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Seattle Times

Sunday, May 25, 2008 - Page updated at 12:32 PM


Only about seven miles northeast of Seattle, the Wedgwood neighborhood can seem like miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.


Only about seven miles northeast of Seattle, the Wedgwood neighborhood can seem like miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.


The Wedgwood Barber Shop on 35th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 75th Street. Groceries, the post office and the library are within easy walking distance in Wedgwood.


Population: 14,549 (including neighboring View Ridge, 2000 census)

Distance to downtown Seattle: About 7 miles

Recreation: The nearby Burke-Gilman Trail, a popular bicycling, walking and running route; Waldo J. Dahl Playfield, 7700 25th Ave. N.E. Includes playground, wading pool, basketball court, soccer and baseball fields.

Corrected version

Wedgwood is made for walking

By Lisa Rivera

Special to The Seattle Times

It should probably be etched in the greeting sign: "Welcome to Wedgwood — walkers welcome."

Or maybe just change the name of the neighborhood to "Walkwood" since Wedgwood (named after the English china) is probably the most misspelled neighborhood in the city. Even the Seattle city clerk's "Neighborhood Map Atlas" incorrectly spells it "Wedgewood."

But that hasn't lessened its appeal. Its location, affordability — and, yes, its walkability — have made it what many say is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the city.

On any given day in Wedgwood, it seems most who can are out for a walk. With dogs on leashes or coffee cups in hand, they're blazing trails, rain or shine.

Ask where they are going and their answers are all over the place: to the bank, the grocery, the post office. Pretty much anywhere they need to go in Wedgwood, they can walk to.

"People really do get out and walk here," said David Atcheson, Wedgwood Community Council president. "And we've got a lot of what we need right here."

Only about seven miles northeast of downtown Seattle, Wedgwood is still worlds away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life, and that suits many residents, such as Brad Coulter, just fine.

"It does have kind of a small-town feel," the father of two said. "Within a mile radius, we can get most services we need."

With two full-service groceries, the North East Branch of the Seattle Public Library, an assortment of professional services and plenty of popular cafes, it's no surprise that homes for sale can be hard to come by in Wedgwood.

"Most of the houses I looked at here when I was buying were in bidding wars," Coulter recalls of his home search three years ago. "I was losing a lot of those."

But even in the frenzy, Coulter said he was able to secure his three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,500-square-foot Balch home — named after early Wedgwood developer Albert Balch — for a relatively reasonable $360,000. It's on a 6,000-square-foot lot with towering cedar and fir trees.

"I know I couldn't buy this house for that price today," Coulter said.

Odds are, he's right.

"The market in Wedgwood has been high flying for the last four to five years," said Paul McLaughlin, a real-estate agent for John L. Scott Real Estate. "[But] Wedgwood is still more affordable than other neighborhoods in the city."

According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the median sale price for Wedgwood single-family home was $488,000 from January to March of this year, only slightly higher than the citywide median price of $440,000 for that same period.

Kate Pedersen, a real-estate agent with Brio Realty who recently sold a home in Wedgwood, said the neighborhood's appeal is based in part because it is a pocket of affordability surrounded by more expensive neighborhoods.

While many homes in Wedgwood are, like Coulter's, Balch homes built 60 to 70 years ago, new construction is popping up throughout Wedgwood, along with a new breed of residents — younger ones.

"We've got quite a number of retired folks but also a large number of families with young kids now," Atcheson said.

The neighborhood has a lot of places residents can enjoy.

Check out the newly renovated Waldo J. Dahl Playfield — with its new playground, basketball court, wading pool, public art installation, and 10,000 square feet of wetlands restoration, achieved through four years of community effort.

There also is Wedgwood's annual Outdoor Cinema event, a popular community gathering held the second Saturday in July. This free event is made possible by sponsorship from local businesses and numerous volunteers, said Helen Yee, event chairwoman.

"There are things that are changing in the neighborhood, and it's definitely getting younger, getting lively," said Yee, editor of the neighborhood newsletter, the Wedgwood Echo. "Everyone would agree with that."

Another thing many residents agreed on last year was that a proposed condominium development, to be built at 35th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 87th Street, had to be dealt with.

"That was kind of a good educational process for us to be involved in, to try and get a handle of what kinds of development might be coming to Wedgwood and how we can engage in the process and help shape it," said Atcheson of the community's efforts to ensure the new complex would maintain the charm and character of the neighborhood.

Out of that effort was born the Wedgwood Action Group, led by resident Greg Raece, who worked closely with the Murray Franklyn Group, the developer of the planned four-story, 80 unit residential-over-retail project.

"What we were doing was trying to make it better and make it fit into the neighborhood," Raece said. "It's to the credit of the developer that they were willing to work with us."

Among the compromises worked out between the Wedgwood Action Group and the developer, according to Raece:

• No national chain, which is in the same business as any locally owned non-national business located within 1/2 mile of the project, will be permitted.

• No check-cashing shops, tanning salons or pawnshops will be allowed in the building.

A concession also was reached to address one of the neighborhood group's main concerns with the high-density development — how the developer would make the area around the building more pedestrian friendly?

"Density goes hand-in-hand with walking," Raece said. "So we thought that maybe improvements could be made."

In the process, the walkers won in Wedgwood.

Now, pending Seattle Department of Transportation approval, the developer has agreed to pay for a crosswalk across busy 35th Avenue Northeast.

"There are the things where you can fight a neighborhood, or you can negotiate with one," Raece said, "So I guess that's the [method of operation] in Wedgwood. Everyone will pretty much get up in arms and try to work something out.

"At the end of the day, it looks like it worked out."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company













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