Henry Liebman makes a lot of sense. But I still don't feel good about him having his way with the Sodo neighborhood, south of Safeco Field...
Henry Liebman makes a lot of sense.
But I still don’t feel good about him having his way with the Sodo neighborhood, south of Safeco Field. Liebman bought up huge chunks of Sodo, with plans to transform the industrial area into white-collar business campuses and shopping for the well-heeled.
I’ve heard even people who work in offices and live in condos bemoan the loss of true grit that would come with the erasure of one of the city’s few remaining industrial islands, soon to go the way of Ballard, Fremont and South Lake Union.
Some of those folks live in complexes that replaced warehouses or small manufacturers.
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Liebman says the changes he wants are inevitable.
They may be, but only because we paved the way. The city has worked hard attracting upscale development.
Liebman notes that, in other areas, city leaders encouraged the changes he wants to make in Sodo. And wasn’t the city glad to have two new stadiums dropped into the area?
Cities crave development that will increase the tax base by attracting more people, who will spend more money.
In a Seattle Times story Friday, Liebman talked about the demographic shifts already in progress. Wealthier people are moving into the city, escaping commutes that get longer every year and displacing people who can’t compete for housing with only average paychecks.
He didn’t create that dynamic. But he plans to profit from it, which is sound, all-American capitalism at work.
Heck, his company is called American Life. It thrives on foreign money attracted by a government program intended to support investments that create jobs.
So why all the moaning?
The pain will be felt by thousands of blue-collar workers and people whose best job prospects are in businesses that don’t require a college degree but still pay better than service-industry jobs.
The Port of Seattle will suffer from the loss of nearby warehouses and manufacturers, as will owners of those businesses.
Less tangible is how the disappearance of that blue-collar world will change Seattle’s social fabric. That concerns those of us not directly affected.
Maybe it’s the loss of people who will chuckle at you when you bring a cotton bag to the grocery store or walk a mouse-size dog on a leash.
OK, some of our ideas about class are simplistic, but there is a kernel of truth about the value of a diversity of ideas and backgrounds. And about keeping it real.
We worry when farmland is transformed into suburban tracts.
Lost farmland is not just about romantic notions of a connection to the land. When it’s lost, food has to come from farther away, which affects quality and increases risks.
We should be just as worried when blue-collar jobs vanish.
I’m wary of one person, driven solely by economics, having so much control. There is room for development in Sodo. But it also makes sense to retain the area’s viable businesses.
The city needs to exert its influence to meld those two possibilities.
Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.