We’re Losing Character in Single Family Zones


One idea of how corner stores could fit into a residential zone. 

An integral part of Seattle neighborhood history and appeal is quickly being lost. Corner stores were once a staple of neighborhood life in Seattle, and remain so in many of the most vibrant cities around the world. They speak of a time when community was tightly knit, people knew the names of their neighbors and local businessmen, and children were free to explore their streets. While there are fewer and fewer remaining examples, those that survive provide insight into the characteristics that make these buildings successful and how potential new uses could enliven community life.


The Wallingford neighborhood inventory from the late 1970’s states that “There are many street corner grocery stores scattered throughout the community, serving as neighborhood meeting places.”  The historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps confirm this distribution, as these buildings are easily identifiable due to their lack of setback. In describing neighborhood stores, the Wallingford inventory says, “unpretentious owner operated corner groceries of various architectural styles add color and serve as foci for neighborhood identity.” Since that time, pressure from larger chain stores has overwhelmed small businesses and zoning restrictions have prevented the replacement of these buildings, within single-family zones.

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One of two non-conforming corner store buildings in Wallingford’s Single Family Zone, 53rd and Woodlawn Ave.

Imagine if you could walk to work, or to the store to pick up groceries? Ride your bike with your children to their daycare, or pick up locally made holiday gifts from the boutique right around the corner? What if just doing the errands meant you’d run into a neighbor or friend who was happy to see you? Continue reading “We’re Losing Character in Single Family Zones”