It's 2020 in Belltown, Friends.

Updated: Jan 3

On the one hand, it's a little impossible to believe that we've actually reached the year 2020. Maybe my brain has subconsciously blocked out basically everything since November of 2016, but I'm still left wondering how we actually arrived in what feels like the future.

On the other hand, as I walk by all the cranes and the towering new buildings -- and even the fabulously giant, brand new neon sign at Shorty's -- I can't help but feel like we really are living in the future. As Raenyn and I traverse the streets of Belltown in search of adventure, half the time I find myself wondering if life is actually just some cosmic video game gone awry. I imagine our particular imprint of the game as one where an exasperated, jaded admin decided to speed up the game clock to a time when all the Earth's gamers, coders, and techies would finally rule the world.

It might sound silly, but every lunchtime here in Belltown we watch the migrating herds of Amazonins (always in packs of at least 15+) venture out in search sustenance more filling than Jeff's free banana. That is the Belltown of 2020.

And I wonder: is that just what happens when the pace of change outpaces our mind's ability to relate? Or are we just growing used to it? In either case, time marches on.

Yet even as the world gets newer, glossier, and richer all around us, I can't help but notice that the gritty, artistic, creative, and working class heart of Belltown just. keeps. beating. Despite everything the City throws against us. Despite everything getting more expensive every day. Our community seems to out-last it all. I feel like I'm supposed to be surprised by by that, but I honestly can't say that I am. With every new day that we spend in Belltown, the truth becomes ever more clear:

Belltown endures because friendships endure. When we talk about "Saving Belltown" what we really mean is that we want to save the artistic community that gives birth to all these friendships, most of which often last a lifetime.

Yet every January, it feels like we're living in a brand new neighborhood. Fun fact: the numbers actually back up that feeling. Council District 7 (which includes Belltown, Downtown, Uptown, Magnolia, and Queen Anne) has increased its population by 37% in just 5 years, with most of that growth happening in or near Belltown specifically. Nowhere in Seattle can keep up with that kind of growth, and yet every neighborhood keeps trying. Here in Belltown, by working together, we've been able to do more than most.

2019 Has Been a Big Year

  • A year ago this Winter our community rallied for working people, only to find out that our historically affordable 2nd Ave was once again on the chopping block.

  • In the Spring we we had meetings and concerts, and we called out for help to our local leaders, who had only limited attention to spare.

  • In the Summer we covered Belltown in rainbows and got our PRIDE on. We saw Shorty's move down the block, and we partied in the alleyways as Bathtub Gin turned 10 years old! And in August we made music and art in the middle of the road, as only Belltown can, for three full blocks of 2nd Avenue.

  • We've lost friends, and we've gained new ones. We've celebrated marriages, and mourned lives cut short and too soon. Every year has its ups and its down, but we always move through them together. And not for nothing, but we've added a genuinely startling number of new babies to the Belltown Family! :)

2020 Holds Promise, Potential, and Inevitable Change

  • No one can say what will happen to the mid-block of 2nd Avenue, but development efforts do continue. I can't say I'm entirely convinced that the developer will succeed in getting the block redeveloped. Even without the community standing up, there are several hurdles they've still gotta clear. But so far the process continues to slowly move forward.

  • Meanwhile, assuming something does eventually get re-built, Rise Up Belltown is trying to help it be the least-shitty version of what's possible. Our priorities include bringing back existing businesses, keeping the storefronts unique and eclectic (think: exact opposite of U-Village), and on creating spaces for small, independent bars, musicians, and other artists (for the full list, check out our update from this Summer). We met with the developer again this fall, to push for exactly these things.

  • In other news, regardless of the uncertain future of the mid-block of 2nd, exciting things are happening in Belltown. Every month we have more shows at the Crocodile and at Screwdriver, and rumors of new practice space are swirling about. Local favorites like Jupiter, Black Cat, Lava, Neon Boots, new Shorty's, and the Rendezvous continue bringing creative energy into the neighborhood. And Rob Roy by all accounts won Christmas with their fabulous pop-up. And coming this month: The Social Queer is coming to Connect Lounge and I am personally. very. excited. (!!!)

  • Do what we may, 2020 is going to bring change both good and bad. We've heard tell of some new spots likely to open on 2nd Ave, and we may well see some that go. But with luck, friendship, and some old-fashioned activism, I'm hopeful that the gritty, musical, and artistic heart of Seattle will keep on beating as before. We are entering a new chapter for Rise Up Belltown, as we work out how to advocate while also raising a tiny human full time. But as the community keeps stepping up, so will we. :)

Greetings from our family to all of yours!

- Evan, Alex, and Santa Raenyn. :)

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