When you look at a property, what do you see? Do you see a rundown, dumpy eyesore of a house blighting your neighborhood? Or do you see what could be? A new, efficient, smart home?

A dirty, garbage-strewn old retail building, or a thriving mixed-use project with shops and bars on the bottom, apartments on top?

Can you envision the “best and highest” use?

Seeing the Best of What Could Be

Sometimes it’s tough in our day-to-day lives to see what something could be. But towns and cities are always changing, here in the Puget Sound area especially, right now. Think back to a decade ago, when South Lake Union was a rundown bunch of warehouses. Now, it’s the home to Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and many other tech and biotech companies. (And some absolutely horrendous traffic, unfortunately).

People with vision saw what the area could be, and they worked to make that vision a reality.

Of course, the best and highest use is always evolving, just like cities, towns, and the real estate market in general. What might be the best and highest use for a property today may be totally different in a few years.

A few things to consider when thinking about what the best and highest use for a property are:

  • What is currently in the neighborhood?
    • Is it all single-family homes, or are there business? Office, or industrial buildings? Parks?
  • What happens in the neighborhood?
    • Are people living, working, or playing there? Or all three?
  • What’s missing from the neighborhood?
    • Would a park and playground improve the quality of life for those who live in the neighborhood? Or would it serve more people to have a mixed-use development with some shops on the bottom, and condos or apartments above?
  • How do people get to and from the neighborhood?
    • Does everyone have to drive in and out? Is it served by mass transit? Are there bike lanes (like these on Bainbridge Island), if a lot of people bike to/from the area?

Make It Yours

While not everyone can be a builder or developer, you can still be involved in how your neighborhood takes shape. Here are a few ideas:

  • Attend your city’s City Council and planning commission meetings.
  • Participate in surveys or focus groups
  • Actually go (and comment) when you see those “public comment period” signs at a property set for development
  • Meet your neighbors, volunteer, or help gather information
  • Serve on an advisory committee or serve as a member the local planning commission.


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