Seattle is in the midst of a boom period not seen since the turn of the 20th century, when the city’s population mushroomed from 42,000 residents in 1890 to 250,000 by 1910, and its being driven, in large measure, by the pace of investment and growth in downtown.
That’s according to Jon Scholes, head of the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), who spoke to a packed house at the DSA’s annual State of Downtown luncheon event held recently at the Hyatt Recency Seattle.
“Forty percent of the office space downtown and 58% of the residential units [downtown] have been created in the last two decades,” Scholes said. “Over the past decade, employment downtown is up 52%. Seattle is one of the five cities in the country that together account for 90% of the tech jobs created over the last 12 years.”
Despite all that good news on the growth front, Scholes points out that downtown also confronts challenges with affordability, transportation mobility and the quality of “our public realm,” referring, in part, to the rising crime rate in parts of downtown. He said crime is up 30 percent in the last three years in the downtown area bordered by the freeway, Olive Way and Yesler Way and extending down to the waterfront.
The highlights of the report the DSA put together and released at the luncheon include the following:
* About 88,000 people now live downtown, including 4,850 children; 3,263 residential units were completed in the central city last year, with 33,000-plus units still planned for downtown.
* Some 328,000 jobs are located downtown, which accounts for 54% of the value of all commercial property in the city ― with 17.5 million square feet of office space added since 2010 (including 4.5 million square feet completed last year).
* Some 10,000 retail jobs are located downtown and 32% of all brick-and-mortar retail activity occurs in Seattle’s urban core, generating $210 million in retail sales tax last year.
* A total of $1.7 billion was spend on arts, entertainment and dining downtown in 2019, supporting 23,000 restaurant jobs and the sale of more than 4.2 million hotel-room nights last year.
“Despite being less than 6% of Seattle’s land mass, downtown’s 12 neighborhoods account for nearly half of all economic activity in Seattle, including half the jobs, a third of brick-and-mortar retail sales, nearly have of leisure spending (including dining) and half the taxes paid by businesses in the city,” the DSA report states. “Downtown businesses contribute 48% of the gross regional product generated within the city.”
Still, the crime issue looms large downtown. Referring to the shooting that occurred late last month in Seattle’s downtown, which wounded seven, including a child, and resulted in one death, Mayor Jenny Durkan, who also spoke at the DSA luncheon, said, “No one should fear being a victim of gun violence.”
“After the shooting,” Durkan added, “I met with business owners in the area and continue to meet with the police chief, and I am committed to ensuring that we not only come up with a short-term fix, but that we are also looking for long-term solutions in police policy and for the downtown area.”
Scholes stressed in his address to the luncheon crowd that the “status quo is no longer acceptable,” with respect to the crime problem. “Enough is enough!” he added