Husky West Seattle is on a roll, Burien boom is next

I noticed on the Highline Times website that Husky Deli over in the West Seattle Junction is celebrating its 80th Anniversary.

Wow, that’s a long time for a small family business to stick around. It’s going great as it serves up delicious ice cream cones and homemade sandwiches in the yuppie heaven of West Seattle.

It’s so popular, Husky ran the hugely successful nationwide Ben and Jerry’s chain out of town a couple of years ago.

All of West Seattle is on a roll. Its arterials are lined with high-rise condos and chic eateries.

A Whole Foods Market will anchor a six-story 370-apartment mixed-use project. It will sit across the street from “The Hole” project, which is to be filled in with a fitness center and 216 apartments.

I fondly recall Husky Deli from my days as a West Seattle resident. That was more than 20 years ago.

But what I remember from the 1980s is Husky Deli as a local business struggling just like its fellow West Seattle merchants as chain stores like J.C. Penney’s moved out of the Junction, leaving behind vacant storefronts.

I also remember young couples moving out of the area’s ‘war box” starter homes and into the suburbs when they got more prosperous and their children started school.

We West Seattlites had to cross the bridge to downtown Seattle or take I-5 South to Southcenter for major shopping or entertainment.

Empty store fronts. Lack of middle-class young families. Sales lost to Southcenter.

Sound like anywhere you know?

It’s partly based on my experiences watching the fall and rise of West Seattle that makes me so optimistic about the future of Burien.

It’s all part of a cycle. In the middle of the last century, people lived in the big cities and then started moving to the suburbs and then to the outer suburbs. My parents moved from West Seattle to the “country” in Burien and I eventually moved to Bonney Lake, out by Puyallup, before moving back here.

If you’ve been to Belltown or south Lake Union lately, you’ve seen the young professionals are back in the city.

I wrote a while ago about the “Three Acts of Burien.”

Act I was the 1950s and ‘60s with Highline Public Schools building classrooms at the rate of one every three and a-half days for us baby-boomer kids. Downtown Burien stores like Bells of Burien, Dad and Lad and Joe Jaffee’s Shoes thrived.

The lights went out in Act II with stores moving to Southcenter, Highline schools shrinking in half and the airport gobbling up homes.

I said Act III hasn’t been written yet but I predicted a happy ending. I don’t think we’ll get Dad and Lad back. (It was a mens and boys clothing store.) The Tin Room Bar won’t revert back to a tin shop. But we’ll get what fits now.

The yeasayers (opposite of naysayers) have laid the groundwork for a Burien boom, even though it will come later than expected.

The remodeled 152nd Main Street is filled with pubs, restaurants and nightlife. West Seattle’s Elliott Bay Brewery recognized the potential and has established a very successful branch here.

I was surprised to be out driving one Friday night and spotting a young couple dressed to the nines (as we old codgers would put it) obviously on a date night in Olde Burien. I remember in the late ‘60s when my high school buddy, Ken Taylor and I were back in town after attending separate colleges and we wanted to compare notes at a Burien hot spot-- we chose Shakey’s Pizza.

The Town Square condos are very gradually getting more residents.

Nearby is the huge new transit center.

It’s now easy to work, play and stay in Burien.

My favorite local economic columnist Jon Talton reports in the Seattle Times, “The future looks promising for suburbs that can become denser and build transit hubs.

“Again this correlates with educated young adults, who are willing to live in small spaces in exchange for being in a vibrant city.

“I suspect the trend isn’t limited to this age cohort, knowing a number of baby boomers who have moved into cities to ‘age in place.’” ((All the Town Square residents I know are sprightly senior citizens.)

Burien has other advantages. Original Town Square developer Dan Rosenfeld’s golden keys still hold true—we have the best downtown main street between Seattle and Tacoma, we’re next to an international airport and we’re minutes from one of the nation’s most desirable metropolitan cities.

I should also mention our parks, water views and, as Marge and I discovered house hunting, great neighborhoods.

And then there’s our secret weapon—low prices. Median price of November house sales in Southwest King County (Burien, Tukwila, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Federal Way and west Kent) was $208,900. All of King County was $385,000. In Seattle, including West Seattle, it was $425,000.

Ask Scott Law about that. The rent for his West Seattle electric train shop increased by 300 percent. He found a spot more than twice as big in downtown Burien and he happily chugged on over here.

Of course, there’s that small matter of the lingering effects of the Great Recession. But economists say we are slowly working our way out of it. When we do, it’s going to be great Act III in Burien.

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