The multi-family market in Seattle is in the midst of a 10% vacancy factor as the inevitable cycle of real estate supply and demand is now tipped to an oversupply. The industry has tried to address the issue of affordability by creating mini-housing units, governmental imposition of fees and impounds for the creation of affordable housing and opening up alternative housing options. So far “affordable” seems to be a tad elusive.
Now an idea to create a more livable downtown has come from a $1.5M study of the area created by the freeway through the center of downtown from Denny Way on the north to Madison Street on the south. A hidden gem could be created by putting a lid over the open wound of the freeway. The cost is estimated to be $265 Million. The benefits? From the standpoint of commercial real estate of the creation of an open area of 12.2 acres in the heart of downtown is potentially incredible. The caveat would be to not do so to address homelessness and affordable housing. We shall see where this goes based on history and that is the real catch. Paul Allen assembled 40 acres or so in the South Lake Union area and volunteered to donate it to the City of Seattle as a park. It was voted down and now is the home to fantastic hi-rises, Amazon and more. Will the city take advantage of this asset to make Seattle more livable? We shall see, but what is abundantly clear is that this type of asset, coupled with the renewal of the waterfront and the addition to the Convention Center is a potential gem in the crown for the city. Commercial real estate needs care and a caring environment to prosper. Does Seattle have the vision to put some jewels in its crown?