When you hear of a city that is “something between an urban jungle and the classic picture of suburbia,” Bellevue may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, that’s exactly how one young couple describes downtown Bellevue in a recent article from The Seattle Times – and they aren’t the only ones.
When and how did downtown Bellevue transform into a dense, urban, mini-Seattle?
According to the article, downtown Bellevue is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city, so much like the growth in Seattle it happened fairly quickly. Most of it has occurred over the past four years as developers have built more than a dozen new apartment projects in the neighborhood – and more are in the works. Permit data from the city shows that since the latest development cycle began in 2013, downtown has seen $800 million worth of new projects come up and $100 million more about to begin.
The current wave of projects is a little different than the last. This time the surge is mostly apartments, which are seen as a safer investment, but at least two companies are planning the city’s first new condos in a decade. Additionally, office construction in this current development cycle has added 1.5 million square feet of office space to downtown, most of which has already been leased.
Residents of downtown have been experiencing the effects of this growth and they are welcoming some changes more than others. Millennials are starting to think of downtown Bellevue as a lively, energetic, interesting neighborhood and residents and visitors have given the area high marks for safety and cleanliness. Less welcome changes include added gridlock on the roads and an increase in housing costs.
Luckily, our region is no stranger to adjusting to expansion so the future of Bellevue looks bright.
Read the full article from The Seattle Times.
Architects are often referred to as optimists. They envision a city’s future and plan for it. That kind of optimism is incredibly important for the Seattle area real estate market as the city works to accommodate widespread growth. According to New York architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, who recently spoke at the Downtown Seattle Association’s annual breakfast meeting, Seattle’s conditions are perfect for becoming a futuristic city.
What is a futuristic city?
Chakrabarti describes this type of city as dense, walkable, and mixed. It uses less land and has fewer old-school office parks. It encourages people to live in more compact circumstances and has a more dense way of living that is largely rail-based. It fosters relationships and innovation. It calls for massive investment in infrastructure to support cities via transportation nodes, safety, parks, cultural activities, and affordable housing.
Based on this description it seems as if Seattle is already well on its way to becoming a futuristic city. For example, an article from Curbed reported the Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) will rezone Seattle neighborhoods to be taller near Light Rail stations and gradually return to conventional houses as the distance to the stations increases. This change is expected to affect the density of the entire region, including the Eastside.
However, considering the rate of growth in the region it has taken quite a while to get to this point. Other trends characteristic of a futuristic city, like compact housing (i.e. tiny houses), have been on Seattle’s radar for a while, but when they first appeared it seemed as if people sought them out due to preference or in the pursuit of personal fulfillment. Now we are looking to this city landscape with more urgency, and as a much-needed solution and way of sustaining our city.
Why does Seattle need to be a futuristic city?
According to Chakrabarti the answer to this question is the answer to most questions pertaining to Seattle’s rapid growth: Amazon.com. One year ago 245,000 people were employed in downtown Seattle. That number is now up to 265,000 and more than 25,000 of those people are Amazon employees. This is contributing to the reshaping of Seattle and surrounding areas in tangible ways – the record-number of cranes dotting our skyline, traffic congestion and longer commute times, and of course “razor thin” housing inventory.
What are the economic and social benefits?
Chakrabarti states, “As people live in denser circumstances, more innovation happens, more patent creation happens, and it is because people are running into each other, and there is serendipity as a consequence.” We are already the third most innovative state in the U.S. and third in patent activity so it would be interesting to discover how much more creation and innovation could result from a full transformation into a futuristic city.
There are also several social benefits to living in this type of urban development. Drinking and driving plummets, childhood obesity rates drop, and divorce rates go down as commute times are reduced.
There is no doubt that Seattle is growing up, and quickly. No matter what it becomes I will be happy to assist you with navigating the real estate market during the process.
All of the statistics and speculation surrounding our local housing market could be summarized by one basic economic principle – supply and demand. We simply have not had enough homes, among other resources, to accommodate the rapid growth in our region. However, Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) recently reported there is hope ahead in the form of several big condo projects in Bellevue and Seattle.
At the beginning of December Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner offered some predictions for the 2017 housing forecast. According to his outlook, “In the coming year, there should be a modest increase in the number of homes for sale in most major West Coast markets, which should relieve some of the pressure.”
These five – possibly six – developments will certainly help support his prediction. According to PSBJ buildings will range in size and unit prices will vary; however, all but one have at least one thing in common – developers from China or Canada. This could indicate that foreign investors that became ubiquitous in 2016 will maintain a strong presence in our real estate market in 2017.
How many units will these projects bring to Bellevue and Seattle?
The PSBJ is reporting these projects will add somewhere between 1,400 and 1,680 units. Keep in mind this number of new units to our region does not include other mixed-use developments that are underway, such as the Totem Lake redevelopment and Kirkland Urban.
The last cycle of additions was nine years ago when there were 3,765 condo units under construction in the greater downtown Seattle area alone. Since then only two major projects have been built in Seattle.
This resurgence of projects is a sign of how quickly local real estate is adapting to keep up with continued growth in our area. I am always working to ensure I stay up-to-date on the most relevant news to help you navigate the market, so reach out to me so I can put my knowledge to work for you!
2016 has been quite a year to live in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you spent some or most of it in the housing market. This year’s market was truly unique, record-breaking, and game-changing (see: Windermere’s W Collection). To close out the year here are a few of the most noteworthy Seattle-area superlatives related to real estate – and a few confirming just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful pocket of the world.
Nation’s Hottest Housing Market
Let’s get straight to the point – this year Seattle was named the hottest housing market in the nation! According to Geekwire home prices in our region rose 11 percent between September 2015 and 2016, putting us ahead of Portland for year-over-year growth.
We owe much of this recognition to our booming tech industry, which has been bringing people to the Seattle area in droves. “Droves” refers to the 86,320 residents (and counting) who moved to Greater Seattle between April 2015 and 2016, marking the region’s biggest population gain this century.
Many of these thousands of people who flocked here for tech jobs were probably also considering other tech hubs, but we were more alluring because tech salaries in the Seattle area are among the highest in the U.S. after cost of living adjustments. That means their salaries go much farther here than other tech towns, such as San Francisco, enabling them to have a better quality of life.
The Region’s Largest Property Sale
Of all of the multi-million dollar property sales in our region the largest was the 50-story Safeco Plaza in Seattle, which sold for $387 million. The buyer was a Munich-based company that had previously acquired an Amazon-occupied property in the thriving South Lake Union neighborhood.
Eastside’s Biggest Property Sale
The Seattle Times recently reported a pair of investors from the United States and China bought a major office complex in Bellevue for $202.2 million, making it the biggest transaction on the Eastside this year. The three-building, 480,000 sq. foot complex is fully leased and will be home to tenants such as BitTitan and CenturyLink.
Seattle No. 1 Choice for Foreign Investors
What’s one important thing buyers of both of these properties had in common? They were foreign investors. This year Seattle became the No. 1 choice for foreign investors after British Columbia enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers in August, causing them to redirect their real estate searches to the Seattle area. To quantify this impact, as of November, Chinese money accounted for about 55 percent of all homes purchased by foreign investors in Washington.
Seattle No. 1 Place to Live If You Love Spending Time Outdoors
While this last ranking isn’t directly related to real estate, it’s definitely worth boasting about! Six Washington cities made Business Insider’s list of “25 beautiful US cities to live in if you love spending time outdoors.” Seattle topped the list and Bellevue came in at No. 5. Every day we are surrounded by the beauty of trees, mountains, and water with endless opportunities and ways to enjoy them.