Neighborhood of the week: Victory Heights
Many have never heard of this North Seattle neighborhood that's nearly a century old and has a name that's linked to World War I and a major roadway that's been renamed.
Special to The Seattle Times
Victory HeightsPopulation: About 4,300
Distance to downtown Seattle: About 8 miles.
Schools: The neighborhood is served by Seattle Public Schools.
Recreation: Victory Heights Playground, 1737 N.E. 106th St. This three-acre park has a large grassy field surrounded by trees, a tennis court, play structure, slides and swings.
Historic fact: In 1924, celebrating the end of World War I, Bothell Road was renamed Victory Way. The name returned to Bothell Way and finally became Lake City Way. The neighborhood was named after the road, which forms the eastern border of the neighborhood.
— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf
It's easy to see why Victory Heights neighbors might be caught in an identity crisis.
Sandwiched between the far more familiar Northgate and Lake City communities, the mostly woodsy Victory Heights doesn't have any businesses, schools or houses of faith touting the neighborhood title.
The lone namesake in this mix of 1930s cottages, midcentury bungalows and ramblers and somewhat newer apartment buildings and condos: the demure 3-acre Victory Heights Playground, just south of Northeast Northgate Way. Victory Creek Park is nearby.
No wonder a share of nearly 5,200 residents who live in the neighborhood — north of Northeast 98th and south of Northeast 125th streets between 15th Avenue Northeast and Lake City Way Northeast — don't recognize the moniker.
"Oh my, I had no idea," says University of Washington semi-retiree Carol Ovens, 80, who's lived nearby for nearly 40 years.
Equally surprised: Victory Heights neighbors Rachelle Wilson and Fabiola Obando, a pair who grill Ovens' thrice-weekly lunches at Dick's Drive-In — one of the longest operating businesses in Victory Heights.
Their supervisor, Maria Gerena, understands the confusion.
"A lot of people here identify with Lake City because of all the businesses," says Gerena, who has managed this burger-and-fries hot spot on and off for 11 years.
Besides that, all four women are too young to recall when 424 original 1920s Victory Heights tracts sold for $375-$950 on the hilltop above the then-new "Victory Highway" — today's Lake City Way Northeast.
Today's prices are much higher, but still relatively affordable for the Seattle area. During the past six months, the price of houses and condos that sold in the neighborhood ranged from $84,000 to $585,000, according to figures compiled by Windermere Real Estate.
Both Wilson and Obando say that convenient pedestrian and bus routes are a large part of the reason they moved to the neighborhood, where they walk between their homes, work and daily errands.
"I really don't need to drive anywhere," says Wilson, who rents a house nearby and is saving to buy one in Victory Heights. "Any bus you need to go anywhere is right here."
For Obando, whose apartment is one of the buildings that separate Lake City Way from the more residential Victory Heights core, trips to her 9-year-old son's doctor, shopping trips to Northgate Mall, and other errands are within 15 minutes by mass transit.
Near the center of the Victory Heights, real-estate agent Rik Jones of RE/MAX Northwest, who grew up nearby, points to another appeal:
"Lots are larger than in most other in-city neighborhoods," Jones said. "Over the last 10 or 15 years, some of these lots have been subdivided to 5,000 to 7,200 square feet, but there are still a few larger 10,000- to 14,000-square-foot lots here."
Bordered by several churches, Seattle Buddhist Center and a mosque, a large-chain grocer, and a handful of hair salons and car dealerships, Victory Heights is a colorful composite straight from earlier chapters in the city's housing history.
A smattering of 1930s cottages often sit next to midcentury bungalows and brick ramblers here. Most Victory Heights houses went up in the 1940s and '50s, making it one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Seattle at that time, according to citydata.com, an online demographic-research site.
After the 1950 opening nearby of what was then called Northgate Center — one of the nation's first shopping malls — Interstate 5 in the 1960s paved the way north and opened a floodgate of fast and easy access to Victory Heights.
Apartment buildings on its perimeter streets began enveloping the neighborhood's interior single-family homes.
At its core, few things have changed in the past 40 years. Narrow lanes now feature landscaped traffic roundabouts, and alternate with wider residential streets featuring a sidewalk here or there. Carports and deep setbacks for off-road parking still outnumber houses with attached garages on many streets.
"What hasn't changed is that people here are really friendly, no matter their age," says Gerena. "Around 2001, there were some crime problems with drugs. But since then we've seen remodeling and new management at a lot of the apartments in this area, so I think most of that is gone."
Obando and Wilson say this friendly, easygoing atmosphere and walkable choices to pharmacies, grocers and other conveniences makes up for the neighborhood's lack of night life.
Meanwhile, Ovens has watched from the sidelines as a hip new movie-plex, more eateries, fitness centers and a handful of big-box stores have been added around the original Northgate over the past decade — but for now, the sales impact hasn't rippled east.
"Being close to commercial shopping is usually an attraction," says RE/MAX's Jones, "yet being closer to (Northgate) shopping isn't necessarily reflected in Victory Heights homes sales."
The median value of all single-family houses in Victory Heights, not just houses that have recently sold, was $324,900 in January according to the Zillow Home Value Index. That is down 2.6 percent year-over-year, and up 0.2 percent month-over-month.
The median value for condos in Victory Heights was $157,600 in January, down 12.2 percent year-over-year, and down 0.9 percent month-over-month, according to Zillow.
For renters, the median monthly rent for single-family houses in Victory Heights was $1,737 in January a month, up 8.9 percent year-over-year, and down 0.6 percent month-over-month.
The Zillow Rent Index (median rent price of all homes, not just homes that are currently for-rent) for apartments in Victory Heights is $1,228 a month, up 12 percent year-over-year, and up 2.5 percent month-over-month.
With gas prices high and home prices low, Jones points to an under-the-radar trend that seems to validate the appeal of the neighborhood to transit riders: Most of Victory Heights' newest buyers are households with less than two cars, he says.
"I think it's one of the reasons my daughter lives here now, too," says Ovens.
Or maybe it's her fond memories of 1960s strolls to just east of Victory Heights, where Ovens recalls her children "would wave at trains passing along the Northern Pacific Railway" — a route that was turned into one leg of today's recreational Burke-Gilman Trail in the early 1970s when the rail line closed.
"Not many people remember that today."