Seattle Culture

Publisher’s Note: A Sense of Place

What makes Seattle distinctive and unique?

By Jonathan Sposato March 11, 2024

Photograph of Jonathan Sposato, owner and publisher of Seattle and Seattle Business magazines

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Growing up in Edmonds during the 1970s, many beautiful attributes of the Pacific Northwest became inseparable from my notion of what “Seattle’’ really was. I vividly remember the smell of the beach, the sound of ferry boats, and an indelible sense of community from the city’s small-town feel.

Fishing with my Dad off the pier, we enjoyed spectacular Sunset magazine like views of the ocean and the mountains that, in time, we would take for granted. For basketball games, we were often taken to neighboring Bothell, Shoreline, or Everett. Each felt distinct but unified by a sense of informality and friendliness that eluded the east coast neighborhoods where our extended family lived.

As we became teenagers, our world view expanded further — via 10-speed bicycles procured at Fred Meyer or Chubby & Tubby — to include progressively denser areas like Greenwood (site of the best hobby store in the world, American Eagles), Ballard, and even downtown.

Yes, there was a time when it was indeed possible for a pack of 13-year olds to make a day trip of bicycling all the way downtown via Aurora or Greenwood avenues. It was a toss up which was the bigger challenge: getting to Golden Age Collectables or finding a safe place to stow your bike once there. All was well as long as you were home before dinner.

Landing for the first time in Kirkland while fostering a budding college romance was like crossing into another country. I had not realized until then the thrill of waterskiing off a freshwater dock. As friendship circles continued to widen, wholly distinctive neighborhoods different from my own such as the Central District or White Center became new epicenters of social activity. To date, there is still only one Ethiopian restaurant off Rainier Avenue South that invokes a strong nostalgia for my early 20s.

This issue celebrates these characterful and memorable neighborhoods. While most city magazines tend to focus on conventional notions of “Best Neighborhoods,” often defined simply by housing values or degree of gentrification, we chose to take a different tack. What are the neighborhoods that still invoke passion from those who live there, while at the same time continuing to evolve their highly defined sense of place, one that is uniquely “Seattle?”

Redefining the usual “10 Best Neighborhoods,” we’d like to think of these as “The 10 Most Interesting;” “Up and Coming;” and, in some cases, maybe even “Off Your Radar” neighborhoods. While we can’t possibly touch on every such community in one issue, we’ve spotlighted nine that to us represent the Seattle of the present and future: welcoming, inclusive, and smart.

To further showcase Seattle’s distinctiveness, we are also delighted to collaborate with our wonderful colleagues at Greater Seattle Partners, a public-private economic development corporation. As part of Greater Seattle Partners’ ongoing “Uncommon Thinkers” campaign, we showcase five Korean American Seattleites who exemplify our region’s unique knack for thinking differently, while driving positive change that benefits all Americans.

We are honored to help Greater Seattle Partners — in advance of its leadership mission to Korea — affirm and grow Seattle’s longstanding economic, educational, and cultural ties to the country. We’re honored that Seattle magazine can play a small part in uniting us all, whether it’s between your own neighborhood and the other communities we’ve highlighted, or between Seattle and beyond.

Locally or globally, we are indeed all neighbors.

About the Publisher’s Note Column

Publisher's Note is Seattle magazine owner Jonathan Sposato's highly subjective perspective on the issues that confront our community the most.  Jonathan's mission with the publication is to focus our attention on solutions, and to change the conversation in Seattle to an always hopeful, positive, and productive place.

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