As hipsterswill tell you, it's a great thing to move into a neighborhood totally unspoiled by yoga moms and software engineers. You are in on the ground floor of something cool—a part of town where most folks spend their lives working hard and drinking harder, where hipsters can play music or make art while living cheaply, inspired by being around honest people without imaginary issues. But where in Seattle does one find such a place? Ballard is so over. Capitol Hill is uninhabitable. Everybody knows about Georgetown now. And who wants to live in Fremont anymore?
I'm walking up and down 16th Avenue Southwest—heart of my beloved White Center—past pho restaurants, nail salons, a pawn shop, another pho restaurant, a Latino tattoo parlor, a Vietnamese grocer, a handful of rowdy bars, and an Asian herb shop where one can buy the best allergy medicine known to man. Alongside these businesses sits Full Tilt Ice Cream, Proletariat Pizza, and the soon-to-be-opened bar and restaurant, Company—all owned by folks peripherally involved in Seattle's punk and rock communities, which makes one thing clear: White Center is becoming rather hip.
"I think it's similar to how Ballard was 10 years ago," says Justin Cline, owner of Full Tilt, which has hosted all-ages rock shows since opening in 2008. "There were a ton of bands there, because you could buy or rent a house with a basement or garage. And great bands always come from working-class neighborhoods."
Before Full Tilt, there was no great reason for anyone to venture to White Center outside of great taco trucks and pho joints. But now that Cline's shop has given cool kids a reason via all-ages shows, he says many have had their eyes opened to what a great neighborhood it really is.
"We get a ton of people that thought White Center was a dangerous ghetto until they actually come and visit," he says. "We have a lower crime rate than the Junction area of West Seattle."
Now, don't get me wrong, White Center is not some hidden mecca of vinyl shops and indie booksellers. It's still a working-class 'hood, but it's a working-class 'hood where lots of folks from your favorite bands happen to live. For several years it's been home to members of The Duchess & the Duke, the Shins, and even some Sub Pop employees. That trend is likely to continue, since area housing prices remain relatively high and space within in the city is too cramped for playing music.
Pretty soon, White Center will hardly look the same. And you know how badly you want to be able to say: "I lived here before it was [fill in the blank]."