In the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, an area once known for its distinctive old houses is being transformed.
Mark Huck lives in the shadow of giants.
The neighbor of the south is a nine-story apartment building. Immediately to his north are six new town houses under construction. And across the street, a three-story condo building.
And in the middle of it all is Huck, 53, in an actual Queen Anne-style house built way back in 1891.
Huck bought the house, designated a historic landmark, in 2000 for $550,000. It hadn’t been demolished and turned into condos or apartments like so many of its former neighbors because the nonprofit Historic Seattle bought and renovated the house in the 1970s and put a covenant on it to preserve it.
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“They were going to tear it down,” Huck said, sitting comfortably in his living room.
Dichotomy defines the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle, as decades of development have bulldozed most of the Queen Anne homes that gave the neighborhood its name. Lower Queen Anne is now a neighborhood of new with old sprinkled in.
“Except the old is going away,” said Jeff Eccles, a Windermere Real Estate agent who has sold a number of homes in the neighborhood.
And while a slice of Seattle history is fading away with the loss of old houses, the construction of relatively lower-priced condos is creating a neighborhood that is one of the most affordable in a city, Eccles said.
Recently, all 78 homes listed for sale in the neighborhood were condos, ranging in price from $145,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit to $735,000 for one with four bedrooms and one bath.
The median value of all condos in Lower Queen Anne, not just condos recently sold, was $344,500 in April, according to figures compiled by Seattle-based Zillow.com. Zillow’s Home Value Index shows that the median value of condos dropped 5.5 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, the median value of all single-family houses in Lower Queen Anne was $940,700 in April, down 12.5 percent year-over-year, the Zillow Home Value Index shows.
The official boundaries of the neighborhood stretch partway up Queen Anne Hill and down to Denny Way, from Aurora to Elliott Bay.
Lower Queen Anne also is home to a thriving restaurant and commercial district with the Space Needle, the iconic symbol of the 1962 World’s Fair, towering over it nearby.
“Really it comes down to great location,” Eccles said. “You can walk to the (Olympic) Sculpture Park; you can go to the Seattle Center. … It’s kind of like a little hidden area of Seattle. It’s not really on anybody’s radar as really hip and cool, but there’s a lot of housing down here and there’s a lot to do.”
And there were a lot of historic homes that have been lost as the city grew.
Leanne Olson, who works with the Queen Anne Historical Society, said two of the biggest losses to the area were the Kinnear Mansion and the Denny Home.
The Denny Home, also known as the Leslie Apartments, was moved in the early 20th century to Queen Anne Avenue and Republican Street before it was torn down.
The Kinnear Mansion, built in 1885, was donated by the family to the Methodist Church. It stood until 1958 when it was replaced by a retirement home.
“In the Lower Queen Anne area, it definitely was very residential in the early parts of the 20th century, and over time, a lot of that has been lost,” Olson said. “And, of course, a lot of it was exacerbated by the Seattle World’s Fair at the Seattle Center.”
So what do some of the residents of the new Lower Queen Anne think of the neighborhood?
For Frank Lott, whose ancestors settled in the Pacific Northwest, the decision to buy in Lower Queen Anne was a given after spending 20 years in New York City.
“When I moved back here, I was like ‘I want to live in Queen Anne,’ ” Lott, 50, said while gardening in front of the two-bedroom condo in a midcentury cedar-sided building he bought in 1999 for $199,000. “It’s just a really nice neighborhood.”
When Lott talks about the things he loves the most about living there, he echoes Eccles, and mentions such things as Seattle Center and the Space Needle being within walking distance.
Lott also talks about the sense of community he gets from living in a walking-oriented community.
“Like New York, I can walk to everything I need,” Lott said. “My post office is here; my groceries are all here. Everything is within a five-minute walk. I find that I really don’t have to use my car that much when I’m home because I can get everything I need within walking distance. It’s really great.”
And the growth continues. Ground was broken this past week on a 204-unit apartment project called Avalon Queen Anne at Third Avenue West and West Thomas Street. The project is being built on the site of the old Mountaineers Club building.
A century after it was first developed, Lower Queen Anne continues to evolve.
But it may take a few more years before its residents accept the “Uptown” moniker that some business interests have long advocated for the neighborhood.
“I’ve heard Lower Queen Anne referred to as Seattle Uptown,” Eccles said. “As neighborhoods get more cachet, sometimes they re-market themselves. So you never know. Five years from now, we may be calling Lower Queen Anne Seattle Uptown.”