The deadline for today’s story about the McKinley Hill neighborhood passed before I could make contact with architect Mark McIntire, chairman of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and vice president of the DomeTop Neighborhod Alliance. Here’s a Q&A with McIntire:
How long have you lived in the McKinley Hill neighborhood?
I actually grew up in the Hillsdale Neighborhood (often referred to as Upper McKinley Hill) farther south along McKinley Avenue behind Sheridan Elementary at East 52nd and I Streets, but I have lived at my present address since purchase in 1992.
How has the area changed in the past few years?
The atmoshere and morale of the neighborhood has been changing over the last two decades and for the better. A lower crime rate and a greater number of younger families buying and renovating older homes are more recent developments. Even though revitalizing our business district is an ongoing challenge, an awareness and dedication from the neighborhood groups in mutual support has allowed progesses on a number of issues for the entire East Side.
What are some of the neighborhood initiatives that have contributed to McKinley’s revival?
An embrace of Community Based Services has given an enforcement response to neighborhood concerns and code violations which was missing in years past and has helped rid our area of many undesirable situations. Friends of McKinley Park, who by volunteer labor are restoring the Park to a usable state by clearing away forty-five years of neglect. If, with some cooperation from Streets and Grounds, and Public Works, our Hillclimbs will be repaired, allowing pedestrian connections between the First Creek green space, McKinley Park, the Dome District and Downtown. DomeTop Neighborhood Alliance among other initiatives has started creating pocket parks out the forgotten City-owned parcels like the Gault Oval on Division Lane. There are initiatives on-going to create community gardens, a food cooperative and document, restore and nominate a greater share of our historic homes to the Local Register of Historic Places. These are only a few of the inititives under way.
What makes McKinley Hill stand out from other Tacoma neighborhoods?
In many ways we are like any other neighborhood in the City, but what makes us stand out is our willingness to organize, our energy, and outreach with mutual support for the surrounding neighborhood groups and their initiatives. McKinley Hill has a diverse demographic and capitalizes on its personnel resources to “connect the dots” to programs and organizations which further livabilty. We are among the older neighborhoods in the City with plats dating from 1857 and a housing stock built primarily between 1885 and 1929. McKinley Hill is the neighborhood where one can find a Victorian, a Craftsman or a Four-Square virtually intact at a price two-thirds to half that of any other neighborhood in the Puget Sound Basin.
What does the recognition in a national magazine mean overall for the neighborhood?