South Lake Union: City considers 30-story towers along the lake

Paul Allen

With the addition of Amazon to the neighborhood, South Lake Union has experienced huge growth in recent years. But that may be just the beginning.  Seattle is considering allowing even more development in the neighborhood, including thirty-story residential towers along Lake Union. 

“It’s ironic that Seattle is literally spending billions of dollars to take down the viaduct to get visual and physical access to the water, and at the same time studying putting 300 foot towers around Lake Union,” said John Pehrson of the South Lake Union Opportunity Alliance, which represents residents in the area. 

“Lake Union is Seattle,” he said.  “To destroy that is just hard for me to understand.”

Right now on the blocks bordering Lake Union, buildings are four to six stories tall. The most ambitious zoning change being considered by the mayor would allow developers to go up to thirty stories along the lake for residential towers and then up to forty stories back along Denny Way. 

Most of the property right at the south end of the Lake is owned by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Company, which has been a big developer in the area. They have favored higher heights on those blocks.

“With more residential height you get more people on the street, which is great for the neighborhood,” said Lori Mason Curran, a spokesperson for Vulcan.  “More stories also generates great additional tax revenue for the city because you have higher assessed values because you have more square footage.”

Pehrson says his group would agree to some limited zoning changes along Denny Way and closer to Seattle Center.  Otherwise, however, they favor the existing rules. 

“In the downtown, in Belltown, and in South Lake Union, it’s a step down to the water,” he said.  “The current zoning is a success.”

Vulcan believes the larger community will benefit from concentrating more growth closer to downtown. 

“By concentrating development in neighborhoods like south lake union you preserve the single-family neighborhoods that are outside of the city center, and you preserve the greenspace that is further out,” said Curran.  “And it’s really the right thing to do.”

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