Queen Anne: Historic neighborhood close to downtown equals high prices

Queen Anne Hill once had so many Queen Anne style houses that in the 1880s, a settler jokingly called it "Queen Anne Town."

The name stuck, but now, those ornate historical houses are harder to find.

More easily discovered is a bustling Queen Anne Avenue North filled with shops and restaurants, houses sitting close together on quiet, tree-lined streets and, of course, — the million-dollar mansions with spectacular views of the Space Needle, Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle.

Single-family houses and condominiums in the area that includes Queen Anne had a median price of $483,000 in June, up 13.7 percent over the past year, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Janet Gabbert, 65, and her husband bought their house on in 1968 for $22,500. "And we thought we were being taken," she said with a chuckle.

"Even for an attorney with a good salary, it's getting difficult" to buy a house on Queen Anne Hill, said Jeffrey Valcik, an associate broker with Windermere Real Estate.

The most popular area for the typical buyer, Valcik said, is the top of the hill, fittingly called the crown of Queen Anne. It's desirable for the level walk to the parks, stores and restaurants.

The southwest slope, with its bigger homes and views, is for the more affluent. Steve Hicks, a longtime real-estate agent in the area, said buyers need to spend at least $2 million to even think about living there.

Each hill in Seattle has a different atmosphere and appeal, Hicks said.

"Capitol Hill has a faster feel," he said. "Queen Anne is more family-oriented. It is greener, a little slower-paced, more laid-back."

Residents who were interviewed repeatedly cited the neighborhood's sense of community and proximity to downtown as their reason for moving in and staying. According to Valcik, young families and people who work on the Eastside are increasingly drawn to Queen Anne.

Leslie Maschmedt, 36, said the neighborhood is friendly.

"If you come to a grocery store and forget something, a guy runs it out to you," she said.

But that doesn't mean everyone in the neighborhood is easygoing.

Erik Fleuter, 28, lives and works in Queen Anne, and says there are a lot of type A personalities.

"Sometimes they can get stressed out over minor things," he said, recalling a man who came into the deli where he works to rant about an overflowing garbage bin, while customers were lined out the door.

While most homes are single-family houses, condominiums and apartment buildings are going up.

Helen Bigelow, 81, has lived in the area for 13 years and lamented the redevelopment on the hill.

"It's horrible," she said, while taking a break from grocery shopping. "They're tearing down some of the lovely old houses ... they replace it with a lot of boxes with no grass, no flowers."

With the new development comes more traffic and difficulty in finding parking.

But that just comes with the territory of being what Valcik calls Seattle's most sought-after neighborhood.

Jeff VanStraaten, 32, moved from New Jersey to be with his fiancee, and he's planning to stay put, despite the steep home prices.

"You pay for what you get," VanStraaten said.

The views and proximity to downtown have pushed up real-estate prices on Queen Anne. Single-family houses and condominiums around the area had a median price of $483,000 in June. (MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Queen Anne Hill

Population: 30,008 Census)

Schools: Seattle School District

Housing: Of the 17, 696 total housing units, 38.3 percent are owner occupied, 54.0 percent are renter occupied and 7.7 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Swedish Medical Center/Ballard, University of Washington Medical Center

Public facilities: Kerry Park, Rodgers Park, Queen Anne Community Center