Ravenna: Academics, Families,
and a Community-Centric Focus
With its quiet streets and accessibility to I-5 and the rest of the city, it’s no surprise that Ravenna attracts families and couples who are looking for a refuge that’s not too far from the goings-on Downtown. Being only a few blocks north of the University of Washington, it’s also natural that a lot of professors, UW faculty, and students (undergrad as well as graduate students) live in this area.
Ravenna is mostly residential, with a few restaurants and businesses sprinkled along the thoroughfares of N.E. 65th Street and Roosevelt Way N.E. It’s a short drive or bike ride over to University Village to the east for shopping, or Green Lake and the Woodland Park Zoo to the west.
2019 Data at a Glance
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Pros and Cons of Living in Ravenna, Seattle
Some of the biggest pros of living in Ravenna are that the neighborhood is quiet and park-like with beautiful, tree-lined residential streets and that it has some great places to grab a bite to eat or to shop.
For dining, head to Zouave Restaurant, a place serving Italian comfort food, beer, and wine in a down-to-earth setting. JuneBaby has heirloom ingredients made into classic Southern fare, Arriba Cantina has Jalisco-inspired dishes and a full bar with a huge mural depicting Puerto Vallarta, and Frank’s Oyster House & Champagne Parlor has a great happy hour and offers oysters and surf ‘n turf in a cool, retro setting.
Ravenna also seems to promote healthy eating options more than some other neighborhoods, with spots such as Wayward Vegan Cafe, with delicious vegan breakfast and comfort food, The Sunlight Cafe, with veggie-packed vegetarian dishes, and Sushi Tokyo for the sushi-lovers.
Shop for healthy groceries at one of the two nearby PCC Community Markets or at Whole Foods in Roosevelt Square. There’s also a Safeway for more affordable grocery shopping. Ravenna also has a few unique shops and boutiques, and one of the oldest cycling shops in the city. R&E Cycles was founded in the 70s and is one of the few custom frame shops in the Pacific Northwest. They offer custom bikes and tandems, parts, accessories, apparel, and other gear that Ravenna-area cyclists need, all with the best customer service and care.
Roosevelt High School is located in the Ravenna neighborhood, and the school has exceptional programs for theatre and music. The high school’s jazz band is excellent, and often wins national championships for their skill. Neighborhood residents can attend performances and jazz festivals at Roosevelt and other schools around the greater Seattle area to enjoy the efforts of these fantastic programs.
One of the downsides of living in Ravenna is the lack of diversity. Residents are mostly white, and many of them are either graduate students or professors at the University of Washington. Ravenna Boulevard even has the nickname “Professors’ Row.” The academic atmosphere is most palpable in the southern end of the neighborhood, as it edges up against the University District and the University Village Shopping Center. The bars and restaurants can be pretty packed with Husky fans on football weekends during the winter season.
Although there’s no direct access to I-5 from Ravenna, N.E. 45th and N.E. 70th Streets on the south and north sides of the neighborhood are probably the easiest and fastest routes to get to the interstate. Ravenna is also located conveniently to reach any Seattle neighborhood without too much time or trouble, adding to its appeal. Additionally, there is a new Link light rail station underway, which will include an underground station at 12th Avenue N.E. between N.E. 65th and N.E. 67th street. When the station is complete in 2021, it’s expected to transport passengers from Roosevelt to Seatac Airport in 45 minutes. The construction of the station is changing the area a lot, and will include a daycare center and around 245 units of affordable family housing.
There are six parks in Ravenna, including Cowen Park and the neighborhood’s namesake, Ravenna Park. Ravenna is also pretty close to the Burke-Gilman trail for running and cycling.
History of Ravenna, Seattle
North of the University of Washington, nestled between Roosevelt and Bryant along Lake City Way N.E., the cozy neighborhood of Ravenna has early history as a Seattle park. The Ravenna neighborhood was settled before the University of Washington was moved to the area just south, and its principal feature was the creek that went from Green Lake to Union Bay. Huge, hundred-year-old Douglas Firs covered the land.
The native tribes had a village on Union Bay’s western shore, where they lived in cedar longhouses during the winter and became more nomadic during the summer to hunt, fish, and trap.
After white settlers started coming to Seattle in the 1850s following the Denny party’s landfall at Alki Beach, the earliest landowner in the Ravenna area was William N. Bell, who took the lower end of the creek. However, ownership of the area changed hands in 1887, when George and Oltilde Dorffel took over. They immediately platted part of the land, which they called Ravenna Springs Park, setting aside the steep ravine for an actual park because it wasn’t suitable for building. It was also very beautiful, since the steep ravine made it difficult for loggers and farmers and therefore the area still had lots of its old-growth timber.
The following year, in 1888, William W. and Louise Beck bought 400 acres of land surrounding Union Bay, developing their property for town lots. The Becks opened a grist mill called the Ravenna Flouring Co. and set aside several acres for the Seattle Female College, which preceded the University of Washington by five years and taught music and art. By 1890, there were 40 students, but the college closed after the Panic of 1893. Perhaps most importantly for the neighborhood, the Becks opened Ravenna Park, fencing the ravine, building picnic shelters and paths, and even importing exotic plants.
