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Curbed Cup 1st round: (1) Columbia City vs. (16) Madrona

Which neighborhood should advance? Cast your vote now!


We’ve tallied up your nominations, pored through previous brackets, and seed-ranked 16 different Seattle neighborhoods. You’ll be voting on two of them

Columbia City

First up is Columbia City, which seeded first this round for obvious reasons: Not only is it last year’s Curbed Cup champion, it’s Seattle’s only neighborhood to win the Curbed Cup twice. In 2014, it beat out Georgetown for the top spot, and just last year, it dominated Ballard to become No. 1.

This neighborhood has deep roots. Its downtown area—which gives it a small-town vibe in the middle of the city—is one of the city’s eight historic districts. That includes one of the local hotspots that makes it so popular today: The Columbia City Theater, built in 1920 as a movie house, which frequently hosts local favorites, up-and-comers, and national acts alike. Other joints that keep Columbia City’s arts scene vibrant include the Royal Room, the Rainier Arts Center, and arts collective Columbia City Gallery.

One of the larger local conversations around the neighborhood this year stemmed from a widely criticized June column by the Seattle Times’s Nicole Brodeur: “Shooting a ‘reality check’ for changing Columbia City,” where she characterized the neighborhood as “historically a pass-through” (but “now it’s a destination”) while describing a shooting on Rainier Avenue.

In a response published by the South Seattle Emerald, author Sharon H. Chang said the article “idolizes” gentrification: “If Brodeur had bothered to take the time to learn about the history of Columbia City and the Rainier Valley from more of its long-term residents of color, she would have heard a very different story... it was only a pass-through for white people.”

The bottom line: It’s a neighborhood both steeped in history and popular with its new residents, and it’s going to be a tough one to beat this year, too. As resident Ray Akers said when writing in to nominate it for this year’s Curbed Cup: “Columbia City is a vibrant community with a culture and identity all its own.”


While Columbia City rapidly changes, with new businesses and apartment developments popping up all the time, Madrona has been slow and steady. It’s remained largely a single-family neighborhood without as much new development as many Seattle neighborhoods.

Madrona does have a similar small-town feel in some ways, though. A walkable central business strip on 34th Avenue is also lined with older brick buildings filled with small businesses, including family-friendly pub the Madrona Arms, American and Ethiopian restaurant Cafe Soleil, the Hi Spot Cafe, and St. Clouds.

“People know each other,” said resident Fabian Ahmadi over email. “It has a village feel to it.” Ahmadi also notes that the neighborhood has big block parties for both Halloween and Mayfair.

While it’s not always the first Seattle neighborhood to come to mind, it’s extraordinarily central, near Downtown, Capitol Hill, and Madison Valley. It’s one of the more central neighborhoods to line Lake Washington, too—its eponymous park, which is also home to Spectrum Dance Theater, is a very popular swimming and picnic spot.

Regardless of whether you’re at the park or not, though, the neighborhood’s hillside locale means sweeping views of the lake from most spots.

We haven’t seen Madrona in a Curbed Cup ranking since 2013, when it failed to make it past the first round. But who knows? This could be its year.

Which neighborhood should advance this week? Remember, polls close after 24 hours.

Columbia City Theater

4916 Rainier Avenue South, , WA 98118 Visit Website