Among Seattle neighborhoods, median wages of residents are predictably rising fastest in South Lake Union. But the 10 neighborhoods showing the biggest income gains are spread all around the city, from Rainier Beach to Matthews Beach.
Stagnant wages have plagued American workers in many places — but not Seattle. As regular readers of this column are aware, we’ve experienced some of the biggest income gains among major cities in recent years.
The median wage for someone who lives in Seattle and works full-time was around $61,000 in the five-year period from 2011 to 2015 — a 13 percent increase from the 2006-to-2010 period, according to census data. That is the fourth-largest growth in earnings among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.
The median wage is midpoint of the salary spectrum — half the workforce earns more, half earns less.
But even here in Seattle, fortune smiled more brightly on some neighborhoods than others.
To find out where wealth is growing fastest in the city, I ranked Seattle census tracts by the percent change in residents’ earnings since the start of this decade. The top 10 neighborhoods, as it turns out, are not concentrated in one area — rather, they are spread throughout the city. Some are poorer parts of town experiencing gentrification. But others are already affluent neighborhoods that are getting even richer.
You can probably guess the No. 1 neighborhood.
Gentrification, revitalization — whatever you want to call it, you’d be hard pressed to find a more compelling rags-to-riches story among urban neighborhoods in the U.S. than South Lake Union/Denny Triangle.
1. South Lake Union/Denny Triangle (East)
In 2010, when Amazon moved here from Beacon Hill, this was still a low-rent area. The median wage for a full-time worker living here was estimated at $39,400, which ranked in the bottom 15 percent in the city.
Fast forward to 2015. Median earnings among residents of the neighborhood — now crammed full of luxury apartment buildings — more than doubled to $91,600. Folks living in this census tract, which runs from Westlake Avenue to Interstate 5, now rank as the seventh-highest-paid in the city, just behind the well-heeled inhabitants of Montlake.
The No. 2 tract covers the western half of the same neighborhood, and No. 3 is in downtown’s shopping hub, which is rapidly becoming an upscale address. But similar transformations are happening all over the city.
4. Rainier Beach/Dunlap
Salaries of people who live there jumped 47 percent. But in a city that is rapidly running out of affordable neighborhoods for homebuyers, it’s not surprising to see an influx of wealth in this area. And the Rainier Beach light-rail stop makes it a quick commute to downtown.
A similar, if less dramatic, transformation is under way in the No. 5 neighborhood, Beacon Hill, also in South Seattle and near light rail. And in the Hilltop section of rapidly gentrifying Capitol Hill (No. 8), wages soared from well below the city median to slightly above it.
8. Capitol Hill
Some of the areas with the sharpest increases in earnings were already quite affluent to begin with: Matthews Beach (No. 6), Madison Park (No. 7), Admiral in West Seattle (No. 9) and Bryant/View Ridge (No. 10).
9. Admiral/West Seattle
Teardowns of older and often more modest homes are increasingly common sights in these neighborhoods. And if the property lot is large enough, you’ll probably find a pair of flat-roofed modernist boxes have replaced the original home. The walkable Admiral neighborhood has also seen a boom in luxury-apartment construction around California Avenue.
10. Bryant/View Ridge