Change in Ballard Leads to Mixed Feelings

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Maxx Follis has made Ballard her home. She has lived and worked in the Seattle neighborhood for over two years now, she is one with the locals. Follis knows the best places to eat, where you might be able to find a parking spot. She also knows that Ballard is experiencing uncontrolled expansion. “New apartment buildings keep getting built, but no one is living in them. Stores keep cycling through because no one is shopping there”

An employee at Second Ascent, an outdoor and adventure store located on Ballard Avenue, had made the same observation, “these new apartments don’t fit in with the theme of Ballard, which is historic and traditional.” The employee asked to anonymous but was clear about their thoughts on construction in the neighborhood, “Ballard is full of restaurants, most of which are new within the last few years. It’s become more of a restaurant neighborhood than anything else.”

The result of this rise in restaurants is a parking conundrum. Even during the lull hours of a Tuesday mid-afternoon parking is sparse among the streets.

2013-05-01 16.35.57To counteract this problem one local business, the Olympic Athletic Club, located at the intersection of NW Vernon Place and Ballard Avenue, has taken an old dirt lot adjacent to the club and built an expansion of the gym, featuring a hotel and three floors of underground parking.

This change has angers some locals, like the staff at Second Ascent, but Follis is grateful for the parking-relief. “Many of the spots are taken by gym members, hopefully now with the new lot installed parking can open up for everyone else.”

Jenny Monroe, owner of Jax Joon and longtime Ballard resident, isn’t concerned about the new parking and hotel complex. She is too focused on the loss of the Viking Tavern, which was one of the only Scandinavian businesses remaining in Ballard that recently closed to make way for a new apartment complex in it’s place.

Monroe is questioning how locals can allow the Ballard’s Scandinavian roots to fade into a distance and yet be so concerned about parking in the neighborhood.

Long-time residents of the Viking Tavern were shocked when they learned of the closing of the local pub, many shared fond memories of nights spent there.

“The dynamic is changing, as well as the local crowd,” Monroe observes. The nightlife in Ballard consists of twenty-somethings from the U District as well as Capitol Hill, causing many locals to stay away from main streets on the weekends.

Residents of Ballard are slowly realizing the affect that comes with new apartments, parking garages and lost gems. Time is the test to see if Ballard can hold sacred to it’s heritage as a neighborhood.