For some, Seattle is evergreen; others say the Emerald City has lost its shine

Update: Jonathan Raban's recent essay on Crosscut has sparked a big debate: What was Seattle, what has it become, and how did that happen?
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Update: Jonathan Raban's recent essay on Crosscut has sparked a big debate: What was Seattle, what has it become, and how did that happen?

We expected a piece from a writer of Jonathan Raban's stature to generate a lot of interest, but the discussion of his article about Seattle's changing fabric ("Just Another Metropolis," July 6) has been among the more fascinating of any article since we launched Crosscut. Old-timers and newcomers alike have debated how much the Emerald City has changed, since when it has changed, and what that change means for residents. In the end, perspective seems to account for the wide range of opinion – when you got here, what you value, etc. Raban himself has participated, clarifying his essay and raising new questions about the way in which we experience Seattle and the metropolitan area. He took issue with commenters accusing him of undue "nostalgia," writing: I wasn't at all "bemoaning" the change, merely observing it. The most curious thing about Seattle is how its connections to its working hinterland persisted into the late 20th century, and were still visible to me when I arrived. Since then it has broken free of its original roots, and, in the process, become a bigger, more complicated, and, to me, more interesting place to live in. He also says that, to his mind, Seattle is "a template for the ways cities are changing," saying that other cities have become more like Seattle rather than vice versa. Raban's second comment addresses a different issue, looking at how the growth of the Seattle metropolitan area has changed the way residents experience the city. To him, the notion of "Seattle" has expanded beyond the confines of the city itself to include the Eastside suburbs, Tacoma, and Bremerton: Not long ago, I rarely crossed the perimeter of I-405 except when I was driving way out of Seattle – to Montana, or Vancouver, B.C., or Portland (or Sea-Tac Airport). At some time since 2000, looking for Sunday lunch with my daughter or a friend, I'd find myself torn between Indian in Redmond or dim sum in Kent. Raban wonders how ongoing development of the greater Seattle are has influenced the "mental" or "soft" cities of its inhabitants. Much of the debate about his article centers on the way individuals experience an urban setting; Raban is interested in how the changes of the past two decades have influenced that experience. Weigh in here.


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