One of the things I love best about my neighborhood is that we're not all the same. People of different ages, different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different incomes, different political views all live in South Perry. And for all of the changes in the last 10 years, so much has stayed the same. Most of my neighbors are the same people who've been here for over 10 years. We still walk the dogs up the street and get coffee at the Shop and enjoy seeing people gather in the parking lot on warm Saturday nights for the free Summer movies. People from all over Spokane now come to South Perry for pizza, flowers, our farmers market (Thursday Market), beer, and to hear Sir Mix-a-lot. True, many of these people wouldn't have dared come down here before the recent revitalization, but then we didn't give them much of a reason to either.
We're interlopers, the new people, and self-described yupsters (Yuppie/Hipster). We bought our house in the South Perry neighborhood in 2007 at the height of the housing bubble, and just before the crash, after two years of searching and looking for our forever house. We had narrowed our search to West Central and South Perry with the desire to live close to downtown and in an established neighborhood -- that we could afford. Even in this neighborhood our house was a bit more than we felt comfortable spending but we saw the potential - of the house and the neighborhood. We decided to take the chance that over time our house payments would feel more affordable. We love our house. We are only the second family to live here since it was built in the 1920s. The original owner of our house lived here until he died here at 101. The woman who lived across the street from us when we moved in also lived to be 100 and my sister's elderly next door neighbor lives in the house that he inherited from his mother. People stay in this neighborhood long term. My sister and her family moved into the neighborhood when they came here from Portland, OR. They couldn't afford to buy a house there but now live near us in a four-bedroom home with chickens in the backyard. We walk to each other's houses and share power tools and plants. Their kids come over when we have barbecues in our backyard and play with our next door neighbor's kids with whom we share a driveway. I don't know all of my neighbors names but we say hi to them when we walk the dogs and they're on their front porch or in the garden. We see our neighbors at The Lantern where we've become regulars and can join in any conversation when we stop by. We see kids playing in the park. Kids who walked or rode their bikes to the park by themselves, the big ones looking after the littler ones. We see families in the park at the playground or having a birthday party or playing basketball with their kids. We see little league baseball practices and games and hipsters playing kickball games. We see the running club go up the hill and then back down the hill, weaving through Liberty Park and coming back up along I-90.
I know there are dangers with "gentrification" where budding entrepreneurs and hipster couples buy up cheap houses and change a neighborhood but I haven't seen that happen in South Perry. Zillow sends me emails with updates about the "value" of my home and according to their metric, it haven't even rebounded to the value it was when we purchased it before the housing crash. Most houses for sale in the area are selling for prices similar to 2007 (before there was any thing much going on). I've seen a few houses fixed up and sold for more money but they tend to be on the southern border of the neighborhood and well, I couldn't afford those houses 10 years ago either. The neighborhood is still a mix of houses with neatly maintained yards mixed with those that needed a paint job in 1996. We have vacant lots and empty storefronts but I hope that someone has a vision and fills those spaces soon. Our neighborhood businesses aren't started by outsiders looking to turn their money into quick profit. Many of the shops on Perry are owned and operated by people who live right here in the neighborhood. They invested their time, efforts and money into making our neighborhood better. You can walk down the street at night now and see people and lights and life on the street. You see the business owners at work at their shops and we know many by name.
I'm glad that people want to come to my neighborhood for dinner or to meet up with friends for a drink. Come, spend your money here, enjoy a walk down the street and come back for our annual street fair in July. Please don't park your car in front of anyone's driveway, we have plenty of places to park if you just walk a few blocks. Better yet, take the #45 bus or ride your bike. We even have a bike shop down the street if you're in need of a tune up or even a new bike.
I'm so glad that we are able to live in South Perry. We still have work to do on our house to bring it's systems up to date and we have one of those paint jobs that's needed to be repainted for 20 year but we're working on things as we can. Meanwhile we'll continue to enjoy our neighborhood shops and parks and our easy access to downtown and the NY Italian sausage at Sonnenberg's, Pho at Vien Dong and we'll pick up groceries and produce at Bay's (Best Asian Market) or pop over to the new Bennidito's on Sprague. I hope our neighborhood continues it's positive improvements and we're definitely not pushing out those who are brown, or poor, or different. We can make it a nice place, a safe place to live for all of us.
This post was written in response to an article in The Inlander: Gentrification's Downside - Displacement and the loss of an imperfect but honest neighborhood