The aptly named Junction neighborhood is much more than just the historic convergence of California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street.
With its mix of early-20th-century Craftsman homes and brand-new apartments, record stores and trendy boutiques, traditional delis and hip brew pubs, everything comes together in this short stretch of retail and its surrounding residential side streets.
“You’ll see rockers, professionals, couples, skaters, seniors, artists and individualists,” says Susan Melrose, director of the West Seattle Junction Association, who has lived within walking distance of the Junction since 1998.
“It’s like living in a small town and feeling a camaraderie with folks who are drawn to the Junction for business, pleasure, shopping or an outing.”
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The Junction is located less than a mile from the West Seattle Bridge. California Avenue Southwest runs through its core, roughly from Southwest Charleston Street at the north end to Southwest Edmonds Street to the south.
Nearly 6,000 residents live in the area, which stretches west to 51st Avenue Southwest and east to Fauntleroy Way Southwest.
Most of the residents are homeowners, according to Seattle-based Zillow, an online real-estate database. But a growing number of renters are making the scene, too.
Oregon 42 Apartments opened a block west of California Avenue Southwest this summer, offering a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units, and live/work lofts. And construction continues at 4730 California, a collection of luxury apartments scheduled for completion next year.
Elsewhere on California, iconic spots such as Easy Street Records and Husky Deli have been drawing shoppers from near and far for years.
Music lovers thumbing through the racks and bins at Easy Street report the occasional sighting of a member of the rock group Pearl Jam. At Husky Deli, three generations of the Miller family have been handing out scoops of homemade ice cream and catering social events since 1932.
Retailers benefit from the Junction’s accessibility (it’s rated “very walkable” by Walk Score, a Seattle-based company that provides walkability ratings) and free parking — a rarity for Seattle-area shoppers.
“The Junction has great restaurants, fun cafés, unique shops and a friendly small-town vibe,” Melrose says. “Most Junction businesses are owned by West Seattleites who have roots in our community, and it shows with their commitment to bring the best to our neighborhood.”
The Junction’s name dates back to 1907, when two streetcar lines were connected at California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street.
Almost overnight, the area became the commercial center of West Seattle. It has had its ups and downs through the years, but the opening of the new West Seattle Bridge in the 1980s solidified the neighborhood’s connection to the city.
Residents don’t have to travel downtown for live entertainment, thanks to ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery. The theater, which has produced more than 500 artistic and cultural events since 1998, reopens next week after closing for a six-week refurbishment. It will present “The Taming,” a comedy based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” in October.
Whether she’s getting her morning coffee or waiting to cross at the Junction’s walk-all-ways intersection, Melrose says it’s a sense of community that makes it a special place to live and work.
“My favorite aspect of our neighborhood is the connections I make,” she says. “There are so many businesses and workers in this small district, which creates a unique community.”