New Jobs and Housing Booming in South Lake Union


Mayor’s Action Agenda paying off with new jobs, homes outpacing projections SEATTLE, WA, Nov. 28, 2007 – Mayor Greg Nickels announced today job and housing growth in South Lake Union since 2004 is outpacing projections, showing that his Action Agenda to create new opportunities to live, work and play in the neighborhood is paying off.

In December 2003, a city-commissioned study by economist Paul Sommers, founder of the Center for Metropolitan Studies at Seattle University, predicted the neighborhood would add 3.043 million square feet of new homes, offices, labs and retail space between 2004 and 2007. As of October 2007, 4.367 million square feet of space has either been built since 2004 or is under construction.

“The vision of transforming this once neglected area of our city into a diverse and thriving neighborhood with more homes, more jobs and more opportunities is becoming a reality,” Nickels said. “The smart investments we’ve made in South Lake Union are paying off, not just for the neighborhood, but for the entire city.”

In Sommers’ December 2003 study, he projected 6,409 jobs would be created between 2000 and 2007 by new South Lake Union development. City staff now estimate 6,914 jobs have been created, an increase of 8 percent above projections.

“Five years ago, the City Council declared its intention to make South Lake Union the region’s most competitive location for biotech research and high-tech industries,” said Councilmember Jan Drago. “It’s great to see that the vision is becoming reality before our eyes.”

The mayor noted that in February the city broke ground for the new waterfront Lake Union Park. Last month the state of Washington designated the neighborhood a “Life Science Innovation Partnership Zone.” Next month the South Lake Union line of the Seattle Streetcar begins operation.

Fifty-five percent of the new development is commercial space and 45 percent is residential. South Lake Union is a mixed-income neighborhood, with more than one-third of all housing units affordable to those at or below 80 percent of the median income. More affordable units are projected to come online with the addition of 133 units from the Low Income Housing Institute and the Downtown Emergency Service Center. The affordable housing units are provided a variety of ways:

  • Private development will provide 50 units of affordable housing at the Borealis project;
  • The “Homes Within Reach” program will provide a total of 65 units of affordable housing at the Cairns and Cascade I/Alley 24 developments; and
  • The Housing Levy will provide 50 units of affordable housing at the Denny Park Apartments.

The goals of the mayor’s South Lake Union Action Agenda, unveiled in March 2003, are to build a streetcar, fix the “Mercer mess,” create a new waterfront park, attract biotech jobs, improve neighborhood amenities, and build infrastructure to promote new jobs. Here’s where things stand:

  • Build a Streetcar. On Dec. 12, 2007, the 1.3 mile streetcar line will open and connect thousands of people to new jobs, homes and parks in South Lake Union. Half of the project cost is being funded by local property owners; no city general fund dollars have gone into the project.
  • Fix the “Mercer Mess.” Design is 60 percent complete and $30 million in funding has been secured through the Mayor’s “Bridging the Gap” initiative. The city is working on a financing strategy for remainder, estimated to be $100 million.
  • Deliver on a 100-year dream by creating a new waterfront park. The Mayor broke ground for the new Lake Union Park in February 2007 and Phase I of construction will be complete by end of this year. The pedestrian bridge over Waterway 3 will be completed in early 2008.
  • Improve neighborhood amenities. South Lake Union’s neighbors and the city share a vision that the neighborhood will continue to experience a healthy mix of affordable and market-rate housing, unique commercial and retail spaces and neighborhood services.
    • The Cascade Playground underwent a major renovation; improvements for Denny Park are in the works.
    • The city has invested in capacity building for the Cascade People’s Center.

Helping promote sustainable development in Seattle is perhaps best exemplified in South Lake Union. Both for-profit and nonprofit developers have embraced the design and construction of “green buildings” in the neighborhood. These buildings help save money and resources, and are healthier for people and for our environment.

The Denny Park Apartments, which provides 50 units for low-income families, was built to Seattle’s SeaGreen standards. The Alcyone Apartments was Seattle’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified apartment building.

Seattle Public Utilities is working on the design of a first-of-its-kind biofiltration project to combine innovative approaches in urban design and water treatment to clean dirty runoff water before it enters Lake Union.

The U.S. Green Building Council has accepted the city’s application to certify South Lake Union as LEED-certified for neighborhood development.

  • Attract Biotech and other family-wage jobs. New zoning, housing and transportation improvements will make it easier for biotechnology to locate in this neighborhood. South Lake Union is currently home to Rosetta Merck, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, ZymoGenetics and an expanding University of Washington Life Science Campus. The city adopted new code standards to incentivize biotech development in South Lake Union.The state has designated South Lake Union an Innovation Partnership Zone, which makes South Lake Union Projects eligible for work force training and infrastructure financing from the state.
  • Build infrastructure to support new jobs. Reliable electrical power service is essential to this biotech core. The city is working in partnership with private companies on a financing plan for a new network that would provide them the same level of reliability as the rest of downtown Seattle receives today.The city will be purchasing property for a new electrical substation in the neighborhood that will support the increasing electrical loads for current businesses and future job growth in the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods.

Visit the mayor’s Web site at Get the mayor’s inside view on efforts to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at


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