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Seattle’s Growing Pains: Belltown Community Group Crafting Vision For Better Future

A small non-profit group is trying to preserve some of Belltown’s unique character. It has just closed comments on a community visioning project for the Seattle neighborhood. Members of the group hope to preserve historic sites and create economic vitality.  

The neighborhood now known as “Belltown” is named after Bell Street. And its cultural heart is the area around 2nd and Bell. That’s where you might find Evan Clifthorne on a warm afternoon, outside a bar or club, like the Crocodile or the Lava Lounge, or one of the many other places nearby.

“Neon Boots and Rabbit Hole and Mamma’s. You know it’s hard to pick one spot in Belltown that is identified as the heart and soul .”

He’s executive director of Project Belltown. They want to protect the community from big out-of-town development interests.  

“Because so many community bars and so many craft cocktail bars and restaurants provide gathering spaces. And these sort-of public spaces are where Belltowners gather, to meet each other and to build community,”said Clifthorne.  

And more and more of them are struggling to stay, because of development pressure and high-density zoning.

Project Belltown is about to release a community vision, after a year and a half of outreach and hundreds of public comments.

Clifthorne says a consultant has compiled it and the group is figuring out how to present it – online and perhaps also in print.

Future goals in the plan include creating truly affordable and stable middle-class housing through zoning, creating a new park where the Seattle Viaduct was after demolition work is done there and keeping a community center in the immediate neighborhood. 

The group's next public meeting will take place in October.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the photo caption that the grant was managed by the Department of Neighborhoods. It is managed by the Office of Economic Development. We regret the error.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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