Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Group offers guidance on future of Lake City. One suggestion: Find our identity

Kay Knapton, retired from the West Seattle Junction Association, talks about neighborhood identity, something arguably lacking in Lake City.

Lake City neighbors gathered at the Community Center Tuesday night during a "Coffee Talk" to hear from community planners in an event sponsored by the American Planning Association's Community Planning Team and the Lake City Neighborhood Alliance.

Featured speakers Kan Knapton and Greg Easton spoke to residents about planning the future of Lake City, considering the potential redevelopment of properties owned by the Pierre Family.

For those that don't keep up with neighborhood news, the Pierre family has approached members of the Lake City community to share ideas as they consider redeveloping some of their property in the neighborhood. The project is a long-term project, which is offering a significant and unique planning opportunity for Lake City. The opportunity seems to be attracting urban planners and others that recognize the potential of redeveloping a large swath of an urban community.

One particularly interesting item that was discussed by Kay Knapton, retired from the West Seattle Junction Association, was creating a neighborhood identity. We all know the identity that most pin on a map of Lake City. That unfortunate caricature of our neighborhood usually involves used car lots and strip clubs —instead of recognizing our parks, walkable neighborhood*, green belts, urban stream, diverse community or exploding population of young people.

"A unique image helps local residents identify with their neighborhood and attracts outside visitors. Identifying what is unique about community can create an identity around existing assets," said Knapton.

As examples she used Fremont, its funky art and the "Center of the Universe" theme, West Seattle and its murals, Ballard with its Scandinavian flags, shops and art, the U. District with its connection to the University of Washington.

An essay she wrote cited the Othello district and its work with ethnic businesses to develop a retail district with an international focus.

The examples of identity Knapton shared were all arts-oriented or population-oriented.

One idea mentioned was to highlight Lake City's cultural diversity and work to create an immigrant arts hub in Lake City. Lake City Greenways members have also proposed creating community street murals in Lake City to add a unique, identifying element to our neighborhood. Another suggestion was to embrace Lake City's ties to the automobile with art made from cars.

During the meeting other Seattle neighborhoods were used as examples of successful community planning. West Seattle and Columbia City were noted for their redevelopment, successful adoption of an image and results that have become favorable to the community.

The meeting was the first in a series of Coffee Talk meetings taking about the future of Lake City. Future meetings will discuss transportation, urban design and density and a final meeting is tentatively planned to discuss housing and diversity.

We will let you know about future meeting dates so you can attend.

*Even without the benefit of sidewalks our neighborhood consistently scores high as a walkable community.


  1. It seems to me that a unique identity of Lake City is it's "north end/northern entrance" to the city location. The Mexibar El Norte recognized this; also think of another nearby area, North City, that has successfully embraced this theme. Even the Lake City Pioneer Days could be tied into this -- we are kind of out in the sticks, but we could embrace it; we are pioneers, we're in the part of the city with big trees, big yards, and big hopes. By using these themes as an identity, it would at least help people to know where we are, as well as what we are. Lake City, the "Northern Gateway" or "North Hub" perhaps?

  2. We are the last suburb of Seattle. It is 1950s retro, Leave it to Beaver land. Land of backyard barbecues, tall trees, wood shops, garage bands; do-it-yourself: gardens, remodels, art projects, chickens; it is know-your-neighbors, chats over the fence, on casual walks, at community meetings, or run-ins at the stores and shops; it is large-dog friendly; it is quiet, private, a place to read, write, away from the madding crowd; it is the last affordable space for individual creativity; it is refreshingly unpretentious, and correspondingly unattractive to the self-consiously fashionable; it is what it is, and trying to call it this or that won't change it or outsiders' impressions.


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