet consensus that this is a good idea).

The arts have been critical to this success. In addition to these bars and restaurants, there are at least five theaters within a few blocks, and two more to come at 12th Avenue Arts. The neighborhood is known as a place to see a show, as well as get a drink, a book, or excellent ice cream.

Insight / Provocation

Can there be too many bars and restaurants in one place? The energy makes for a great street party. But how do we preserve the other businesses and arts groups that make a place vibrant? The bookstore and other stores are holding on for now. But it’s a lot easier to make money selling booze than furniture or clothes. Let’s hope those arts spaces and shops are still around in five years.