Kirkland and Bellevue a top 10 luxury-housing market; stats show downtown Seattle’s bustling; Concur plugs in to Starbucks Card; rocket scientists examine the latte.

Share story

If you own a home in Kirkland or Bellevue, you live in one of the nation’s top 10 luxury markets, according to a new ranking by Redfin, a Seattle-based brokerage.

Redfin ranked more than 16,000 U.S. cities based on the average price of luxury homes — the priciest 5 percent — sold in the fourth quarter. (The study excluded New York City.)

The two Eastside cities are a long way from top-ranked Miami Beach, where the average luxury home sold for $8.3 million in the fourth quarter.

But Kirkland’s average luxury home sold for $2.5 million, ranking it sixth, while Bellevue’s came in next at just over $2.4 million. Those price levels have been driven up in recent years, in part by demand from wealthy foreign buyers who aren’t too worried about how much they pay, says Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist. “If you’re looking at it as a store of value, you don’t mind paying more than the comps,” she said.

Over the year, the average price of Kirkland luxury homes sold grew 39 percent, the second-highest annual gain in the nation, Redfin reports. Meanwhile the average price for Bellevue luxury homes fell 2 percent, showing the market may be in for a cooling-off period.

In Washington, Seattle had the highest number of luxury-home sales in the fourth quarter: There were 130 sales, with an average price of nearly $1.7 million, according to Redfin.

— Sanjay Bhatt:

State of downtown forum draws crowd

More downtown residents, dozens of new residential towers on the way and a decrease in the number of commuters who drive alone to the area were some of the tidbits presented at the Downtown Seattle Association’s state of downtown economic forum this past week.

The annual event, which drew some 1,200 people to the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, featured speakers including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who called on businesses to help with lobbying to get resources to address issues such as homelessness and mental illness.

Jon Scholes, the association president, said the number of people living downtown has increased in recent years to 65,000 — up 8 percent since 2010.

He also shared the results of a commuter survey showing that the proportion of downtown workers who drive alone to work fell to 31 percent. Forty-five percent of downtown workers commute via public transit.

The association on Wednesday also released its annual State of Downtown Economic Report. Among the tidbits:

• Sixty residential and mixed hotel-residential towers, representing about 10,000 units, have either been delivered or are under way or scheduled to be under way in 2014-15. The median purchase price for a downtown condo was $409,500, 40 percent higher than the citywide median of $292,500.

• Taxable retail sales at brick-and-mortar stores downtown grew 22 percent between 2009 and 2013, and 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, when sales totaled $1.39 billion.

• Downtown currently has more than 14,000 hotel rooms, with another 1,100 scheduled to come online by the end of 2016.

— Janet Tu:

Starbucks spot to meet for business

One would think that anyone armed with a business-expense account would spend their time at fancy hotel bars and pricey steakhouses. But it turns out that the place they most frequent is Starbucks, according to Concur, the Bellevue-based maker of expense-account software.

After poring over transactions filed by 27 million users, Concur determined that Starbucks is the “most commonly expensed restaurant and the top location for out-of-office business meetings,” to the tune of 10,000 meetings a month held under the gaze of the green siren.

Doing business or talking shop over $3 lattes instead of $18 martinis and $45 steaks seems like a wise stand against profligacy with shareholders’ hard-earned money, especially in the wake of a big recession.

But it posed an existential problem for those alpha-type executives who were also members of Starbucks’ members-reward program: They couldn’t earn Starbucks points on business-related purchases made with their company cards.

Fear no more, corporate-card holders: In mid-February Concur added a feature that enables business travelers to link their registered Starbucks Card to their Concur account.

— Ángel González:

Foamy-drink discovery

Want to avoid burns from spilled coffee? Get a latte.

Who said spending time at the pub or the coffeehouse is a waste of time? Certainly not a transatlantic team of French and American rocket scientists affiliated with Princeton, the French National Center for Scientific Research, the Ecole normale supérieure de Cachan and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Their devotion led them to discover that drinks with foam — say, a Guinness or a latte — are less likely to spill because the foam is a “damping mechanism” for movement. Beyond saving sleepy coffee drinkers from breakfast injuries, the research could help make flammable substances in trucks, trains and rocket engines safer, the scientists say in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids.

Emilie Dressaire, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, says the inspiration came at Starbucks, of all places. The barista told her that her latte was unlikely to need a stopper to avoid spilling. Other researchers noticed the same thing with foamy beer.

So the team experimented with dishwashing soap, which was remarkably effective in dampening sloshing. It even produced a YouTube video demonstrating the effect using three tumblers filled with foamy Guinness, less frothy Heineken and plain coffee.

The findings could come in handy when transporting oil in trains, a practice becoming common in the U.S. but that recently resulted in an explosion after a derailment in West Virginia.

“The potential applications are much bigger than beer,” said Alban Sauret, a researcher with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

— Ángel González: