The transformation of South Lake Union over the last 15 years has been undeniably dramatic. The former low-lying industrial neighborhood has been replaced by mid-rise offices faster than anyone anticipated. Now, with nearly every block home to such buildings, it would be easy to think that the South Lake Union transformation is done, the new character of the neighborhood fixed.
In fact, South Lake Union is about to enter another stage of transformation. For the first time, skyscrapers are coming. And they're coming en masse.
Two tower projects are already approved for construction: 25- and 26-story residential buildings a block apart on 9th Avenue. Another 11 towers are going through the permitting process, six of which are at least 40 stories tall. Permitting and construction will take several years, during which some projects may fall through and additional projects may be proposed. All told, if every one of the projects in the pipeline today reaches completion, there will be 13 new buildings, each over 20 stories, where today there are none over 12 stories. These new towers, all of them residential, will fundamentally alter the character and the function of South Lake Union yet again.
The map below shows each of the planned 20+ story residential projects. Click on the pins to see the permit descriptions, then click on the image to flip through the full design proposals. (Two 42-story towers going up at 121 Boren are not on the map because the developer hasn’t yet submitted a design proposal to the City.)
Planned 20+ story residential projects. Click on the pins to see the permit descriptions, then click on the image to flip through the full design proposals.Throughout its recent boom, South Lake Union has been primarily a commercial neighborhood. Its approximately 3,500 units of housing are dwarfed by the estimated 35,000 jobs in the area. The new high-rise projects could bring nearly 5,000 new units of housing.
Put another way, the population of just these new towers could be significantly larger than the current total population of South Lake Union. Another twenty or so mid-rise residential projects will add almost 5,000 more units to the total, meaning that in a few years South Lake Union could potentially nearly quadruple its residential population.
With the rising residential population, South Lake Union will have to invest in appropriate amenities and infrastructure. The restaurant and bar scene will probably boom, with businesses able to take advantage of large lunch crowds and the fast-growing number of locals in the evening. But schools likely won't be coming, as South Lake Union residents are overwhelmingly childless.