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C200: Embrace Change

2011 May 31
by Gabriel Grant and Allegra Calder

< Capitol Hill light rail station construction; photo by Dan Bertolet - click to enlarge >

In order to remain prosperous, relevant and successful in an increasingly global world, cities must constantly adapt socially, economically, and physically. To paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, the only constant in life is change. Humans have known this for thousands of years. So why does the prospect of change in our city—Seattle—and its neighborhoods provoke so much anxiety and ultimately counterproductive resistance?

The extension of a bike path results in a law suit, and proposed neighborhood up-zones near billion dollar transit investments are fought vehemently, resulting in vacant lots and boarded up houses rather than much needed urban housing. Too often, vocal opponents with targeted issues are allowed to dominate our public dialogue, and the city as a whole suffers.

The point is not that all change is good. Clearly, there are choices to be made. However, we should recognize that not only is change inevitable, in many cases it is a direct result of Seattle’s continued growth, vitality and success. There is always room for intelligent debate about what form change takes, but to simply wish for the city to remain as it is (or return to what it was) is both unrealistic and a recipe for mediocrity and a slow civic death.

We live in a city where people choose to move to attend college or start a career, a family, or a company. Plenty of other cities, like Detroit or Cleveland, would love to have our problems. Rather than expend our collective civic energy trying to prevent change, we should embrace our area’s growth and evolution and direct our energy towards becoming the most successful 21st Century city possible.


Gabriel Grant is a Vice President at HAL Real Estate Investments and Allegra Calder is a Senior Policy Analyst at Berk and Associates.