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Downtown Seattle Remains Strong But Regional Growth Calls for Smarter Design for Accommodation

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Zillow, Puget Sound, Seattle, NAIOP

By Brittan Jenkins

Excitement around downtown Seattle’s growing market was only hyped more during this morning’s annual State of Downtown Economic Report at the Westin in downtown Seattle. The sold-out event featured prominent speakers such as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, and Dow Constantine, King County executive, all there to discuss the economic state and strength of the region. The event highlighted the growth and vibrancy of downtown Seattle in many areas with an emphasis on the city’s livability mantra of live, work, play and shop.

“The first thing you notice when you look around downtown Seattle today are the cranes,” said Scholes. “At last count Seattle had 62 cranes in the air, more than anywhere in the nation,” he added. While they may be an eyesore, Scholes said they’re a sign of a strong region. “These cranes symbolize confidence,” he said. “We’re growing because people want to be part of a healthy and vibrant downtown.”

Construction on residential units has remained strong as the region has had continued year-over-year residential growth with an 18 percent increase in residential population since 2010. Currently, there are over 70,000 residents living in downtown Seattle, or more than one in 10 Seattlites. The area remains young as well, with nearly 50 percent of all downtown residents between the ages of 25 and 44. More impressively, however, is the growth the downtown region has experienced with the number of children growing up there. The population of school-aged kids living in downtown has grown by 40 percent since 2010, resulting in nearly 3,200 kids calling downtown home.

“The DSA understands that growth means more people, which means a livelier and safer city, it means a more diverse and creative city and ultimately it means a more prosperous and successful city,” said Mayor Murray. He added that with the population growth of the city, it means we as a city have to reimagine how to use public spaces and how we redesign our infrastructure so Seattle grows in a way that reminds us why we came here or why we stayed here. He believes this can be done through productive and successful public and private partnerships.

With such an increase in population and residential growth, supplying enough housing is essential to a robust region. As of December 2016, 47 buildings were under construction and an additional 5,975 units are scheduled for completion by the end of this year with most of the new units being apartments. While a number of projects are currently underway in the area, most notable of these are the apartments at 2202 8th Ave. (the $284 million development set to come online in 2018), the $150 million project Kinetics (a Security Properties development set for a 2017 completion), Stratus Tower (a $100 million development also set for completion this year) and the $143 million mixed-use residential and office tower Tilt49/AMLI Arc Apartments, which is arriving this year.

Another component of the event focused on work in downtown and the job gains the area has had since 2010. Since that year, Seattle has created 50,000 new jobs, with the majority of those in downtown, representing 94 percent of all jobs gained in Seattle. With additional jobs come more office space, and downtown is booming with that. Downtown represents 78 percent of all of Seattle’s office space of which more than 5 million square feet of office space was added in the past two years. Even more, by 2020, the area can expect an additional 13 million square feet.

With a chipper tone and in closing, Scholes said,”It gives me great pleasure to announce at this sold out breakfast that the state of downtown is strong.”

“Our city is thriving for all that share downtown… downtown is truly everyone’s neighborhood,” he said.