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Why Do Downtown Seattle Developers Want Us To Live Alone?

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Image: SounderBruce

If you haven't had a chance to read Paul Roberts' piece over at Crosscut about Seattle's high-rise boom and what it's betting on for the future of the city, you need to go do that. There's tons of info to digest but one point that stuck out was the fact that almost all of the units in the recent and upcoming high-rises are one-bedrooms.

Studios and one-bedroom apartments account for at least 70 percent of the units in some of the biggest new upscale high-rises— Cielo, Cirrus, The Premiere on Pine, and the Martin — and 85 percent in the nearby Via6. And based on proposed projects, says O'Connor, the studio/one-bedroom ratio for new towers will likely hover between 80 percent and 85 percent — well above the current downtown average of 63 percent. "I've seen plans where they don't have any two-bedrooms," O'Connor says. "I tell architects we're building a city where everybody is living alone."

As Roberts points out, it makes sense of paper. 68 percent of downtown Seattle residents currently live alone (versus 42 percent citywide). But the problem is that by reinforcing that setup, you're dooming downtown to be the playground of a very specific type of denizen (especially considering the price tags of some of these places). It goes without saying the more diverse a downtown population is, the more vibrant the neighborhood can be.

The other issue, says Roberts, is that while it might seem like millennials are rejecting the same familial notions of their parents and grandparents, that's not set in stone. As the economy improves, interest in raising a family and buying bigger property increases as well. The idea of having a family gets easier, so it happens more often. Plus, as the article suggests, interest in single-occupent rentals in the downtown Seattle area already peaked around 2011 and has fallen since.

Roberts also includes the notion that light rail will make a significant impact on the kinds of people who would live in single-occupancy units in downtown. Once it becomes easy to get to downtown from Northgate or Ballard or the Eastside in a handful of minutes, the need to live so close to the city's epicenter will be diminished. Not say that plenty of people still won't need or want to live downtown (Hi, Amazon), but the bubble in which a person could live and commute easily is only going to get bigger.

None of this is going to change developers' minds. They've already committed to churning out new luxury high-rises and there's more coming, including the highest-rising one of them all. Something will have to give eventually, either in terms of prices or construction rates. Now's the time to place your bets on which one will crumble first.
· Understanding Seattle's high-rise boom [CC]
· New Plans For Seattle's Tallest Tower Drop to 100 Stories [CS]