A friend visiting from Portland expressed astonishment at all the construction cranes erected near Lake Union in Seattle. It had been a while since his last visit, so he was understandably amazed by the many new downtown towers and dozens of restaurants within a short walk from his hotel. Seattle, we know, is booming.

Just thirty miles to the north sits Everett, with a much different story. There is a single crane, poised to assist the building of a new hotel. Yet, a half-block away, the city’s largest eating establishment shuttered its doors. The Majestic Café, after serving over 400,000 meals, was forced out of business, costs greatly exceeding income.

There is always a Catch-22 about cities, and money is at the center of the equation. Everett, unfortunately, is much poorer than Seattle, with household incomes significantly smaller. The mills have closed. They once employed thousands at family-wages, which circulated in a bustling downtown, replete with major retail stores and dozens of local restaurants. Now what?

Does retail follow roofs? That premise is about to be tested, as hundreds of new apartment units near completion within Everett’s urban core. The occupants will need places to eat and shop. Those places will need workers, who will also spend money. The trick is to circulate dollars, the more the merrier.

Despite my general pessimism, I am hopeful about Everett and its transition from Old Mill Town, though I’m not sure yet about its new complexion. Those who take the financial risk to build the new apartments should be applauded. I would encourage them to build even more, especially along Colby Ave, the downtown spine.

Everett will never be Seattle, which is probably a good thing. But it can return to economic vitality. This matters to me. I live here.