Seattle is again crane capital of America, but lead is shrinking

Date: 30 Jan 2017

Seattle has again been named the crane capital of America, as the local construction boom shows little sign of slowing in 2017.

Seattle had 62 cranes dotting the skyline at the end of 2016, the most in the country, according to Rider Levett Bucknall, a firm that tracks cranes across the world. That’s up from 58 in the middle of last year.

The company releases tower crane counts twice a year. In the last update, Seattle had an 18-crane lead over second-place Los Angeles.

But this time, a surge in construction in Chicago has catapulted the Midwest city into second, with 56 cranes, just six shy of Seattle. Los Angeles has dropped to third on the list with 29.

Seattle now has nearly three times more cranes than New York City, which had led the country in 2015. Seattle has more than San Francisco and Portland combined. It has more than Boston, Denver, Austin and Phoenix put together.

The crown for most cranes, first awarded to Seattle last year, has come to symbolize the sheer scale of the construction frenzy remaking neighborhoods from Sodo to South Lake Union to Ballard.

The towering yellow arms are often the first thing you see when entering the city, and in some spots it’s possible to spin around and spot a dozen or more cranes from one vantage point.

Seattle remains behind Toronto, which has 81 cranes, for the North American lead. In Australia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, there are cities where more than 100 cranes are at work.

In Seattle, crews packed up quite a few cranes to depart construction sites last year, but they are often quickly replaced on the skyline as another new project starts up, the Rider Levett Bucknall report says.

Crane companies say the construction equipment, which can stretch 600 feet in the air and cost $50,000 a month, is often booked several months in advance.

Most of the cranes are in or near downtown Seattle, but they pop up across the city. The majority are for apartments, with the city expecting a record 10,000 new units to open this year, although office, condo and hotel projects are springing up, as well.

Unlike cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, which have seen their crane counts fluctuate wildly in the last two years, Seattle’s tally has held mostly steady as of late.

The city had 42 cranes in mid-2015 before jumping to 60 in early 2016, then leveling off to 58 in mid-2016 and 62 now. The report notes the construction forecast “is optimistic, with many projects scheduled in 2017.”

The most recent increase goes against the nationwide trend: Chicago and Portland were the only other cities tracked that saw growth in cranes in the latter half of 2016 compared to earlier in the year. Most cities saw a small drop in cranes.

The RLB report doesn’t count local cranes outside the city of Seattle, but the Eastside had about 20 cranes as of the last count there, a year ago. Officials in Bellevue say the city currently has eight cranes.


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