Ravenna Park became popular for city residents, especially after the Rainier Power and Railway Co. streetcar line (completed in 1891) made accessing the park far easier. That same year, the Roosevelt district bordering Ravenna was annexed by the city, and in 1907, Ravenna was also annexed. In the meantime, Ravenna Creek was diverted into a sewer, and Ravenna Boulevard was built. In 1906, the upper part of the ravine was acquired by a developer named Charles Cowan, who set aside a few acres for Cowan Park.
The Becks were still very active in the Ravenna community in the early 1900s, and when the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition came to the UW in 1908, they facilitated the naming of some of the largest trees in Ravenna Park. But in 1911, the park became the property of the city of Seattle, and the massive Douglas Firs started disappearing. According to the city, the trees were rotting and posed a safety hazard; the last one was felled in 1926.
Ravenna continued to grow rapidly throughout the first half of the 20th century. Despite local concerns that it was “too big” and “too expensive,” the Seattle School Board proposed building Roosevelt High School in 1920 for $3 million. The school opened in 1922, and in just five years it had exceeded capacity and the Board had to add 11 classrooms.
Locals and Ravenna residents have long fought change in their neighborhood, in addition to opposing Roosevelt High School in 1920. In 1948, it was a battle over the idea to divert Ravenna Creek into sewers. In 1983, there were protests against spraying carbaryl pesticides to fight a gypsy moth infestation (the protests resulted in a switch to an alternative spray, which, luckily, worked). Most recently, in 1991, the city planned to dig up Ravenna Park for a new sewer, which the Ravenna community successfully blocked.
Home Prices in Ravenna, Seattle
The average value of a home in Ravenna is $867,942, and although home values in Ravenna have declined by -4.1% in the past 12 months, market experts expect them to increase by 0.3% in the upcoming year. The median price per square foot in Ravenna is $528, which is slightly above the Seattle average of $511 per square foot.
While the population of Ravenna is not very diverse, the home styles are. As with many Seattle neighborhoods, bungalows with low, widely overhanging rooflines and wide, deep porches are prevalent, but there are also several blocks of beautiful brick Tudor-style homes and some avenues with architecturally unique mansions and estates.
On average, renters spend around $1,888 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in Ravenna, although there aren’t many apartment buildings in the neighborhood; most are located closer to the business areas of Roosevelt and East Green Lake.
Walk Score & Transportation in Ravenna
The walk score in Ravenna is 77, making the neighborhood the 30th most walkable in Seattle. The bike score is 79, so Ravenna is quite friendly for cyclists who are commuting or exercising by bike.
Ravenna has a transit score of 58, with fairly good access via public transportation. There are a handful of bus routes that pass through and around the neighborhood, including route 71, which travels from Wedgwood to the University Station Link light rail, with stops at N.E. 65th Street and 35th Avenue N.E. in Ravenna, Cowen Park, and University Way and N.E. 45th Street in the University District. Route 74 also has stops in the Ravenna neighborhood at Ravenna Avenue N.E. and Ravenna Place N.E., and at N.E. Ravenna Boulevard and Park Road N.E. Route 372 transports commuters from the University of Washington at Campus Parkway to the UW’s Bothell location, and passes through Ravenna with a couple of stops in the neighborhood. Finally, route 62 has stops in Ravenna between Sand Point Way and Downtown Seattle at S. Jackson Street and 5th Avenue S.
Unique Gems in Ravenna
Unlike many Seattle neighborhoods, Ravenna doesn’t have its own farmers market. It does, however, have Rising Sun Produce, a fantastic neighborhood market with fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables. Ravenna residents also go to the wildly popular University District Farmers Market, which is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays year-round. Other notable gems in Ravenna include:
Bryant Corner Cafe: Get your morning fix at the Bryant Corner Cafe, with classic American breakfast staples, tasty baked goods, and a neighborhood favorite weekend brunch.
Third Place Books: Seattle is a welcoming place for readers and writers, and Ravenna is home to one of the Third Place Books locations — a local, independent chain. The bookshop sells new and used books, with local authors prominently featured (they often come in for book launches, signings, and other events). There’s also an in-store cafe, so you can sip something hot or nibble on a pastry as you enjoy a good book.
Salare Restaurant: This fresh-feeling, contemporary restaurant features an eclectic menu with inspiration from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South. There are delicious small bites, salads, pastas, and meat and seafood entrees made with locally sourced ingredients.
Pair: A sibling restaurant of Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor, Pair offers tapas and small plates styled with New American and Mediterranean influence, plus a great wine selection. The restaurant has a cozy French farmhouse atmosphere.
Jet City Improv: Have some laughs and maybe learn some comedy at Jet City Improv, the local spot for short-form improv comedy for more than 26 years. In addition to improv shows and improv classes, the Jet City team performs frequent original shows, does outreach work, and offers corporate improv classes. Every weekend, performances include a mix of classic improv comedy games with brand new creations. Audience interaction is highly encouraged (and basically required for those seated in the front rows).