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October 5, 2006

City seizing its chance to build an urban oasis

  • Projected job and housing growth spurs investment in transportation, infrastructure
    City of Seattle



    South Lake Union represents an opportunity as great for the region as the day that Bill Boeing decided to build airplanes and Bill Gates decided to write software. We welcome these jobs and we will build the infrastructure to support the growth we see now and the growth we see coming.

    Over the next 20 years, South Lake Union will add about 16,000 new jobs and 8,000 new households. We must seize the moment — this chance — to build a great neighborhood that is accessible to all.

    How do we do that? By building a streetcar that links South Lake Union to our center city and making it easier for pedestrians to walk safely. By creating a new waterfront park for people to enjoy and housing that families can afford. By making it easy for biotech companies to locate here and offering a trouble-free commute for employees trying to get to work.

    I’m pleased to report that we have made significant progress in all of these areas.

    Streetcar under way

    In a neighborhood isolated by Denny Way, Aurora Avenue and Interstate 5, we are making transportation investments to connect South Lake Union with the rest of the city.

    By the end of July 2007, a 1.3-mile streetcar line will connect thousands of people to new jobs, homes and parks in South Lake Union. Half of the project cost is being funded by local property owners, and the other half through federal, state and local dollars.

    Mercer improvements

    We need to improve the Mercer corridor. Cars and trucks clog the street and create a ripple effect onto Interstate 5. Mercer and Valley streets are virtually impossible for pedestrians to safely maneuver. Building a two-way Mercer will increase pedestrian safety, simplify traveling for automobiles and ease the mess we are living with today.

    Design work will be done by the end of 2007. With $30 million in funding available for this project through my “Bridging the Gap” initiative we can make substantial progress.

    Waterfront park

    South Lake Union Park will be a world-class green space providing water access in the heart of the city. Work will begin in early 2007 on a new bulkhead, terraces and a boardwalk for the park. In addition, the Museum of History and Industry hopes to make the armory building at South Lake Union Park its future home.

    The streetcar will have a station at the park and Valley Street will be transformed into a quieter, more pedestrian-friendly street after improvements to Mercer are complete.

    Neighborhood investments

    South Lake Union’s neighbors and the city share a vision that the neighborhood will continue to experience a healthy mix of affordable and market-rate housing, unique commercial and retail spaces and neighborhood services.

    The city will continue to do its part by investing in open space, affordable housing, transportation improvements and economic growth incentives. We’re already seeing our work pay off.

    The Cascade Playground recently had a major renovation, improvements for Denny Park and South Lake Union Park are in the works, streetcar construction is under way, new affordable housing is being built and a surge of private investments is creating jobs.

    Biotech jobs

    The people who come to Seattle for jobs in biotech or life science will earn good wages, cure diseases and save lives. Biotech companies will create jobs for women and people of color. We can lay the foundation for even greater opportunities in the future.

    We are investing in South Lake Union to support a growing life sciences hub and to foster the next wave of discoveries. This work will not only benefit the residents of Seattle, but people all over the world.

    New zoning, housing and transportation improvements will make it easier for biotechnology to locate in this neighborhood. South Lake Union is currently home to Rosetta Merck, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, ZymoGenetics and an expanding University of Washington Life Science Campus.

    Utilities upgrades

    Reliable electrical power service is essential to this biotech core. We’re working in partnership with private companies to provide them the same level of reliability as the rest of downtown Seattle receives today.

    A new electrical substation in the neighborhood will support the increasing electrical loads for current businesses and future job growth in this as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

    Sustainable development

    Helping promote sustainable development in Seattle is perhaps best exemplified in South Lake Union. Both for-profit and nonprofit developers have embraced the design and construction of “green buildings” in the neighborhood. These buildings help save money and resources, and are healthier for people and for our environment.

    The Denny Park Apartments, which provides 50 units for low-income families, was built to Seattle’s SeaGreen standards. The Alcyone Apartments was Seattle’s first LEED-certified apartment building.

    Seattle Public Utilities is working on a first-of-its-kind biofiltration project to combine innovative approaches in urban design and water treatment to clean dirty runoff water before it enters Lake Union.

    Finally, a key component to any sustainability plan is providing people with convenient alternatives to traveling by car. The city is investing in pedestrian and bicycle projects, a new streetcar and working to improve transit service for the neighborhood as it grows.

    Great things are happening in South Lake Union. Right before our eyes this neighborhood is being transformed into an urban oasis where thousands of people will be able to work, live and enjoy life.

    Greg Nickels is the mayor of Seattle.

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