This artist and photographer has taken the initiative to convince condo associations that affordable creative spaces preserve the value of their brand spanking new residential palaces.
LoveCityLove is a cozy storefront gallery and performance space that lives on borrowed time, as does the entire block where Melrose meets Pine. It’s where Bauhaus has made the sidewalk a social setting since 1993. This is an important corner. And it is about to get buried under another cookie-cutter condo complex, with strip mall sensibilities at street level. Old news, right?
But the point LoveCityLove makes is that the value of the property stems from the activities going on there. If you price out the creative types, the artists, musicians, and low income DIY dare devils you end up with a neighborhood that is no longer “happening.”
Ask people in Belltown how they feel about their condo purchase now.
“We want to raise awareness with the condo associations,” Lucien Pellegrin explains. “And beyond that. The city planning people. How can we maintain designated creative spaces within the business corridors?”
He realizes what he asking. There is no getting around the fact that it means developers would have to settle for slimmer profit margins.
“Do we really need another $15,000-a-month retail space in our neighborhood? We’ve made a place at LoveCityLove where artists can interact with the people buying those condos, and moving into the neighborhoods, so we can find common grounds. Youth culture keeps a place like Capitol Hill from drying up. We aim to subtly inspire the people with deep pockets to see the smaller picture.”
Sustainability requires a balance. Neighborhoods need diversity to avoid cultural drought and famine. The culturally inclined will always find a new home of the outskirts of anywhere. They will settle into areas that are not desirable and establish something new. Then the albatross follows, proposed land use action signs spring up like dandelions, and national chains set-up shop.
“So all this space does is ask – ‘Can we break that trend?'” He ponders aloud. “Just the other day I met two computer programmers who moved here from DC recently. They bought a little spot on the Hill. They were just walking by, and saw something interesting and wanted to know how they could get down. I’m hoping to show real estate developers a future that is mutually beneficial. And most importantly, we are not enemies.”
Understanding that he was once a transplant thrown into a Northwest he knew little about, he has compassion for the new home-owners and doesn’t demonize them the way we many have chosen to.
“I moved to the Hill in ’89. I was coming from San Francisco,” Lucien recalls. “I was home schooled. I was alternatively schooled. Now I look around and see a city that homogenizes and calls it progress. It’s stream-lined. Tailor made for the young urban professional. They have a name for those people don’t they?”
He withholds the name calling, and petty jabs at the newcomers while most of Seattle’s long-time residents are not so cordial. As he flips through one of PDA Magazine’s earlier issues he is inspired to comment on the drug war, and shifting attitudes that we at 4E have been praying for since the Mariners were still a good baseball team.
“I know drug culture, I’ve seen how it connects and moves through a city,” Lucien offers. “My mom is hooked, and my dad is recovering. Cannabis is helping those on the fringe. They are finding spiritual information that was hidden before. I swear there is knowledge in the buds. It’s like some metadata coding on the cells of the plant. Use it with intention, not just to fool around. It was illegal for so long because we tend to avoid the most obvious realities.”
There is a delicate approach he uses to discuss hard subjects. It reveals an inner strength and humility that is as rare a commodity as affordable creative spaces on Capitol Hill.
“Alcohol and tobacco has a stronghold on our social interactions. This is going way back in history,” He states while gesturing to the bars across the street. “Tune in to what matters instead. Sit in a park, and enjoy some trees. I can feel like myself when I smoke, it’s as comfortable and secure as having a beer. And less adderall, please. For everyone’s sake.”