Booming Belltown a draw for urban aficionados

Gary King is kicking back with a drink at the Lava Lounge in Belltown. Bob Dylan's raw voice drawls through the bar as King reminisces with the bartender about the way Belltown used to be.

King has lived here since 1988 and seen some of his favorite hangouts disappear, supplanted by chic restaurants and bars.

"The general consensus from Belltown people is they pretty much hate it," said King, referring to seemingly never ending construction of high-rise condominium and apartment buildings in his neighborhood.

Belltown has indeed changed over the past decade, becoming ever more popular for the affluent. But it's still the same geographically — with Denny Way, Elliott Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Virginia Street as its borders. Downtown skyscrapers glance back in one direction, Elliott Bay shimmers in another and looming nearby is the Space Needle. But in most directions, construction cranes loom over the neighborhood.

Lura Burnette, who moved to Belltown from Florida last December, is not a fan of high-rise development.

"It destroys the architectural unity of the neighborhood," she said.

The words she uses — "low, high, low, high, low, high" — perfectly describe the mix of buildings in the neighborhood, with shorter, brick buildings standing across the street from high-rise residential buildings with plenty of glass windows for good views.

The average apartment rents for $1,258 a month, according to Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors. Meanwhile, condos range from a 480-square-foot unit for $250,000 all the way up to a $12.5 million unit, said Heather Berger, a real-estate agent with ek Real Estate Group.

Berger said there is an eclectic mix of people in Belltown, and many are drawn to the neighborhood for its urban lifestyle. The location and convenience are especially attractive.

"People love walking out their door into restaurants or clubs or shops."

And those who want to leave the neighborhood find an abundance of buses passing through the area.

Despite the convenience, it might not be for light sleepers.

"Even in the high-rises you hear the street," Berger said. "You cannot be completely walled off from it."

Tiffany Thompson moved to Belltown more than a year ago.

"It's fantastic," she said.

Burnette chose Belltown over other Seattle neighborhoods.

"It's really flat; that's unusual in Seattle," she said. "It's not like I don't like hills. I like them when I'm on the bus."

Bibeka Shrestha: 206-464-2436 or

Times have changed in Belltown, with condominiums lining the blocks. Construction cranes are a familiar sight as the building of condos and apartment complexes continues. (JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES)
Population: 8,858 (2006 census est.)

Schools: Belltown is served by the Seattle School District.

Recreation: Myrtle Edwards Park — 3130 Alaskan Way W.

It has a 1.25-mile winding bike and pedestrian paths along Elliott Bay, views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound, easy access from downtown and easy connection to bike paths to Magnolia. Acreage: 4.80 acres

Fun Fact: Most of Belltown used to be on "Denny Hill," which was leveled in the early 20th century.

The deepest cut was made near Fourth Avenue and Blanchard Street, where the hill was reduced by 112 feet.