The Central District is a mostly residential neighborhood in Seattle located east of First Hill, west of Madrona and Leschi, south of Capitol Hill, and north of Rainier Valley. Historically, it has been a predominantly African American neighborhood, though it has become more diverse in recent years.
Two demographic trends are changing the population of the Central District. First, the low-income segment of the African American population is moving southward toward Rainier Valley. Second, upper-middle-class, mostly white residents, who might otherwise have purchased homes on Capitol Hill or First Hill or in Madrona, are moving into the Central District as real estate and rental property become more expensive in those neighborhoods.
Due to this market pressure, housing in the Central District is mixed, with some homes on the verge of condemnation, and others having recently undergone extensive renovation. Many condemned houses are being replaced by multi-unit townhouses and condominiums. Easy access to Interstate 5 and Downtown, as well as ample street parking, also make the Central District attractive.
The African American population of the Central District has also shifted toward the more affluent end of the spectrum in recent years as home values have increased. Many long-time residents resent this gentrification process, which is driving older residents southward into more affordable, but less convenient or more rundown neighborhoods further southeast of the city center.
The Central District has long been know to have a high crime and poverty rate. This has declined significantly in recent years. However, the neighborhood remains dangerous and violent crime rates are among the highest in the Seattle area. Much of this crime however, occurs at night and is related to drugs and gangs.
The Central District's main thoroughfares are Martin Luther King Jr. Way (formerly Empire Way; the street was renamed in late 1983 after a nearly three-year battle) and 23rd Avenue (north- and southbound) and E. Union, E. Cherry, and E. Jefferson Streets and E. Yesler Way (east- and westbound).
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