Shoreline, just north of Seattle, is a classic suburb facing a very urban challenge.
It is gaining a light rail station at 185th Street and I-5. And that new station is kicking off a vast redevelopment that will change the shape of the city. In all, 1,400 homes have been rezoned for a densified redevelopment that will change this part of the city into something that looks as though it were born in Seattle.
But Shoreline has always been a place people moved to in order to escape Seattle. Born as just a chunk of unincorporated King County, it became known as a commuter community with good schools, big trees, and a straight shot at getting to jobs in Seattle. Most of the city’s houses are mid-century and in keeping with its roots in the car commuter’s heyday, there is no downtown aside from Highway 99.
The imposition of a densified urban vision for the area around the light rail station at 185th is stressful for the people who live there now. At a 2015 meeting, just as City Council was deciding about the rezoning, resident Rosalyn Lehner pleaded with them to reconsider. "If you rezone my home," she said, "I feel like you’re stealing my American Dream, so please don’t."
But City Council proceeded, permitting a redevelopment area so vast it could eventually house 50,000 people. The city's current population is around 55,000.
Shoreline is doing what other communities have done when light rail came to them: They’re building densified housing and commercial spaces, offering people a car-free, small-scale way of life.
It is also a way of life believed to appeal to millennials, a generation now of childbearing age who have not been interested in owning single family homes. Miranda Redinger is Shoreline’s senior planner on the project at 185th. She said the Seattle area is changing, and young families have needs.
"You know, it’s the kids who are living in Belltown right now working for tech companies and they're going to settle down," Redinger said. "They're going to get married. They're going to start looking at school districts and housing that we hope can still be reasonably affordable."
Redinger said this generation will "really want the community gathering spaces and the coffee shops and the bar they can walk to."
Though Shoreline’s decision about the redevelopment around the 185th Street light rail station has been made, another set of decisions loom: The city will also get a light rail station at 145th St., right at its border with Seattle.
This story was originally published January 17, 2016.