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The Transformation of South Lake Union: Building a City of the Future

11/15/2013

The Transformation of South Lake Union: Building a City of the Future

11/15/2013

If you had walked through Seattle’s South Lake Union a decade ago, you would have wandered through streets of empty parking lots, past industrial warehouses, commercial laundries, and shuttered workshops—landmarks and buildings full of character and history that had faded and obscured along with the era they were built for.

Make the same trip through South Lake Union today, and you would take a lot longer to get from A to B—you’d be stopping along the way to gawk at the new commercial buildings, strolling across the Amazon.com campus and its art-filled public plazas, watching passersby hurry in and out of beautiful new residential buildings, popping in a four-star restaurant for a bite, gazing at the water from the lawns of a lakeside park and visiting the Museum of History and Industry.

South Lake Union’s journey from a fading industrial district perched on the edge of Lake Union to a hotbed of the creative class is one of Vulcan’s best examples of how big ideas and a desire to improve our future come together to achieve progress. As owners of 60 acres in the heart of South Lake Union, we had enough real estate to plan and design a district, not just grow it a building at a time. So we set about to make a new kind of city, one that draws on the past in order to be relevant to the future.

We recognized how essential the rich industrial history and maritime culture were to the neighborhood, so we merged the landmarks and building of the past with our plans for the future in a way that transformed both into something entirely new. Landmark facades were saved and incorporated into the design of new buildings. A new creative class has flooded the area and brought vibrancy to the area. Today neighbors welcome the dynamic Seattle International Dance Festival, the traditional Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival, and the annual South Lake Union Block Party.

South Lake Union has been one of the biggest urban revitalization efforts in the country. The neighborhood has attracted thousands of new jobs and is a hub where creativity, technology, research, design and industry meld into a new-world melting pot of ingenuity and growth. But the true difference is that the South Lake Union of today now has something the South Lake Union of the past didn’t: a future. 

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