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South Lake Union Residents Give Us The Real SLU View

The People's Guide is Curbed Seattle's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say about your 'hood? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome photographer extraordinaire and stay-at-home dad Aaron Briggs, as well as Vulcan Real Estate Community Relations Associate Noelle Smithhart to give us an inside look into the Curbed Cup-winning neighborhood South Lake Union.


Image: Wikimedia

How long have you lived in the neighborhood?
Aaron Briggs: We moved to Veer Lofts, December, 2007 as the economy was tanking.

Noelle Smithhart: I've lived in South Lake Union since the fall of 2008.

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?
AB: Ours is one of the few condo buildings in the neighborhood, the majority are apartments.

NS: The neighborhood is mostly apartment rentals. There are only a few condo buildings.

Better for buyers or renters?
AB: Buyers - if you can, but there are few opportunities. Property values are close to pre-economy-tanking days.

NS: It's a great place to own, but the stock of condos is very low. There are a lot of older and new apartment buildings, and many more units on the way.

Do you need a car to get around?
AB: No - almost never. I think we keep our car because we have a young kid and we're just paranoid enough to think we might really need it one day.

NS: I've been car-free for about 4 years. Between public transportation, car-sharing options like car2go, and services like Uber and Lyft, there are always lots of options for getting around. It's very easy to walk places as well. My favorite thing about SLU is how central we are to so many other great neighborhoods.

Most reliable public transit?
AB: We love the streetcar. The bus schedule is great too, really, but you can walk most places you want to be.

NS: There are a lot of great bus options, and there are more coming soon. Plus, we're incredibly close to downtown transit hubs.

Nearest grocery store?
AB: For the past few years we've used Amazon Fresh, but Whole Foods and QFC are a short walk away.

NS: Whole Foods. Note: it's not as expensive as you think. I think of my lifestyle as very European. I walk to the store several times a week to get fresh ingredients to cook with that evening. I like to shop what's local, in-season, and on-sale when I can.

Good for kids?
AB: Yes - at least it is for our kid. The proximity to parks and museums couldn't be better. All the coffee shops know our daughter likes extra foam in her hot chocolate, no whip. We are zoned to take her to school in Capitol Hill, a mile and a half away, for kindergarten. I would note, having a concrete floor at Veer was difficult while she learned to walk, but now her reflexes are great. More families would come to SLU if there were more two-bedroom condos for them.

NS: While there aren't a lot of families in the neighborhood, the ones I know make it work and embrace an urban lifestyle. There are great parks and family-friendly businesses like Playdate.

Best place to get a coffee?
AB: Kakao, at 415 Westlake, is the best quality and least expensive. If I can wait for the seven minute walk, nothing beats Vivace.

NS: We have some of the best coffee shops in the city in SLU. Espresso Vivace is arguably as good as it gets. La Toscanella and Caffe Torino tie for unique cafes that are great for coffee dates with friends. Uptown Espresso is awesome for lagre group coffee meetings. And Kakao is my favorite place for hot chocolate. Finally, if I'm in a hurry, there's a Herkimer window a block from home where I can get my coffee fix without even having to go inside

Best park?
AB: The children's playground at Denny Park has been our daughter's favorite. We think of SLU Park and the Seattle Center as out backyard.

NS: Lake Union Park. Our other parks are great, but it's hard to beat the views across the water, and being able to visit MOHAI and The Center for Wooden Boats. I love taking my nieces to the spray park there in the summer, and watching people use the model boat pond.

Beloved neighborhood joint?
AB: We sent Christmas cards to Serious Biscuit and Tutta Bella.

NS: Tough call, but I have to go with Brave Horse Tavern. When it opened five years ago, it offered a big open space, and an active gathering spot. I love their tap selection and food menu too.

Best-kept secret?
AB: Rigoletto, an Italian restaurant, has fantastic food, in a beautiful space but a bit hidden from the streets.

NS: Ten on 9th. It's small and has some of the best frittes and cocktails in the city. Then, walk up a few blocks to Spencer Finch's There is Another Sky. The walk-through alley is a perfect place to have a quiet moment in the middle of the city. Look up and take in the beautiful glasswork.

Stereotypical residents?
AB: I try not to make eye contact or smile too much, to blend better with the larger Seattle culture, but I would say there isn't a strong single stereotype. In SLU there's a good mix of residents working at Amazon and Microsoft, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine, but many small business owners and freelancers, like myself, too. Most of the ethnic and racial diversity in SLU, I think, is thanks to Amazon.

NS: I have a hard time with this question. The people I know who live here are a full range of people – some are empty-nesters, some are the young urban professional types, some are artists, some are musicians, some are scientists, some are architects. We embrace living close to downtown, walking, and wanting to help break this neighborhood in with character. And yes, there are a lot of people who live here who work for Amazon. And Microsoft. But that's just a given for our region.

Are the stereotypes true?
AB: Around six blocks, you do see many badge wearing Amazonians but the badges are necessary to enter the offices - its a convenience thing more than a fashion choice.

NS: When you get to know individuals, it's hard to see the stereotypes.

Who wouldn't be happy here?
AB: It's hard to imagine: people that enjoy mowing a lawn; those who enjoy long drives before and after work. Where else but South Lake Union you can test-drive a Tesla, eat from food trucks, watch Jello Wrestling, catch a sea-plane to the islands or an ice-cream ferry on Sundays, and still be in walking distance to a ballet?

NS: If you want a big house with a backyard, and you love driving everywhere, then SLU is not for you.

Most common sight?
AB: You can often see me wandering around SLU with my cameras and a coffee. Please, say hello.

NS: Seaplanes coming in for a landing. Especially on sunny days!