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Originally published December 16, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Page modified December 17, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Neighborhood of the week

Neighborhood of the week: Crown Hill

Up on top of the hill, things are looking up.

Special to The Seattle Times

Crown Hill

Population: About 7,500

Distance to downtown Seattle: About 8 miles.

Schools: The Crown Hill neighborhood is served by Seattle Public Schools.

Recreation: Crown Hill Park, 9089 Holman Road N.W. Construction started in August and is scheduled to be completed this coming spring. The park will feature a renovated ballfield, open lawn area, a skateboard mini-ramp and artistic play features.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf

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Maggie Skinner and Jon Bez purchased their home three years ago in Crown Hill, the aptly named neighborhood that occupies the crest of a gentle hill in Northwest Seattle.

Though not first-time buyers — they moved from a town home a few miles away in more-glamorous Ballard — they wanted more space and a single-family home.

Skinner said they considered staying in the same Ballard area as their town home, but they weren't impressed with what they found.

"Most of the homes were bigger than this house," she said, "therefore more expensive, and they needed to have a lot of work done."

The Crown Hill home they bought was built in 1926 and modest-sized at about 1,700 square feet, but the previous owner had completely renovated it and it was like a brand-new house.

"That was really appealing," Skinner said.

Crown Hill is a community of mostly single-family homes, plus some apartments and condos, that borders Ballard on its south side and Greenwood on its east side.

To the north and west of Crown Hill lie the neighborhoods of North Beach and Blue Ridge.

The neighborhood also is home to Crown Hill Cemetery, founded in 1903, as well as the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation Youth Home, housed in the former Crown Hill Hospital.

Visitors won't find many expensive boutiques or trendy restaurants in Crown Hill, just everyday businesses like grocery stores, dry cleaners, pet shops, and the longtime landmark Dick's Drive-In on Holman Road Northwest.

Though sometimes lumped in with greater Ballard, Crown Hill might be considered the unpretentious brother to Ballard, the (now) hip and fashionable sister.

Holman Road, a major arterial connecting 15th Avenue Northwest to Greenwood Avenue North, bisects the neighborhood. Crown Hill's business district follows this arterial from the intersection of 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 85th Street to the valley where the Carkeek Plaza shopping center sits, still home to the revolving ball that once marked the location of Art's Family Center, now a QFC.

Crown Hill residents run an active neighborhood association and a business group, among other community groups offering opportunities for involvement.

Affordable, close-in

For its proximity to downtown, home prices in Crown Hill remain relatively affordable.

According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the median value of all single-family houses in Crown Hill, not just houses that have recently sold, was $321,000 for September, down 4.5 percent year-over-year, and up 0.4 percent month-over-month.

The median value of all condos in Crown Hill was $283,500 in September, up 0.8 percent year-over-year, and up 0.2 percent month-over-month, according to Zillow.

Among recently sold homes, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,440 square-foot home built in 1926 sold for $235,000. A 2,130 square-foot home built in 1945 with three bedrooms and 1 ½ baths sold for $347,000. Bob Melvey, a Windermere Real Estate agent who specializes in the neighborhoods of Northwest Seattle, said Crown Hill house prices can stretch the homebuying dollar a bit further, compared to neighboring communities.

"Buyers do tend to get more bang for their buck there than in the more urban locations", such as Loyal Heights and Old Ballard, "or in the view neighborhoods" such as Olympic Manor, North Beach and Blue Ridge, Melvey said.

"Because of this, it is a prime location for first-time homebuyers."

Family friendly

Bez, a scheduling supervisor for Metro Transit, and Skinner, a stay-at-home mom, are parents of a toddler.

They have found Crown Hill a great place to meet other families with young children.

"Nineteen kids age 6 and under on just our little block," Skinner said.

They also like that their home sits within close walking-distance of a grocery store, a drugstore, parks and other conveniences. Bez, of course, rides the bus to work downtown.

A half-mile from the couple's home, a new park promises to become a welcome community gathering place.

In 2009, Small Faces Child Development Center purchased the former Crown Hill Elementary School building, which it had leased since 1980 from Seattle Public Schools.

At the same time, Seattle Parks and Recreation bought the adjoining land from the school district. This year construction finally began on a long-planned project, Crown Hill Park, which is scheduled to open in spring.

Catherine Weatbrook manages facilities at Small Faces and for the rest of the building the child-care center now owns. She exudes enthusiasm for her under-construction neighbor, the new park.

"I think this is going to be phenomenal," Weatbrook said. "The businesses are excited about it because all of a sudden it's this hub, someplace attractive to go."

Neighbors are excited as well, she said, for park features such as a T-ball field, a small skate ramp and paved paths meant for strolling.

The park's paths will tie into an existing pedestrian overpass crossing Holman Road, as well as connect to Small Faces' play areas, which will be open to the public outside of the center's operating hours.

Few sidewalks

Pedestrian safety has been a long-simmering issue in Crown Hill. In 2005, a boy was severely injured when he was hit by a car crossing busy Holman Road. And few of the neighborhood's residential streets have sidewalks because of its relatively late annexation to the city of Seattle in the 1950s when the city limits expanded from North 85th Street to North 145th Street. In recent years, community members have made strides in making Crown Hill more walkable.

A pedestrian pathway was installed from Northwest 89th Street to Northwest 90th Street, linking two disconnected areas. The short path has enabled pedestrian access from western Crown Hill to Soundview Playfield and Whitman Middle School

A few years before, a new stoplight added an additional safe pedestrian crossing to five-lane Holman Road.

Installation of neighborhood sidewalks remains the goal of some community activists.

At least one longtime Crown Hill resident, however, is not in favor of sidewalks.

Evelyn MacDonald fears tripping on sidewalks when they buckle from tree roots, and dislikes concrete as a most unforgiving surface if one does fall.

So she'd like Crown Hill's streets to remain as they are. She has become accustomed to them, having lived in the neighborhood, in the same house, for 50 years.

"I came here literally as a bride in 1961," she said.

A retired schoolteacher, MacDonald taught many years at Crown Hill Elementary (now Small Faces), which she can see from her kitchen window.

She taught her daughter Stacey in her second-grade class in the 1970s. (Stacey MacDonald Fitzenrider recalled that during the school day she addressed her teacher as "Mrs. MacDonald," not "Mom.")

Evelyn MacDonald — whose husband, Johnny, passed away a few years ago — walks her dog in the neighborhood and knows her neighbors, though perhaps not as well as she once did.

She likes to spend time with her granddaughter who lives a few miles away.

She recalls fondly her years teaching, and recently spent an afternoon looking through scrapbooks containing class pictures, newspaper clippings and mementos of her daughters' childhoods in Crown Hill.

"It's not that Johnny and I planned to live here 50 years," MacDonald said, "we just got busy raising our kids."

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