MLK is the road that every town seems to have, just like Main Street, yet we often have the wrong idea of what Main Street looks like, thinking it's a gabled-cupolaed-boardwalk-storefront type place that only truly exists in Nassau County, Massachusetts and tidewater preservation districts.
We often have the wrong picture of roads named MLK, assuming they must be in an African-American part of town, the avenues of hoopties, check cashing places and sad murals. We often forget that neighborhoods can change, and that neighborhoods never change, and that the true picture of today's MLK involves a bit of the past, the near past, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Seattle's MLK is a road with multiple personalities, weaving through many "black" parts of town but always weaving back into the rest of what makes Seattle Seattle. Truth be told, the road is mostly Asian these days, reflecting the most recent immigration patterns up here. But there is still a strong African-American presence, not to mention new infill development which is altering the racial demographics into nearly equal thirds.
What's most peculiar to me about MLK is not the road itself, as I'm a big city person and love the shuffled deck of multicultural cards. It's that nobody in Seattle outside of the area knows the first thing about this road, one of the only major arterial roads in South Seattle. It is through MLK's median that several miles of the new Sound Transit Link light rail system is funneled, and therefore MLK will be the face of Seattle for many thousands of first-time visitors who take the train downtown from the airport. Yet you'll never hear this road mentioned in any other part of town.
While everyone had forgotten about this street, it has managed to refashion itself without fanfare, first from Empire Way (its original name) to its current name, and then today's MLK which accommodates mass transit and infill. Here is the road for the entirety of its "multimodal" existence:
Mount Baker station is where the light rail line descends from the hills and joins MLK, at Rainier. Calling it Mount Baker station is kind of like calling the Morgan stop on the L train Williamsburg (vis-a-vis Brooklyn), but the neighborhoods change name very quickly at this axis.
MLK is the road from left to right (southwest to north-northeast). Rainier Avenue is in front; downtown is 3 miles ahead. This is the intersection where MLK becomes a major thoroughfare instead of the more residential road it seems like through the Central District.
Rainier and MLK (MLK mostly not visible). MLK never hits anywhere near downtown.
This used to be the ghetto of ghetto in Seattle until recently. (only in Seattle would the ghetto have a Starbucks!)
Some buildings were abandoned and simply left to become artifacts as the neighborhood changed hands. When did phone numbers still have names like this? 1965? (This is not on MLK but a block over, still worth sharing)
60 years, then a quick death
From the elevated Mount Baker station, the tracks lower into the median
United House of Prayer For All People
By the time you reach Andover Street, it's mostly Asian businesses:
Empire Lumber (80 year old building, abandoned not too long after Empire Way ceased to be)
Infill is the new conqueror across the street:
Soon this will have consequence:
One of my favorite street names in Seattle, Genesee Street. It's only a block-long stub right here, but the new apartments to the right are called "The Genesee"
I'm glad Nevada voted for Obama, there may someday be an Obama Boulevard in Seattle.
A new columbian way - market-rate apartments and a short walk to the next light rail station...
But not 'til 2009 (see the people waiting for the buses that will soon be rerouted)
This neighborhood doesn't have the money for pluralism.
Columbia City station on Link light rail. Again, naming this Columbia City is a bit of a stretch, as the real Columbia City is centered about 5-7 minutes east along Rainier Avenue. But it is considered "true CC" by many, so I'll quit my bitching. (Do you see the tallest monument to the Cascadian Empire in the faint distance?)
O, public art, how I love to hate you. (And what does a magnifying glass have to do with Columbia City? Lookie here, gentrify me?)
MiMi's garishly cute Photo & Video
I've been living in a hole; my mouth dropped when I saw this price. Then I snapped a picture for evidence:
Pinoy power! The Filipino Community Center. If we were to rename this street today, it would be something like Corazon Aquino Boulevard perhaps.
Moving in and out of the neighborhood:
Apparently, there's only one restaurant.
Oh, this better be for easy maintenance, because real palm trees grow just fine here.
The Othello Link light rail station, and my camera doing a pretty cool hiccup:
Smile and wait for the station to open!
I like Othello, that's creative. Link, however, is the lamest light rail name EVER.
Ambiguous ethnic models wanted for model home advertisement!
Oh, Seattle's well-intentioned but tacky racial rainbow chasing! Let's stick some random happy dancing ethnic women public art in front of this absolutely dire 1960's abandoned shopping center. That's the ticket.
I am guessing this man didn't name it Hart because his surname is Hart (the driver was an elderly Asian man - I am not stereotyping, but Hart is not the normal surname amongst Hanoiers, right?) Also, see radiocarbon dated Safeway in background.
Surprisingly rural for a side street to a choo choo trolley...
MLK is behind this house, so it counts, ok?
At present, "link"ing us nowhere:
Thanks, but I think the trains run on their own generators...
And I'll get my foods elsewheres.
The new emperor charges off into the distance. (MLK is below the cliff, leading towards Renton and Southcenter Mall) The reigning road in town, though, is Interstate 5, which is across the valley.
9.5 miles ahead is downtown. This is Chief Sealth Trail, a fitting person to have named a bike path after, since he both rode bikes and loved electricity.
And below is the road that started it all, MLK Way. A pillar of Seattle's infrastructure whether you feel for what this road has been through or not.