South Lake Union Growing, Thriving, and Helping to Sustain Seattle

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Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin today released a report that stated that South Lake Union’s recent growth, especially in the public and private investments sector, has helped the city as a whole when it comes to budget woes.

“South Lake Union has been an engine for job growth and new housing, helping Seattle recover from the recession,” McGinn said in a press release. “The City’s role has been crucial in helping support these new jobs. That work continues. The South Lake Union rezone proposal will help support up to 22,000 new jobs and up to 12,000 new households, including affordable housing, preservation of existing housing and open space, and other community benefits.”

The report, titled “Public and Private Investments in South Lake Union,” examines the relationship between public sector actions and private investment decisions, and how they have affected growth and economic development. The purpose of the study was to understand how the South Lake Union neighborhood has changed during the last few years and what economic lessons can be learned from South Lake’s example for other areas of the city.

“I was initially skeptical about some of the grand plans to transform South Lake Union into a regional public health/technology powerhouse. But the numbers demonstrate that targeted public investments and forward-thinking policy decisions actually did make a tremendous difference in shaping the future of that neighborhood,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, Chair of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. “The lessons learned about how our early actions primed the pump for job growth and economic prosperity will inform our consideration of the proposed South Lake Union rezone legislation and other infrastructure investments in the neighborhood.”

Some of the highlights from the report talk about the increase in jobs, development, and tax revenues. Currently, South Lake Union has an estimated 23,000 jobs, and the neighborhood’s share of Seattle’s total employment has also grown.

From 1995 to 2010, the report states, Seattle added 34,000 jobs. One in 10 of those were in South Lake Union, indicating the neighborhood is increasingly a major drive for economic opportunity. Also since 1995, 12.5 million square feet of multi-family, office, biotech, and retail space has been developed in the neighborhood.

Since 2000, the report says, development in the South Lake Union urban center accounted for more than $155 million of Seattle’s revenues and an estimated $356 million in revenues in the next decade.

“South Lake Union has transformed into a high density, mixed-use urban neighborhood providing jobs, housing and public amenities to a wide range of people,” said Michael Hodgins, finance and economics practice manager at BERK. “The City actions detailed in this report created the environment for private investment that has led to the gains in employment, housing, and tax revenue we see today.”

The process has been 30 years in the making, the survey said, with the City of Seattle supporting the economic development in South Lake Union by coordinationg and implementing local, regional and statewide comprehensive land use and transportation planning efforts, implementation of zoning changes to attract specific uses and tenants, such as the life sciences and high technology fields and supporting and investing in public infrastructure and amenities in the neighborhood, such as the streetcar, Cascade Park, Lake Union Park and the Mercer Corridor.

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