Downtown Seattle’s construction boom surges to new record, with no end in sight

Date: 21 Jul 2017

Just when it looked like the construction surge couldn’t get any busier, developers keep building more apartments and offices.

The demand for new housing and offices in Seattle’s core somehow keeps getting stronger, as the greater downtown region hits another record for construction.

There are 74 major projects getting built from South Lake Union to Sodo, the most since the Downtown Seattle Association began tracking construction in 2005, the organization said in a report issued Thursday.

 The downtown group updates the region’s construction totals twice a year. A year ago, the region reached a new record with 65 buildings under way. Then six months ago, the count increased again, to 68. (In addition to downtown, the report covers Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Capitol and First hills, the International District and Sodo).
 Are the jackhammering, closed sidewalks and roadblocks ever going to end? Probably not anytime soon.

Half of the projects under way now are scheduled to wrap up this year. But there are about 150 projects still in the pipeline, and about one-third of those are ready to break ground soon.

Since it seems like streets have been getting torn up forever, it’s easy to forget how far the region’s development surge has come. The number of projects under way now is double the total from just five years ago. And it’s 60 percent more building than downtown saw at the peak of last decade’s boom, before the recession.

South Lake Union is still by far the hottest neighborhood, accounting for about one-third of the projects in the city’s core. Next are First Hill and the Denny Triangle, which each have about 15 percent of the developments. On the other end, the downtown waterfront, Sodo and the International Districts have the fewest projects.

What is everybody building, and why?

The short answer: apartments, because so many people are moving here and want to live downtown.

Two-thirds of the buildings under construction are residential towers, and while there are a couple of condo projects for homeownership included in the mix, the vast majority are apartments for rent. (Apartments are generally less risky for developers, and a more surefire moneymaker than condos right now.)

That breakdown hasn’t really changed from prior years. Despite record numbers of new apartments opening up citywide over the last few years, rents keep soaring as more people keep moving here with well-paying jobs. So developers have responded by building more and more and more.

In all, downtown has added 20,000 residential units in the last decade, with an additional 9,000 under construction and another 18,000 planned.


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