This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
As a PR strategy, trying to recast Tacoma’s Hilltop as “Upper Tacoma” wasn’t really a bad idea, given the area’s notoriety linked to crime and gangs.
But the name just didn’t catch on much outside of the Upper Tacoma Business Association. The community still called the area Hilltop – almost as a point of pride.
And why shouldn’t they be proud of that name? They formed the Hilltop Action Coalition and worked hard, partnering with the city and police, to turn the community around. One of Tacoma’s most notable arts organizations is the Hilltop Artists, a private, nonprofit glass art program at Jason Lee Middle School.
Hilltop is home to the city’s two largest hospitals and has a rich history of welcoming immigrants from all over the world. Its restaurants serve great Asian food, barbecue, martinis and fish.
So it’s only right that, once again, Hilltop is . . . Hilltop. As reported by News Tribune columnist Kathleen Merryman on Monday, the Upper Tacoma Business Association is being born again – as the Hilltop Business District, complete with banners proudly proclaiming the name along Martin Luther King Jr. Way (still referred to by old-timers as K Street). And the City Council has given its official imprimatur to the change.
That’s not to say the Hilltop name has completely shed any negative connotation. After all, the Hilltop Crips – who never changed their name to the Upper Tacoma Crips – still exist. And while the crime statistics show significant improvements, even Hilltop’s biggest boosters would admit there’s still work to do.
But the community has gotten past being nervous about the name and any connotations that still might linger. The residents take pride in their gritty Tacoma neighborhood with its million-dollar views of downtown and Mount Rainier.
So, welcome back, Hilltop. But then, you never really left, did you?