"Where old Seattle meets new Seattle. In West Seattle. " That's the motto of the new High Point subdivision, on a bluff in the city's southwest...
“Where old Seattle meets new Seattle. In West Seattle.”
That’s the motto of the new High Point subdivision, on a bluff in the city’s southwest corner. It hints at this planned community’s utopian goal: to be a mixing chamber, where poor and well-off not only meet but live on the same blocks. The city tore down a barracks-style low-income housing project in 2003 and put up the anti-gated community: rows of big homes with granite and hardwoods (top price: $609,000) intermingled with rental duplexes and apartments for the poor.
“It’s like three worlds out here,” says Ken Davis, 52, an underemployed computer tech who gave me a walking tour. “You’ve got old working-class Seattle — guys like me with too much junk in their yards. You’ve got the subsidized renters. Then you’ve got the new people, the ones buying these luxury homes.”
Last week, worlds supposed to mix began to clash.
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A man from “the yuppie side of High Point” unleashed an incendiary critique on his community blog (highpointblog.wordpress.com). Robert Hadley, who bought a townhouse on the border of the project in April, says loitering, crime and fear are on the rise.
He wrote that High Point feels like “Tangier and not West Seattle.” He blamed the renters, many of whom are immigrants.
“Every once in a while I see glimpses of the diversity dream that’s always talked about in the papers,” he told me. “But I also see crime taking off, a lot of people loitering around up to no good. When you spend this much for a home, you expect better than this.”
At least some High Point homeowners agreed. One wrote about a recent street brawl. Another said, ironically, that what High Point needs is a gate, with a guard, to ward off “unwanted guests.”
Ken Davis, who was there in the old days when High Point was 100 percent renters, says it’s all relative. It’s much better now, he says.
“We knew this war on the poor was coming,” he says. “A lot of people fought very hard to keep High Point for the poor. If a bunch of jerks like this buy up the pricey houses — people who have no clue what it means to live in a city — then there’s going to be conflict.
“They’re not going to push out the poor if I have anything to say about it.”
I wandered around High Point last week. It’s like no housing project I’ve ever seen. It shines with promise. It feels cut right out of the suburbs, with rows of bright town houses, community gardens and manicured pocket parks.
It’s so egalitarian in feel that at one point I couldn’t tell if I was standing amid low-income rentals or upscale condos.
It’s the opposite of what’s happening in downtown Seattle. Downtown, you have separate universes. The grit of the street and the glitter of the condo palaces. One is horizontal, the other vertical. By design they rarely meet.
High Point is at least striving for something else. It seems essential. If we can’t get along when we live on the same blocks, where will we?
Last week showed that’s not enough. It’s going to take a lot more than architecture to bring old and new Seattle together.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.