This is a tale of two city blocks. One, in downtown Seattle, is so dangerous and rotten with drug dealers that cops apparently won't go...
This is a tale of two city blocks.
One, in downtown Seattle, is so dangerous and rotten with drug dealers that cops apparently won’t go there in their off hours. “Is this block … at 10 p.m. at night someplace you would take your wife for a casual walk?” a Seattle police detective was asked this spring.
His response, in testimony for a drug case, wasn’t Chamber of Commerce material:
“I wouldn’t bring my wife for a casual walk during broad daylight at that location.”
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The other block is also downtown. It’s the premier development address in the city, builders say, with the best views amid the liveliest upscale urban community.
“Smack dab on the corner of Stravinsky + Sockeye,” says one condo brochure.
The price of admittance to one 143-unit tower going up there starts at $1 million. The penthouse units go for 10.
It’s not even a city block per se, one developer says, but “a complete lifestyle within a dynamic community, a new category we call an in-city resort.”
The story of Seattle, circa 2007, comes down to this: These two blocks share the same intersection.
Leroy Shumate has been working there 27 years. His shop, Leroy Menswear, sells purple and yellow suits and shoes for “gentlemen of distinction” near that corner, Second and Pike.
His doorway, beneath a security camera disguised as a street light, is the best place around to Seattle-watch.
Cruise-ship tourists stroll through. Businessmen and women clatter by, a blur of ties and blouses. High-school kids poke about for prom clothes. The skateboarders, the homeless, the heroin junkies are eddies in the current.
Shumate seems to know them all. He says neither the cop nor the developers have it quite right about this area.
“That cop must not have been here long,” he says. “There used to be prostitutes lined up from here to the freeway. Then the Alaska oil pipeline opened, and they all left.
“We’ve got some crack guys now. And our crazies, like that one who was down here swinging a samurai sword. But it used to be crazier. We used to cater to pimps. Now it’s software execs who want velvet suits for a costume party.”
But neither does he see the glass towers scrubbing clean the Pike Street multitudes. It didn’t happen when the Newmark condo tower opened on Second and Pike in the ’90s.
Out on that corner, a homeless guy, Manuel, offers me a foot-long switchblade — “$85 retail, but here only $15.” I ask him to show me around instead. He takes me to the county needle exchange to show the condos going up next door. Average price: $1.8 million.
Think they’ll need switchblades? I wonder.
Manuel shrugs. “They’ll need something.”
Later, I learn that tower promises a “residential amenity new to downtown Seattle: a porte-cochère.” That’s a French term for a fancy, covered drive-through to shield condo comers and goers from the indignities of the curb.
It seems the two blocks aren’t likely to become one. There will be the cop’s block, the block of the street. And a whole nother world in the sky.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.