Our Views: Time for serious talk about Hilltop’s future

There are few doubts that the once troubled Hilltop neighborhood is on the mend and that its future will include new developments.

That’s good. No one wants to return to the “wild west” days that marked much of the late 1980s and early 1990s – street corners anchored by crack dealers and hourly love peddlers or nights filled with the pop of random gunfire. Those times weren’t good for anyone except criminals, the ones who didn’t get killed in “deals gone bad” that is.

The Hilltop of today still has its troubles. There are random crimes and attacks, most notably a gun-wielding man forcing a group of teenagers to the ground last year and a recent attack on a man by a group of thugs that shattered the man’s jaw. No arrests have been made in either case. But statistics suggest Hilltop is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city and new developments play a role in that change.

And new developments are on the way, set to transform the diverse community into a Medical Mile of healthcare clinics and office places to create a medical hub created by Franciscan Health, MultiCare and Group Health facilities. An added boost will come with the Tacoma Link expansion that is planned to run through the area.

While most people in the neighborhood welcome news of the developments, both planned and actual, there are some who fear the transformation will leave residents behind. And they are right.

It’s a matter of math. With the infill of once vacant and under-used sites in the neighborhood, more businesses will move into the area. With that, rents will inch – if not bound – upward. Multi-million dollar developments just don’t make economic sense at current rates. As Martin Luther King Jr. Way locations become offices, nearby properties will become more attractive to developers and rents will go up there as well. Supply and demand takes over from there. Hilltop residents paying a few hundred dollars to rent a house these days with thoughts that they will see Link rails running near their homes don’t take that into account, an idea that is lost in the discussion every time a new developer eyes a property.

Gentrification goes hand in hand with the redevelopment of urban communities. New developments raise property values. Higher property values demand higher rents. Residents unable to pay those higher rents move out and are generally replaced by higher-income residents. Businesses then move in to cater to those residents and the cycle continues.

A frank discussion about the future of Hilltop and efforts the city could do to change that future should be done sooner rather than later. However, neighbors should know the downside of all the “good news” about commercial developers holding ribbon cuttings in the Hilltop.

The above opinion represents the view of Tacoma Weekly's editorial board.


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