Real cities have industry. Real cities have grit. Real cities have places where steel gets machined, where cabinets get built, where cars and boats get fixed, where work gets done.
Gentrification can be great, unless it sweeps clean the breadth of a city, purging out the factories, lumber yards, steel shops and institutions necessary for an authentic city to function and be true to the resources it requires.
Like many cities, Seattle is becoming gentrified to a point of concern. We’re going to pick on the neighborhood of Ballard today but, from what we’ve seen, our criticisms could be directed at just about any large city in the U.S. lately. Originally an industrial part of town serving the fishing industry, Ballard developed the fabrication shops and trades necessary to work everything from steel to wood to concrete. Ballard was the real deal; you could get the job done in Ballard.
Within the last decade the industry has come to a grinding halt, replaced by a wealth of restaurants so diverse it feels like a theme park <insert Disney analogy here>. French -no problem try Bastille, Italian you say –head to Volterra, Mexican –of the three possibilities it doesn’t get any better than La Carte de Oaxaca, Spanish tapas –you simply must try the Tortilla Española at Ocho, a wine bar – go to Portalis, Americana –King’s Hardware, Burlesque –got it, Thai –check, pub food –more than you can visit. This is all on one street by the way. In fact, every nationality we can think of is represented… except for the Scandinavians –Ballard’s original heritage. Now we don’t want to fall into a grumpy Norwegian mindset – but isn’t this getting a bit out of hand? Ballard, like most neighborhoods in well-to-do cities, no longer produces anything; it no longer serves a purpose outside of pleasure.
Hey we’re just as guilty as anyone – many a martini has been consumed in Ballard, not to mention that incredible steak frites at the French place. But we’re also architects and builders and we rely on a diversity of wood shops, steel workers and concrete plants to do what we do. As you go about your business this weekend we propose trying on a different filter –one of good old blue collar elbow grease and getting things done. Cities don’t need to be gentrified to be beautiful, inspiring and forward thinking. The photo above is the facade of Scott Galvanizing in Ballard (yup, that is the pretty side). It’s in a great location and its quite likely that a line of boutique restaurateurs and condo developers are ready to pounce at any moment. But for now, it’s real and it’s beautiful and we’re grateful that you can still get steel galvanized in Ballard.
Cheers to getting real work done.