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South Lake Union is the epicenter of Seattle’s tech-industry boom. As the international home of Amazon.com, and a regional center for Google, Facebook, and others, this neighborhood has contributed greatly to Seattle’s economic prosperity and status as a rising global city. Over the last two decades, as the neighborhood has transformed from a low-rise industrial zone to a dense urban hub, a lively debate has ensued over displacement, gentrification, the right to the city, and sustainable development. South Lake Union’s designers and developers such as the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Real Estate have responded to these concerns by building a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood. Public amenities such as open spaces and through-block connections, art installations, and active street-scapes encourage varied, all-day activities, while a focus on water management in landscape design emphasizes the urban ecology of the site.
On this tour of South Lake Union, the histories, ecologies, and ongoing evolution of the neighborhood will be elucidated through the example of several recently-completed projects:
Amazon Apollo (aka Block 52E) 325 9th Avenue North Seattle, WA Developer – Vulcan Real Estate Tenant – Amazon Completion – 2015 316,000 SF Office 5,000 SF Retail 443 Parking Stalls LEED Gold
The Arbor Blocks (aka Facebook Seattle) 300 and 333 8th Avenue North Seattle, WA Developer – Vulcan Real Estate Tenant – Facebook Completion – 2019 200,000 SF Office 2,400 SF Retail 286 Parking Stalls Anticipated LEED Gold
8th + Republican 430 8th Avenue North Seattle, WA Developer – The Wolff Company Tenant – Residential Completion – 2016 210 Residential Units 15,000 SF Retail LEED Silver
Amazon Bigfoot and Nessie 515 Westlake Avenue North Seattle, WA Developer – Vulcan Real Estate Tenant – Amazon Completion 2014 400,000 SF Office 18,000 SF Retail 335 Parking Stalls LEED Gold
Lakefront Blocks (aka Google Seattle) 625 Boren Avenue North Seattle, WA Developer – Vulcan Real Estate Tenant – Google Anticipated Completion – 2019 640,000 SF Office 10,000 SF Retail 150 residential units 788 Parking Stalls Anticipated LEED Gold, Salmon Safe
While the presenters’ projects will be the focus of this tour, we will also endeavor to point out other significant buildings along the route, such as Amazon Van Vorst, The Allen Institute, the Center for Wooden Boats, and MOHAI, which tour participants can revisit at their leisure. This year’s Seattle Design Festival theme – “Balance” – can be interpreted broadly, and themes of ecological sustainability, community building, and public engagement with the built environment are key to the festival program. These are also key goals in the re-development of South Lake Union. Finding the appropriate tension between buildings and their open space setting was a key responsibility of this design team, as they worked to create place within this rapidly evolving neighborhood. Tour participants will hear directly from the designers of these projects, who will explain how each contributes to this vibrant, evolving neighborhood.