A digital simulation of Seattle's South Lake Union provides a peek at the not-so-distant future, after developers have put up an array of 40-story towers.
The past decade brought a burst of mid-rise office buildings and apartment blocks to Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, accompanied by a few taller towers hugging the edge of downtown.
In the next five years a whole new level of intense development is coming to the South Lake Union skyline — an array of 30- and 40-story structures that one marketer calls “a burgeoning multibillion-dollar vertical village.”
What will the north end of Seattle’s downtown look like once this phalanx of commercial and residential skyscrapers arrives?
A digital “flyover” simulating the downtown cityscape of 2020 gives some sense of the expected transformation.
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It was commissioned by British Columbia-based developer Burrard Group and Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, based in Seattle, who are preparing to market a 40-story condominium tower in the neighborhood. The Nexus tower, at 1200 Howell St., could break ground in the fall, with units slated to sell for $300,000 to $3 million.
The simulation, created by Weber Thompson and Parsons Brinckerhoff, shows 20 projects whose developers have applied to the city for master use permits. The renderings of individual buildings are based on those applications.
Dean Jones, principal at Realogics Sotheby’s, says Seattle residents are understandably astounded at the pace of growth in the formerly sleepy South Lake Union neighborhood, but it has happened elsewhere. “We have to look to other cities, (areas) such as South of Market in San Francisco, or Yaletown in Vancouver B.C. — there is precedent for this much development to emerge in this amount of time.”
He recalls that 10 years ago, when his firm was involved with the condo tower above Whole Foods at the intersection of Westlake and Denny, South Lake Union was mostly “a place you drove through.” Now a line of towers is planned along Denny Way.
Will all of those projects make it off the drawing board?
“Barring an economic crisis, I definitely think so,” says Christian Chan, executive vice president of family-owned Burrard Group. The global trend toward urbanization, the tech sector’s surging growth in Seattle and the resulting interest of institutional investors in funding projects here all point in that direction, he says.
Jones says density and regional traffic tangles will create more reasons for people who work downtwon to live there as well: “Much like Manhattan, I think in downtown Seattle we are going to feel like we are living on an island.”