A recent study determined that at least 220 midrises have been built in the 2,000-acre Greater Downtown area in the last 20 years, including those now underway. That’s in the CBD plus fringe districts like Lower Queen Anne, around Seattle U, etc.
OK, it was an obscure and imprecise study. Basically yours truly counting new buildings between 3-9 stories off the top of my head. I’ve been trying to invent a reason to write about this, and not coming up with one. So … quite a lot of midrises, eh?
One of 220: Cabrini First Hill Apartments
Well …. yeah. 220 really is a lot. Greater Downtown has changed dramatically in that time, and midrises have been a major reason, perhaps as much so as the 76(?) taller buildings built in the same period.
You can argue about architecture, or zoning, or what got torn down. But there’s no question that the edges of Downtown have gotten a lot more populated, with midrises bringing thousands of hotel rooms, millions of square feet of offices and labs, thousands of housing units, nice college buildings and a lot more retail. Far more people now live the sort of walkable, sustainable lifestyles many of us encourage.
Housing affordability should benefit long-term. First, midrises tend to be a bit cheaper to build than taller buildings. Second, look at today’s low-moderate-price housing: it’s generally the market-rate housing of past decades, whether the 70s or 20s. Because buildings tend to move downmarket over the years, buildings from the 80s should be following their 70s brethren.
Of course, the biggest requirement for affordability is keeping supply ahead of demand, and Seattle’s influx of midrises is a big reason why we have avoided San Francisco-type prices. (And kudos to our array of non-profits, who both house the poor and improve neighborhoods.)
Same story with retail. New buildings tend to be populated by established retailers and chains, because of lease rates and other requirements. But as long as there’s more retail space than the big guys want, there will always be cheaper spaces for the funky local stores, primarily in older buildings.
So, yeah, that’s a lot of midrises!