Liveliness, diversity are valued hallmarks of Capitol Hill area

Capitol Hill's first residents of the mansions built around the turn of the last century might be shocked to see the range of people walking down Broadway now.

But many residents of Seattle's Capitol Hill revel in the liveliness of their neighborhood. Gay couples hold hands. Young people sport mohawks and brilliant pink, blue or purple hair. Street musicians strum guitars or beat homemade drums. New mothers wheel their babies' strollers into coffee shops.

But go onto 14th Avenue East near Volunteer Park and you're on "Millionaire's Row." The mansions are shaded by trees that try to push up the sidewalk with their decades-old roots.

Real-estate values on Capitol Hill have climbed in recent years.

The median price of a home (single-family and condominium) in the part of Seattle that includes Capitol Hill was $415,000 in April, up 18.4 percent over the past year, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. And many houses on Capitol Hill go for more than $1 million.

Capitol Hill is a unique, urban neighborhood that real-estate agent Marlow Harris describes as having "incredible diversity."

"You go from gritty urban trendy/cool lofts to glorious turn-of-the-century mansions on tree-lined streets," Marlow said. "There are artists, musicians, software designers and others involved in the creative fields drinking lattes side-by-side with hip urban families with children."

Gabriel Stromberg is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer who moved to Capitol Hill from New York City four years ago.

He's also part of an artist's collective called No Space, which hosts shows for all types of artists — and helps to create a sense of community.

"Just walking to go get coffee, you meet like 15 people you know," said Stromberg, who is on a first-name basis with the staff at nearby coffee shops.

Stromberg walks or takes the bus other places and said he likes the fact that you don't have to have a car because it forces people to say "hello" to each other.

Alex Ward moved to Capitol Hill in order to walk to work downtown, but his plans don't include buying a house on Capitol Hill.

Ward used to participate in the gay-pride parade — one of the neighborhood's distinguishing characteristics — but it's moving downtown for this year's event June 25.

Broadway is changing. Last year, the city raised the height limit along the street from 40 feet to 65 feet and created design guidelines so that new buildings would fit into the neighborhood.

Now, a development company plans to build a six-story building with condos above and businesses at the street level at East Mercer Street and Broadway.

Two projects are under construction at Broadway and East John Street, and Broadway and East Pine Street.

Capitol Hill

Population: 33,596

Schools: Capitol Hill is home to several schools in the Seattle Public School District, plus a number of private schools, including St. Joseph School, Holy Names Academy and the Seattle Hebrew Academy.

Housing: Of 21,710 total housing units, 5,739 or 26.4 percent are owner- occupied, 14,701 or 67.7 percent, are renter-occupied, and 1,270 or 5.9 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities:

Group Health, Harborview Medical Center,

Swedish Medical Center,

Virginia Mason Medical Center.

Points of interest: Volunteer Park. Home to the Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The conservatory's collections include bromeliads, palms, ferns, cacti, and seasonal and display plants.

The museum spans centuries — ancient to contemporary — of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art. Isamu Noguchi's black-granite sculpture "Black Sun" is across the street.

Lake View Cemetery, 1554 15th Ave. E. Final resting place of many Seattle founders — Doc Maynard; Louisa Boren Denny; Chief Sealth's daughter, Princess Angeline; as well as Bruce and Brandon Lee.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf