Featured Community: Ballard

Ballard has become one of the hippest and most coveted neighborhoods in Seattle…especially for first-time homeowners. The close proximity to the burgeoning tech industry in neighboring Fremont makes Ballard an extremely convenient place to call home and construction is booming to accommodate the growth this Seattle neighborhood is experiencing.

Ballard is located in the northwestern part of Seattle, Washington. To the north it is bounded by Crown Hill, (N.W. 85th Street); to the east by Greenwood, Phinney Ridge and Fremont (along 8th Avenue N.W.); to the south by the Lake Washington Ship Canal; and to the west by Puget Sound’s Shilshole Bay. The neighborhood’s landmarks include the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (known locally as the “Ballard Locks”), the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Shilshole Bay Marina, and Golden Gardens Park. The neighborhood’s main thoroughfares running north-south are Seaview, 32nd, 24th, Leary, 15th, and 8th Avenues N.W.; East-west traffic is carried by N.W. Leary Way and N.W. 85th, 80th, 65th, and Market Streets (east- and westbound). The Ballard Bridge carries 15th Avenue over Salmon Bay to the Interbay neighborhood, and the Salmon Bay Bridge carries the BNSF Railway tracks across the bay, west of the Ballard Locks.

Ballard enjoys a healthy microbrew industry, and contains several industrial brew pubs. The district is home to local tasting rooms, trendy restaurants and new multi-use buildings that include both residential and retail. In Ballard, the sidewalks are bustling with people walking their pets, strolling down the street window shopping and groups of people meeting up for a meal. Ballard Avenue, a nationally registered historic district, hales back to the area’s blue collar roots. Visitors are treated to plaques lining the avenue that tell this district’s story. Ballard Avenue now contains shops, restaurants, boutiques and features an active nightlife. The year-round Ballard Farmers Market also calls this avenue home. Ballard’s Market Street, on the other hand, is the neighborhood’s modern business district. It also contains shops and restaurants (many with sidewalk cafes), the Majestic Bay movie theater and urban green spaces. The monthly Second Saturday ArtWalks is an event showcasing the wares of local artists being sold at galleries, studios and shops that line Market Street.

Ballard houses a vibrant working waterfront. Fisherman’s Terminal is home base for the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. The terminal also offers a collection of delicious dining options and is a great place to purchase the freshest seafood. The Ballard locks, officially named the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, were built in 1916. The Ballard locks enable boat traffic to move from freshwater Lake Union to the salt water of Puget Sound— this is a 26-foot grade change. A popular tourist destination, the Ballard locks contain a salmon fish ladder that is fun to visit when the fish are moving from the Puget Sound back to freshwater. Shilshole Bay Marina offers moorage space for 1,500 recreational boats, plus a boat ramp and sailing schools. The marina includes a waterfront promenade, which features fabulous views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. Promenade users can stroll over to Golden Gardens, a popular beachfront park.

The neighborhood’s Nordic Heritage Museum is internationally acclaimed, and features both historic and fine art exhibits. In addition, musical performances, children’s activities and other cultural events are held at the museum. Ballard’s Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Lodge is still going strong after 100+ years old— Sons and Daughters of Norway lodges work to promote the history, culture, and language of Norway. Ballard’s Scandinavian culture is also celebrated annually on May 17th, when the neighborhood celebrates Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day). Syttende Mai includes a parade, possibly the largest one outside Norway, and is highly anticipated every year.

Ballard-Locks-iStock_000020098186_FullThe Hiram M. Chittenden Locks located in Ballard provide a link for boats between the saltwater of the Puget Sound and the fresh water of the Ship Canal connecting to Lake Union and Lake Washington. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, often called the Ballard Locks, link salty Puget Sound with the fresh waters of Salmon Bay, Lake Union, Portage Bay and Lake Washington. Both tourists and locals enjoy watching the parade of sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts passing through. Pass a sunny day watching boats of all shapes and sizes come into the locks, and the water level is adjusted to allow their safe passage to the lake or sound.

Stop by the fish ladder, built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water. Glass panels make it possible to view the fish as they navigate their way through the ladder, adjusting to different levels of salt each step of the way. Occasionally, a clever sea lion will hang out, waiting for his next meal. For the historically-minded among you, the locks’ official name is, “Hiram M. Chittenden Locks,” and was built in 1911 so that coal and timber could be easily transported by boat.

Seattle‘s “Hidden Treasure” – The beauty of Greenwood is in its contrasts. It’s a kind of old-fangled neighborhood with a trendy edge, a place where coffee shops mix with espresso bars, where young families live among senior citizens. In Greenwood, it is still possible to buy a little bungalow on a quiet street without breaking the bank, or open a small business with little more than a dream and watch it thrive in the shadow of chains and superstores. This is a community that comes together for block parties and tree plantings, for holiday caroling and Seafair parades, a neighborhood that is redefining itself as a destination for arts and antique hounds who patronize the growing number of shops, galleries and cafes along the main drags.

The local Chamber of Commerce is not far off in dubbing Greenwood “Seattle’s hidden treasure.” It sits just north of Phinney Ridge and the Woodland Park Zoo, and though it has its own flavor and identity, Greenwood’s commercial district overlaps Phinney’s and the two communities do much of their neighborhood planning together. The intersection of North 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue is the heart of the neighborhood, the place where banners are strung to highlight special events, such as the Greenwood/Phinney Art Walk in May, or the Greenwood Classic Car & Rod Show in June. Many of the brick storefronts look as they did in the 1920s.  They are occupied by an eclectic mix of merchants, selling everything from antiques and collectibles to comic books and clothes. The upper floors frequently are leased out as apartments.

Most everything is within walking distance, and there is easy access to Metro.  There is a city library near the center of town, a post office, even a mini city hall.  “Hey, how many neighborhoods have their own city hall?” asks community organizer Patty Fong. “It makes you feel like you’re somebody.” Greenwood’s proximity to downtown Seattle (about 15 minutes by car), to Green Lake (a short bicycle ride), to supermarkets (it has two) and a variety of restaurants (Japanese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Greek and Chinese) contributes to its growing popularity.

Greenwood Elementary School, long a fixture in the community, lies a few blocks west of the commercial district, at the corner of Northwest 80th and Third Avenue Northwest (Part of the Seattle School District). It is a stately brick building, graced by broad oak trees and ivy that dates to 1905 and still attracts grateful students from bygone days. The school, which has about 300 students, continues to enjoy widespread support from the community, with local seniors coming daily to read to kindergarten students and parents teaming up with teachers to help in the classroom.

An interesting mix of architecture can be found here — from brick ramblers and old Tudors to 1950s-style split-levels and small frame bungalows. They have pretty gardens and window boxes brimming with colors of the season: purple and pink petunias, cherry red geraniums, royal blue lobelia and bright yellow pansies. Portions of this article from SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER.