Small-town glue bonds Montlake

When Matthew Johnson decided to open an antique store, he returned to the neighborhood where he grew up, Montlake.

In Johnson's estimation, it's a neighborhood that has almost everything — easy access to downtown Seattle, great restaurants and a strong sense of community.

In fact, he says it's missing only one thing: "All Montlake needs to be complete is a great little coffee shop," he says.

A steady flow of regulars entered Mr. Johnson's Antiques one recent rainy Sunday afternoon. Inside the nine-year-old store on Montlake's main commercial street, 24th Avenue East, is an eclectic mix of antiques, including Depression-era glass and silver napkin rings.

Outside, there's an eclectic mix of new developments in Montlake.

Just down the street, the new Montlake Branch of the Seattle Public Library is under construction. The 5,652-square-foot facility will replace the tiny 1,574-square-foot storefront branch that had served the community since 1944.

In addition to expanded space for books, the new library will have more seats and computers, a meeting room and an outdoor plaza. It's expected to open by the end of this year.

Right outside Johnson's store, 13-foot-high streetlights designed to shed light on pedestrians in the commercial district will soon be installed.

Johnson, who's worked to bring in the lights for three years, says they will make the compact district more inviting. But he does not expect or necessarily want the district to expand greatly.

One of the reasons Johnson chose to locate his business in Montlake is that it's not a saturated market.

"I wanted an area that was a neighborhood instead of a busy commercial area," Johnson says.

The commercial area remains small. Its restaurants include the family-friendly Montlake Ale House and the Italian restaurant Café Lago. Its sprinkling of stores include Mont's Market and Montlake Bicycle Shop.

Montlake is known for its strong neighborhood feel, buoyed by Montlake Elementary School, which residents fought last spring to keep open after it was slated to close, and Montlake Community Center, which is being renovated.

It's also known for its natural beauty. It's bordered roughly by Portage Bay and East Interlaken Boulevard to the west, Interlaken Park to the south, Washington Park Arboretum to the east and Lake Washington Ship Canal to the north.

Dean and Tayhee Collins have been looking at Montlake in their search for a house.

They want to move from their Capitol Hill condominium to a house where their 2-year-old son, Daniel, has more room to play and can be noisy without upsetting neighbors. The family spent one recent Sunday afternoon visiting an open house in Montlake.

"Location is one of the biggest factors," says Dean Collins, who works downtown leading a team of software developers.

The location and neighborhood feel has made Montlake a popular neighborhood, and the median price of a single-family house that sold there in the past six months was $525,000, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Bruce Ainslie, with Windermere Real Estate/Northwest, says location is one of the main reasons people like Montlake.

It's just across the Montlake Bridge from the University of Washington and its medical center, and it's a convenient spot for people who work on the East Side.

"I think the location is key, and there's definitely a neighborhood feel. People tend to know each other," Ainslie says.

Here's a dog's-eye view of Montlake outside the neighborhood branch library on 24th Avenue East. Just down the street, a new, bigger branch of the Seattle Public Library is under construction and should open by the end of the year. (ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES)


Population: 3,059

Schools: The Montlake neighborhood is served by the Seattle School District.

Housing: Of the 1,389 total housing units, 1,039, or 74.7 percent are owner-occupied, 274, or 19.7 percent are renter-occupied and 77, or 5.5 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities:

University of Washington Medical Center, 1959 N.E. Pacific St.

Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, 4800 Sand Point Way N.E.

Group Health Cooperative Hospital, 200 15th Ave. E.


Montlake Business District, East Lynn Street and 24th Avenue East,

University Village, 25th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street.

Public facilities:

Montlake Community Center, Montlake Playfield, 1618 E. Calhoun St.

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), McCurdy Park, 2700 24th Ave. E.,

Seattle Public Library, 2300 24th Ave. E.

Washington Park Arboretum, Graham Visitors Center, 2300 Arboretum Drive E.

Seattle Times researcher Miyoko Wolf